Modernizing an Effective IAM Approach Through Focused, Efficient and Value-Adding Operations

April 26, 2024

When it comes to modern identity and access management (IAM), business and security leaders are often finding the need to evolve their thinking. As digital identities grow alongside rising cyber threats, there is a continual need to strengthen login and password security. Organizations should actively and iteratively seek to implement Zero Trust principles, as well as reduce the footprint of privileged account access.


Despite recognizing these needs, security teams can feel overwhelmed with IAM. How can organizations prioritize IAM amidst complicated processes, user frustrations, limited bandwidth and tightening budgets?


Part of the challenge here involves overcoming the traditional mindset that IAM security can be solved with a checkbox methodology. In a world where threat actor techniques are rapidly evolving alongside regulatory compliance and cyber insurance requirements, it is no longer sufficient to implement an out-of-the-box privileged access management (PAM) solution and call it a day. Organizations need a strategic, data-driven approach to IAM operations and governance.


At Optiv, we find this report to be helpful in illustrating the focused roles of people, technology and processes in building a modern IAM strategy. Optiv’s IAM modernization methodology prioritizes three objectives: (1) build a solid IAM strategy to accelerate sustainable maturity while enabling business outcomes, (2) create the right conditions to drive sustainable organizational change and foster higher user adoption/satisfaction with fewer tools and improved coverage and (3) invest in sustainable solutions to promote measurable results and a culture of continuous improvement. Thinking about IAM as a strategic approach instead of a checklist helps business and technology stakeholders to better prioritize one of the top areas of cybersecurity concern. Forrester analysts support similar guidance in their best practice report, “Build Your Identity and Access Management Strategy,” which offers thoughtful advice on how a strong IAM strategy should optimize the user experience, involve cross-team collaboration and continually evolve through a value-oriented process lifecycle.


Putting Optiv’s methodology and their conclusions on Forrester’s guidance into practice, below are three ways to modernize an IAM approach by leveraging IAM services, improving the scope of organizational change management (OCM) and reporting consistent metrics to business stakeholders.



Creating Cohesion with IAM Security Services

IAM security does not exist in a vacuum – it impacts everyone in the business. Not only is it an expansive part of operations that one team cannot manage alone, but it requires the efforts of an entire organization to ensure its success. Compliance and audit teams guarantee that an organization implements regulation guidance and mandates, as well as cyber insurance policies. IT, communications and HR teams may work together to ensure that all company employees successfully complete annual security training that contains up-to-date information and clearly explains the company’s policies regarding IAM and other security requirements. Sales, account management and customer experience teams that directly interface with clients, customers and leads relay feedback on any user experience concerns. Establishing synergy and consistent dialogue among different teams across the business helps to support the creation and continual improvement of an IAM strategy.


When thinking about IAM as a business strategy, it becomes a cohesive program instead of a set of goals and projects completed in isolation. Third-party vendors can play an integral role in building the bridge from pursuing short-term IAM objectives to creating an IAM program focused on continual improvement and deepening cybersecurity maturity. Forrester draws attention to the value of service providers, including Optiv, in “[providing] IAM services for 1) business mapping; 2) design breakdown; 3) business requirement mapping; 4) development and customization; 5) policy design; 6) cloud integration; and 7) ongoing IAM solution maintenance” (6). One obvious benefit of these services is the alleviation of pressure on internal teams to complete the wide variety of specialized IAM tasks. Companies may find it beneficial to partner with trusted industry experts to build customizable solutions that prove a modern IAM strategy is a critical business enabler.



Narrowing the Scope to Stay Focused

Even with the help of professional cybersecurity services to manage solutions, organizations must clearly define and communicate their IAM project scope. For security teams, this means regularly deploying updates and capabilities to keep up with the threat landscape and business needs. But these releases should be planned, purposeful and focused. It’s even better if your IAM projects leverage time-saving automation efforts and rely on a specific, narrow set of tools that are integrated with other key systems and applications. This is what distinguishes an IAM strategy as opposed to business as usual.


This advice is particularly meaningful alongside Forrester’s overall recommendation to reduce the scope of IAM projects by 70%. By narrowing the scope, organizations can improve each project’s manageability and likelihood of timely completion. Breaking this proposed percentage down further, Forrester advises, “Cut your initial scope in half by leaving out nonvital applications or organizations—and then cut another 20%” (11). This default scope narrowing approach can prove especially helpful for various technical areas of the organization. By focusing on driving the most business value, security teams can better demonstrate their success and reliability.



Reporting Metrics to Gain Buy-In

Although not all value is quantifiable, technology teams most readily communicate their team’s success to other areas of the business with data. One challenge with this is that there can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of IAM data available. This is why it is important to collect and report on the metrics that align most closely with business objectives in order to gain leadership buy-in for IAM projects.


To effectively demonstrate an IAM project’s success and secure a better chance for continued or increased funding, Optiv is aligned with Forrester’s guidance to track the metrics that can help move the needle for the business. Pinpoint the data that offers valuable information on user pain points, time spent on various tasks and the transition of systems to the cloud. By providing consistent, focused reporting and metrics that show how IAM goals help to support broader organizational goals, teams can ensure greater visibility, success and funding.



Developing an IAM Strategy

Identity security represents one of the most crucial aspects of cybersecurity. There are greater security risks with a growing identity footprint. Yet, advancements in IAM are helping users to securely access what they need when they need it.


To strengthen the value of IAM within an organization and more broadly among users, it is important to develop an IAM strategy that prioritizes support from various stakeholders, focuses on projects that add the most business value and communicate meaningful metrics to business leaders. Learn more about Optiv’s IAM methodology and services here. Forrester subscribers can access the “Build Your Identity and Access Management Strategy” report here.

Sara Faradji
Cybersecurity Technical Content Manager | Optiv
Sara Faradji is a Cybersecurity Technical Content Manager at Optiv, where she partners with leading cyber experts to produce cutting-edge, purpose-driven thought leadership. With 10 years of teaching and instructional design experience, she strives to place people at the center of cybersecurity communications. Her objective is to help emerging and established technical leaders to build their brand while aligning their technical writing with business strategies. As someone who shares the drive of security professionals to never stop learning, she earned her PhD in English from the University of Maryland, as well as her M.A. in Cultural Studies and B.A. in Global Studies from Carnegie Mellon University.