Provisioning: Manual vs. Automated

Automated Provisioning Eliminates Manual IT Headaches

Every organization must inevitably set up new user accounts and update or revoke permissions based on human resource changes. This is called user provisioning and there are two ways to handle it: manually or via automation.

Manual user account provisioning typically occurs in environments where data processing is performed on a one-off basis, spreadsheets are scrolled and updated when there’s time, and offboarding former employee accounts occurs as time allows. In other words, manual user account provisioning is often adopted in businesses where IT teams are overwhelmed or understaffed, or have legacy systems in place. These types of organizations tend to be less dynamic and struggle to keep up with the changes and evolutions in networking and modern security protocols.

Automated user account provisioning is precisely the opposite approach. User provisioning and authentication through automation reduces all-hands-on-deck approaches to network management. Configured and scheduled processes ease user provisioning and employee account management for all involved—from creation to offboarding and accounting for all departments and user groups.

As the name suggests, automated provisioning means that every step of the user account setup and authorization is automatic, dynamic, responsive to pre-established criteria, and services are provided and engaged according to network protocols.

Policies can be defined and put in place to set parameters for how the system carries out these tasks. We’ll further discuss the benefits of automated provisioning, how to start enhancing your business’ security protocols, and enhancing or transitioning from manual processes.

User Account Provisioning

User account provisioning ensures user accounts are created, given proper permissions—changed, disabled, and deleted—as appropriate. In an automated environment, these tasks are handled when rules or guidelines are met.

For example, these Identity Management actions are triggered when information is added or changed in a personnel system. New hires, promotions, transfers, and employees’ departures are all examples of events that can trigger identity management processes.

Manual user account management is the bane of most IT departments’ existence. These are time-consuming “albatrosses” that require continuous maintenance at every turn. When a new person is hired, it can take the IT department 30 minutes or more to create an account and assign proper permissions to that individual. In an organization that is growing rapidly, compound this level of required detail by the number of people hired, and you’ll determine how much time is required of the IT team to facilitate the process—it quickly becomes exasperating.

Alternatively, during critical times when team members are swamped by crises—such as a hacking, outage, large-scale support need, or another cyber event—manual provisioning can fall aside because of more critical tasks needing attention. These delays leave new employees stranded, unable to work and limited by what they can contribute until their access rights are established.

Provisioning is more than account creation

Creating new accounts is just one part of the whole account management process. When an employee changes their name, is promoted, or leaves the organization, their account details and permissions must be updated or offboarded. In most instances of manual provisioning, permissions removal is often ignored for the sake of saving time or put off for bulk handling.

This can lead to permission creep and allows individuals to access data they should no longer be able to. Clearly, this is a security concern. Automated provisioning circumvents this delay in deprovisioning, creating an automatic safeguard to remove access rights, which is an obvious security enhancement.

The process for automating provisioning is simple. Here’s a basic blueprint for implementing the strategy:

  • First, the organization’s personnel information is imported into the provisioning system and linked to existing user accounts in your target systems.
  • Next, the software is configured to review any personnel data changes, such as the addition of new employees, employee promotions, department changes, and even employee name changes. When these changes are detected, the solution automatically takes action, creating and maintaining accounts throughout the network and any connected or related systems.

Automated provisioning solutions include directories, such as Active Directory, Office 365, Google Workspace, and business applications like SAP and Salesforce.

Increasing organizational information security

Automated user account provisioning improves information security. When accounts are created manually, someone in IT knows the password to that account. This alone creates all sorts of security difficulties. Next, the account’s creator transfers the user’s username and password to the employee. This transfer typically occurs in an insecure manner (e.g., unencrypted email or interoffice mail).

Alternatively, automated user provisioning removes human interaction from the process, and the transfer of credentials to the user is secure. The only person able to access the credentials is the user who entered their preferred password and identifier information.

Automated permission assignment by role or job function

Automated provisioning doesn’t stop there. A comprehensive identity and access management (IAM) solution also can manage user permissions across the organization’s entire network. By combining personnel data with configurable “role models” or “job or group matrix,” role-based access control (RBAC) features allow for further parsing of data and more evolved account provisioning.

Following automatic granting group or role memberships, access rights, and permissions, the automated solution removes permissions no longer necessary for a user’s current job, role, or function. Keeping user access strictly to the necessary minimum enhances information security by reducing the risk of insider threats to your organization.

So, whenever there is a change in the HR system, the solution triggers the appropriate process automatically. This makes account management quick, efficient, secure, and cost-effective.

Automate provisioning solutions

HelloID provides user account provisioning, self-service workflows, and single sign-on, as well as all the features mentioned above while reducing manual provisioning headaches and insufficiency. In place of manual provisioning driven by one-off cumbersome tasks and archaic management by fingertip, automated provisioning allows for hands-free on- and off-boarding of accounts and improves organizational security at the same time.