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How can Unified Access Management simplify the SaaS tsunami?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock)

Whilst it may be one of the biggest buzzwords today, there’s no denying that the prospect of digital transformation continues to loom heavily over businesses. Rapid technological innovation is enabling huge advances in operational efficiency, driving organisations to be constantly on the lookout for the next industry-transforming technology that will help them cut costs and beat the competition. Of course, the prevalence of cloud-based IT services across industries has been the latest key component driving this trend, with the adoption of cloud computing technologies now seen as critical to any business’s digital transformation plan.  According to our research, over two-thirds of enterprises expect to deploy up to 100 new commercial cloud apps - also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) - in the next twelve months alone. 

To tackle this ever-growing issue head-on, our study revealed that 92% of UK enterprises have developed a digital transformation strategy to manage the overwhelming pace of innovative technology.  The tsunami of SaaS applications, on top of legacy on-premise applications, has turned corporate networks into a heterogeneous nightmare for IT managers to oversee. If it hasn’t happened already, corporate networks will soon become too complex to manage, further exposing enterprises to cyber threats. Navigating and securing the digital network across a combination of platforms is a fundamental challenge in the journey to a more digital world. 

Supervising Saas: a guide

On top of the flood of SaaS apps that IT is aware of, a high-percentage of apps being used have gone under the radar without IT’s prior approval. Known as Shadow IT, the uncontrolled growth of unsanctioned IT makes the whole process of trying to get the flood under control even harder. 

To manage the threats that SaaS apps and Shadow IT present, organisations must put a strategy in place which should encompass the five following areas: 

1. Track employee expenses  

When an employee subscribes to a SaaS application it is more than likely they will claim it back under expenses. Liaise with your finance department to create a SaaS subscription expense category to trace the money.     

2. Collaborative SaaS processes 

It is advisable to collaborate closely with HR so that new employees are encouraged during the onboarding process to tell IT of any SaaS applications they need to do their job.    

3. Password management and Multi-factor authentication 

A major reason IT departments incorporate SaaS apps in an identity as a service (IDaaS) catalogue is to ensure that security policies for passwords and multi-factor authentication are applied. If you do not know about an app being used it will not be subject to your IDaaS vendor’s login process and password management policies, and thus will have weak authentication that carries security risks. 

4. Efficient off-boarding of ex-employees 

Businesses must ensure that employees are off-boarded once they leave the company and should double check that former employees are not continuing to use company apps. Start with the most commonly used applications and work your way down. Where possible, ensure authentication to your applications are controlled by your IDaaS platform.  When your employee is off-boarded, your IDaaS platform will immediately and automatically block access to those applications.  

5. Set and enforce policies 

Have a policy and stick to it. Set the criteria within each department of what they deem to be a ‘banned app’. This will vary between departments and can be a nuanced decision based on risk, permission, how business-critical an app is, whether there are any safe alternatives and many other factors. Set it. Stick to it. 

The digital transformation roadblock

To help manage the disjointed corners of corporate networks and the deluge of SaaS applications, 90% of enterprise IT decision makers see Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions as key to their digital transformation strategies. Yet many current solutions are falling short of truly unifying the modern corporate network and hindering digital transformation strategies as a result. The major pain points for existing IAM solutions were highlighted as cost (43%), complexity (45%) and fragmented access control for multiple environments (22%).

Similar to these challenges with their existing infrastructure, UK enterprise IT decision makers must also fight against barriers to digital transformation including the fear of spiralling costs (40%), integrating legacy systems (46%) and project complexity (37%). 

Without an answer to these challenges, businesses will quickly find themselves falling behind their competitors.

An introduction to Unified Access Management

To make sense of the nightmare that digital transformation presents, enterprises need IAM to progress. There is clear demand for a solution that supports every end-point of the complex corporate network, regardless of whether it’s cloud-based or on-prem.  

Never has it been more complex — or more critical — to securely manage access across the explosion of distributed applications, data, and intelligence. Enterprises need to tackle this issue head-on and unify the corporate network through one single IAM solution. IT teams need the ability to manage access for traditional on-premise and cloud applications simultaneously through a “single pane” management console purpose-built for hybrid customer environments. Historically, a customer’s only option was building a cumbersome, multi-vendor solution that was prohibitively expensive.

A single Unified Access Management (UAM) platform allows companies to modify access privileges across all applications in real time vs. days or weeks, and slash access management costs by 50% or more — that’s the power of UAM. In turn, this unifies access management not only for applications on multi-platforms, but also networks and devices, using SaaS infrastructure to synchronise all corporate users and user directories. Unifying access to applications, corporate networks and company devices in this way will simplify employee access to business-critical apps – regardless of whether they are on-premise or cloud-based. 

With the pressure firmly on businesses to transform and streamline operations to stay ahead of competitors, having UAM solutions that facilitate innovation will be a crucial step towards their preparations. Only by unifying all parts of the corporate network into one accessible platform will organisations finally have IAM solutions that work with – and not against – their digital transformation strategies, ensuring they are on course for further innovation.

Stuart Sharp, Global Director of Solution Engineering at OneLogin (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock

Stuart is Global Director of Solution Engineering at OneLogin, helping customers address today's Identity and Access Management challenges through the cloud-based OneLogin Unified Access Management Platform.