Partner Blog Series: PwC Perspectives - The Gotchas, The Do's and Don'ts for IDM Implementations

It is generally accepted among business communities that technology by itself is not a silver bullet to all problems, but when it is combined with leading practices, strategy, careful planning and execution, it can create a recipe for success. This post attempts to highlight some of the best practices along with dos & don’ts that our practice has accumulated over the years in the identity & access management space in general, and also in the context of R2, in particular.

Best Practices

The following section illustrates the leading practices in “How” to plan, implement and sustain a successful OIM deployment, based on our collective experience.

Planning is critical, but often overlooked

A common approach to planning an IAM program that we identify with our clients is the three step process involving a current state assessment, a future state roadmap and an executable strategy to get there. It is extremely beneficial for clients to assess their current IAM state, perform gap analysis, document the recommended controls to address the gaps, align future state roadmap to business initiatives and get buy in from all stakeholders involved to improve the chances of success.

When designing an enterprise-wide solution, the scalability of the technology must accommodate the future growth of the enterprise and the projected identity transactions over several years. Aligning the implementation schedule of OIM to related information technology projects increases the chances of success.

As a baseline, it is recommended to match hardware specifications to the sizing guide for R2 published by Oracle. Adherence to this will help ensure that the hardware used to support OIM will not become a bottleneck as the adoption of new services increases. If your Organization has numerous connected applications that rely on reconciliation to synchronize the access data into OIM, consider hosting dedicated instances to handle reconciliation. Finally, ensure the use of clustered environment for development and have at least three total environments to help facilitate a controlled migration to production.

If your Organization is planning to implement role based access control, we recommend performing a role mining exercise and consolidate your enterprise roles to keep them manageable. In addition, many Organizations have multiple approval flows to control access to critical roles, applications and entitlements. If your Organization falls into this category, we highly recommend that you limit the number of approval workflows to a small set.

Most Organizations have operations managed across data centers with backend database synchronization, if your Organization falls into this category, ensure that the overall latency between the datacenters when replicating the databases is less than ten milliseconds to ensure that there are no front office performance impacts.

Ingredients for a successful implementation

During the development phase of your project, there are a number of guidelines that can be followed to help increase the chances for success.

Most implementations cannot be completed without the use of customizations. If your implementation requires this, it’s a good practice to perform code reviews to help ensure quality and reduce code bottlenecks related to performance. We have observed at our clients that the development process works best when team members adhere to coding leading practices. Plan for time to correct coding defects and ensure developers are empowered to report their own bugs for maximum transparency.

Many organizations struggle with defining a consistent approach to managing logs. This is particularly important due to the amount of information that can be logged by OIM. We recommend Oracle Diagnostics Logging (ODL) as an alternative to be used for logging. ODL allows log files to be formatted in XML for easy parsing and does not require a server restart when the log levels are changed during troubleshooting.

Testing is a vital part of any large project, and an OIM R2 implementation is no exception. We suggest that at least one lower environment should use production-like data and connectors. Configurations should match as closely as possible. For example, use secure channels between OIM and target platforms in pre-production environments to test the configurations, the migration processes of certificates, and the additional overhead that encryption could impose.

Finally, we ask our clients to perform database backups regularly and before any major change event, such as a patch or migration between environments. In the lowest environments, we recommend to have at least a weekly backup in order to prevent significant loss of time and effort. Similarly, if your organization is using virtual machines for one or more of the environments, it is recommended to take frequent snapshots so that rollbacks can occur in the event of improper configuration.

Operate & sustain the solution to derive maximum benefits

When migrating OIM R2 to production, it is important to perform certain activities that will help achieve a smoother transition. At our clients, we have seen that splitting the OIM tables into their own tablespaces by categories (physical tables, indexes, etc.) can help manage database growth effectively. If we notice that a client hasn’t enabled the Oracle-recommended indexing in the applicable database, we strongly suggest doing so to improve performance. Additionally, we work with our clients to make sure that the audit level is set to fit the organization’s auditing needs and sometimes even allocate UPA tables and indexes into their own table-space for better maintenance. Finally, many of our clients have set up schedules for reconciliation tables to be archived at regular intervals in order to keep the size of the database(s) reasonable and result in optimal database performance.

For our clients that anticipate availability issues with target applications, we strongly encourage the use of the offline provisioning capabilities of OIM R2. This reduces the provisioning process for a given target application dependency on target availability and help avoid broken workflows. To account for this and other abnormalities, we also advocate that OIM’s monitoring controls be configured to alert administrators on any abnormal situations.

Within OIM R2, we have begun advising our clients to utilize the ‘profile’ feature to encapsulate multiple commonly requested accounts, roles, and/or entitlements into a single item. By setting up a number of profiles that can be searched for and used, users will spend less time performing the same exact steps for common tasks.

We advise our clients to follow the Oracle recommended guides for database and application server tuning which provides a good baseline configuration. It offers guidance on database connection pools, connection timeouts, user interface threads and proper handling of adapters/plug-ins. All of these can be important configurations that will allow faster provisioning and web page response times.

Many of our clients have begun to recognize the value of data mining and a remediation process during the initial phases of an implementation (to help ensure high quality data gets loaded) and beyond (to support ongoing maintenance and business-as-usual processes). A successful program always begins with identifying the data elements and assigning a classification level based on criticality, risk, and availability. It should finish by following through with a remediation process.

Dos & Don’ts

Here are the most common dos and don'ts that we socialize with our clients, derived from our experience implementing the solution.

Dos

Don’ts

Scope the project into phases with realistic goals. Look for quick wins to show success and value to the stake holders.

Avoid “boiling the ocean” and trying to integrate all enterprise applications in the first phase.

Establish an enterprise ID (universal unique ID across the enterprise) earlier in the program.

Avoid major UI customizations that require code changes.

Have a plan in place to patch during the project, which helps alleviate any major issues or roadblocks (product and database).

Avoid publishing all the target entitlements if you don't anticipate their usage during access request.

Assess your current state and prepare a roadmap to address your operations, tactical and strategic goals, align it with your business priorities.

Avoid integrating non-production environments with your production target systems.

Defer complex integrations to the later phases and take advantage of lessons learned from previous phases

Avoid creating multiple accounts for the same user on the same system, if there is an opportunity to do so.

Have an identity and access data quality initiative built into your plan to identify and remediate data related issues early on.

Avoid creating complex approval workflows that would negative impact productivity and SLAs.

Identify the owner of the identity systems with fair IdM knowledge and empower them with authority to make product related decisions. This will help ensure overcome any design hurdles.

Avoid creating complex designs that are not sustainable long term and would need major overhaul during upgrades.

Shadow your internal or external consulting resources during the implementation to build the necessary product skills needed to operate and sustain the solution.

Avoid treating IAM as a point solution and have appropriate level of communication and training plan for the IT and business users alike.


Conclusion

In our experience, Identity programs will struggle with scope, proper resourcing, and more. We suggest that companies consider the suggestions discussed in this post and leverage them to help enable their identity and access program. This concludes PwC blog series on R2 for the month and we sincerely hope that the information we have shared thus far has been beneficial.

For more information or if you have questions, you can reach out to Rex Thexton, Senior Managing Director, PwC and or Dharma Padala, Director, PwC. We look forward to hearing from you.

Meet the Writers:


Dharma Padala is a Director in the Advisory Security practice within PwC.  He has been implementing medium to large scale Identity Management solutions across multiple industries including utility, health care, entertainment, retail and financial sectors.   Dharma has 14 years of experience in delivering IT solutions out of which he has been implementing Identity Management solutions for the past 8 years.


Praveen Krishna is a Manager in the Advisory Security practice within PwC.  Over the last decade Praveen has helped clients plan, architect and implement Oracle identity solutions across diverse industries.  His experience includes delivering security across diverse topics like network, infrastructure, application and data where he brings a holistic point of view to problem solving.


Scott MacDonald is a Director in the Advisory Security practice within PwC.  He has consulted for several clients across multiple industries including financial services, health care, automotive and retail.   Scott has 10 years of experience in delivering Identity Management solutions.


John Misczak is a member of the Advisory Security practice within PwC.  He has experience implementing multiple Identity and Access Management solutions, specializing in Oracle Identity Manager and Business Process Engineering Language (BPEL).











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Oracle Identity Management is a complete and integrated next-generation identity management platform that provides breakthrough scalability; enables organizations to achieve rapid compliance with regulatory mandates; secures sensitive applications and data regardless of whether they are hosted on-premise or in a cloud; and reduces operational costs. Oracle Identity Management enables secure user access to resources anytime on any device.

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