What Is Role Mining?

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There is a lot more that goes into identity management than just assigning users a login in your various systems. The larger the organization, the more complex account provisioning and access management can be.

One way to simplify the process of setting up and assigning user roles is role mining. Roles are a way of assigning automated security policies and access privilege levels to a wide range of people. Instead of having to administer those privileges one by one, for perhaps hundreds or thousands of employees, the policies can be administered to the role, which will automatically adjust the access settings of any user with that role.

How do you know the best way to group employees into roles across various business applications and job responsibilities? This is what role mining does.

Role Mining Explained

Role mining is a process in which users are analyzed to map activities and relationships between users. The goal is to identify users that can be logically grouped into the same role and administered with the same types of permissions in the system. Another word for role mining is “role discovery.”

Role mining is an important part of Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), which allows organizations to manage access privileges in a structured way more easily. It also can improve cybersecurity because it helps prevent the issue of users being given access privileges that are beyond what they need for their position.

How Is Role Mining Done?

There are typically three different ways that role mining can be approached. Each can effectively consolidate roles and facilitate a more structured account access management process.


The bottom-up process is driven by the data. User activities and relationships are “mined” to reveal insights. This process looks for similarities between user activities throughout the system and creates logical groupings for user roles.

This approach can provide a more accurate picture of what your roles should be. However, certain users may be anomalies and need to be handled differently because they don’t fit into a pattern.


The top-down process begins with certain “template” roles that are decided upon by management or IT administrators. Next, users are added to the system and assigned to one of those pre-existing role templates. This system may be quicker to implement because data analysis isn’t as intense as the bottom-up approach. However, it can lead to users having privileges that are higher than they need because there are not enough template roles or those roles don’t accurately reflect the needs of certain users


By-example is very similar to top-down, but it goes one level deeper, with those template roles being defined by department or business unit managers. Managers will recommend roles based on the activities inside their area of responsibility.

This approach fosters a better match between system privileges and user needs. However, organizations can end up with role duplication, where two or more departments have the same exact permissions assigned to different roles.

What Are the Benefits of Role Mining?

Why use role mining? There are several benefits of going through the role mining process to facilitate more comprehensive account provisioning.

Improves Account Security

Credential theft has risen to be the number one cause of data breaches. This amplifies the importance of identity management and ensuring that these system access points (aka, user logins) are properly managed and permissioned.

Role mining helps you better match a role’s permission and security needs to the user, avoiding over-privileged accounts that can leave an organization at risk.

Another security benefit of using role mining is that it gives you more visibility into your user accounts. For example, it can help you identify accounts that should be closed because they’re no longer being used actively.

Lowers Administrative Costs

Even a company with 50 users can benefit from using role-based access control. Applying permissions and security (such as multifactor prompt questions) at a role level takes less administrative time than applying these per user.

Role-based access management also enables automation. Where all users with a role can have a change to their access privileges performed in a single keystroke, this significantly reduces administrative time and associated costs.

Simplifies Identity & Access Management

Rather than having multiple identity permissions that an HR or IT administrator needs to keep up with, role mining helps you distill all user privileges down into common sense roles. Because the roles are based on user activities and relationships found by role mining, they more accurately reflect the needs of your organization’s employees. 

Book a Live Demo To See Role Mining in Action

Improve your identity management and account provisioning using smart, automated tools that save you time. Get a free live demo of NIM’s role mining feature to see what it can do for you.

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