Sep 08 2021

How Higher Ed Can Streamline Identity Management

A good identity management process should support a university’s cloud environment.

Colleges and universities have been ramping up their digital transformation over the past year, when higher education became almost entirely virtual. While cloud adoption made it possible for many to provide online education, the rapid shift to a cloud environment created silos of identities.

Without looking at the big picture, many universities and colleges created pockets of identity management environments to suit the needs of individual business units.

What can institutions do now to improve their identity management processes?

Streamline Processes for Better Identity Management

Higher education institutions are in a unique position when it comes to identity management. Each school has to add thousands — potentially tens of thousands — of identities to their organization each year. On top of that, they must maintain records of past students as well. To effectively manage the end-to-end lifecycle of so many identities, these institutions need a solution that can both support their capacity today and scale exponentially in 10 years time.

A good identity management process should also work around an institution’s budget and cloud strategy. A given institution might have an on-premises data environment, a cloud environment or a hybrid. Its identity management system must be flexible enough to manage identities across all of these environments — and provide full control of the stack.

In addition, it should be able to integrate seamlessly with other processes, including enterprise resource planning and human capital management. This allows flexibility to authenticate across the entire ecosystem and reduces the need to purchase disparate systems.

RELATED: Choosing an identity and access management solution for higher education.

Give Remote Students Easy Access

In today’s environment, most students are no longer able to go to the IT bar on campus to get support when they lock themselves out of their account. Now that we are remote and hybrid, institutions have to have complementary self-service platforms and cloud-based platforms that meet students’ needs wherever they are, even if they’re thousands of miles away from campus.

Connecting disparate systems also allows colleges and universities to provision new credentials much more quickly and speed up the process of onboarding new students significantly. Features such as single sign-on make these environments much easier for students to access. Student systems are then unified behind a single identity, so students don’t have to worry about remembering multiple login credentials.

Centralize Identity Management to Support Compliance

The University of Colorado is a great example of a school that decided to centralize its system for identity functions, recognizing a need for greater simplicity and compliance.

When the university did not have a centralized system or process for its identity management, its IT office struggled to maintain processes across its CU Denver and Anschutz Medical campuses. As a result, it was challenging to adhere to federal regulations such as HIPAA. The university needed a way to streamline its existing approach, which involved more than 18 individual processes running at every college.

CU was able to unite its provisioning, authentication and single sign-on systems under a standardized process that significantly reduced redundant work and helped the university meet its HIPAA compliance requirements.

MORE ON EDTECH: Should higher ed be worried about the Colorado Privacy Act?

The new process also reduced help desk calls by 90 percent. Now, the university has achieved near real-time provisioning for more than 300,000 centralized identities.

The higher education sector stands to gain many efficiencies by streamlining identity management processes. As the landscape continues to evolve, schools should make sure they have a solid process in place to handle whatever lies ahead.

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