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Handling Change in IAM: Vendors and Customers

by Earl Perkins  |  April 12, 2010  |  1 Comment

I recently completed a move into a newly-built home, my first (and hopefully only) experience with building a home. In all of the chaos of getting things done, it struck me how there are similarities in moving and the IAM market. Yes, I know you can make analogies about almost anything, but stay with me here. Some things I noticed:

1- Many times when people move, they get rid of things they don’t really need or won’t fit their lifestyle or decor in the new home. For a vendor that wants to “move” into a new area of IAM, there may be some hard decisions to be made about what doesn’t fit any more– an existing product set, a legacy suite that, while it makes money for them, doesn’t really fit the look and feel of the new offering. For customers, moving from a manually-dominated process environment to an automated one may mean taking a hard look at the way the processes are done, and getting rid of or redefining them to use the new IAM solutions they acquire effectively;

2- Labeling. Ah, labeling. If you don’t label your boxes when you move, it’s difficult to find anything. For a vendor, failing to effectively deliver the right message about their product and what it is capable of doing usually means difficult times ahead for the vendor and the client. A particular problem I see is the failure on the part of vendors to transfer the knowledge of what an optimal organization should look like that fully exploits the product– this is sad, and has contributed to a number of problems. For customers, telling the story about what is happening to the business, “labeling” the role IAM plays in each of their lives, continues to elude most enterprises. This too is sad, since there are countless use cases, blogs, advisory columns, even analysts that can help them with this issue;

3- Hiring the right mover to move is everything. It doesn’t matter if you’ve packed and labeled well, if you get a bad mover, they can methodically destroy a lot of valuable things during the move. For a vendor, having a good integrator partner that represents them is vital to success– it often makes or breaks an IAM implementation. For a customer, that decision is also critical, as is the nature of the relationship between all three– vendor, integrator and customer. And by the way– if the communications between them aren’t “labeled” properly, that wreaks havoc in the move— uh, installation;

4- Have everything done before you move into a home– don’t get eager and move in while they’re still building around you. It’s distracting, it’s messy, and it doesn’t help your productivity. (I know this because I didn’t follow my own advice here). For vendors, don’t release a product that has the wrong or inadequate features to do the job. Worse, don’t allow a customer to start production with your solution if you haven’t finished configuring it or teaching them the optimal use of the product. For customers, don’t rush it– while you want to have some structure and automation in your life, believe me– it’s better to do it right than to do it over.

5- Keep track of your costs. The entire suite-vs.-best of breed debate hinges quite a bit on the costs of things, and the number of people you will have to pay, and of course how much. For vendors, quit trying to walk the fine line between excess profitability and the relentless march of products to commoditzation. For customers, demand more for your money, because you haven’t gotten the value from IAM that was originally touted–yet.

This sounds much like the same kind of advice we’ve been giving for years– and it is. It makes you wonder why we have to keep repeating ourselves, doesn’t it? Just like people have been moving into houses for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, it seems like everyone needs to learn from their mistakes rather than the mistakes of others. In any event, enjoy your new home.

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Earl Perkins
Research VP
5 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Earl Perkins is a research vice president in the Security and Privacy team at Gartner. His focus areas include identity and access management (IAM), including user provisioning, role life cycle management… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Handling Change in IAM: Vendors and Customers


  1. Having done many a remodeling project on my own in two houses, moved twice in one year (2008), and done a couple of IAM implementations, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the analogy you present. My concern is that we continue to see the vicious cycle you describe (despite years of advice) for two simple reasons:

    1. Unless you work for a company with 50 people and 5 fairly new applications, an IAM implementation is a long-haul, enormously complex monster of an endeavor. The people in the trenches – the ones who do the work and are most likely to read blogs and attend Gartner and other conferences – get this. Their management, on the other hand, don’t read the blogs, attend the conferences, or get it. They have instant gratification syndrome. When it takes that long to get benefit, they give up and stop IAM programs short. Why spend all the money when you can get by with outsourcing to a cheap country?

    2. Feeding #1 is the lack of focus on people and process. Even the people in the trenches sometimes don’t realize just how hard it is to do the userID cleanups, process changes, etc., to make IAM work effectively. Worse, most go out and pick a product before they try doing any of the people/process work, and often find that the people/process work is where many of the truly relevant requirements come to light. So they get stuck with a product that isn’t quite right for them, and then they expect miracles from the vendor. Lack of focus on people/process applies to the vendors and integrators, too. I see postings all the time for urgent needs of IAM architects and developers, but never for IAM process engineers or people change management exeprts.

    I don’t think any product or vendor will be able to turn the Titanic around until organizations start to focus on people and process first, then select their IAM product against truly relevant requirements. But for that to happen, we need to figure out how to cure management’s instant gratification syndrome. Not easy to do especially in this economy.

    Ioana.



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