The Cloud Identity Buzz

 

There has been recent buzz about Identity Access Management, most recently with Salesforce’s announcement that they are making Salesforce Identity generally available. Over the past ten years we’ve moved full force into the cloud paradigm shift. Identity is a complex topic of conversation as the shift to SaaS and cloud based applications matures because of the friction between security and core business objectives

Due to the potential tension between security and core business objectives, Identity becomes a complex topic as businesses shift to SaaS and cloud based applications.

Is this a new trend?

Identity has been an important aspect of computing long before the Internet. It was seemingly easier to manage identity and access when companies were using mainframes and even as they adopted Microsoft’s various operating systems. With the conveniences introduced by Software-as-a-Service come new challenges managing identity and access.

For the first time companies were faced with new challenges and a fundamental decision if they would “lock down” or allow users to adopt software freely. In hindsight it becomes increasingly obvious that openness is the only viable option for most industries.

Most companies that have tried to “lock down” by policy or technical hurdles have found their efforts to be futile. Employees who find a tool that will help them get their jobs done better will use that tool as evidenced by the proliferation of Google Apps in companies in every industry and of any size. I recently met with the CTO of a media company in Los Angeles who was very confident in IT’s ability to integrate their internal identity with the applications that their employees were using. When asked about Google Docs, the CTO was emphatic that the company used Microsoft Office exclusively. I did not even make it out of the building before I was stopped by one of their development team who had overheard the conversation. He told me, “We all use Google Docs and tons of other apps that we don’t tell them about because they would tell us that we can’t use them.”

Ultimately individual employees are taking it upon themselves to both adopt and manage software that helps get their jobs done more effectively. At a high level, with or without IT involved, business objectives guide the adoption of toolsets. The role of IT has changed significantly in a short period of time. Progressive CIOs and IT executives who embrace this shift contribute directly to the accelerated pace of growth and innovation at their companies. I recently met with a bay area SaaS company with just over 300 employees. They encourage adoption of tools and the role of IT has become one of a steward rather than enforcer. It has become part of the corporate culture and their accelerating growth is a testament of its success.

Keep your eye on the ball.

It is easy to get caught up in the hype of announcements such as Okta’s recent raise of $25MM or Salesforce’s announcement about their Identity product but it is important to think about what this means to companies as they continue to focus on their core business objectives.

For employees it means that their pain points, namely ease of access and adoption of software, are not just being recognized but are starting to be addressed.

For IT this shift represents an opportunity to not only manage but be given the tools to empower an organization to be more productive and ultimately more profitable. IT is positioned to be the hero. The decentralization of app management means that their jobs will be more focused and impactful without the daily monotony of managing all apps for everyone.

For companies, this means that sensible approaches to manage SaaS will emerge. Companies should expect to gain more control and visibility into how their organizations operate allowing them to make informed decisions on how to manage potential security risks. It also means that companies will be able to understand their software consumption in meaningful ways.

 

For SaaS providers this shift will level the playing field, giving innovative players access to customers of all sizes.