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The keys to centralized identity data management

Identity data management tips that all campuses should consider

When producing ID cards, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive repository of identity data for your students, employees and staff. But many institutions don’t have this single source of identity data.

In a recent NACCU webinar Christian Sapp, an independent consultant who specializes in identity and card system design, discussed the importance of identity data management and how institutions can streamline their systems through centralized databases.

Sapp defines identity management as, “the practice of organizing and managing data about the individuals who make up an organization.” Additionally, he poses three key elements of identity management data: who an individual is, their role within the organization, and where they reside within their organization.

This baseline understanding is crucial because identification data is constant. It provides institutions with the information needed to make decisions on things like providing benefits, issuing ID cards, granting access to facilities, information systems and other member privileges.

Poor management on the other hand creates major security, financial, safety and reputational risks for an institution. Despite the risks associated with poorly managed identity data, many card issuers have yet to adopt these practices.

Why central data management?

With the shear number of systems and amount of data now available, it’s common for institutions to end up with ad-hoc processes and multiple sources of information. This can lead to poor data integrity and complications with data troubleshooting.

For this reason, a central point to organize and manage identities can be a godsend. It can help institutions discover discrepancies in their data and increase an institution’s accountability.

Frequently, identity data is passed from multiple systems and causes a confusing, non-linear data flow. Even worse, institutions have frequently elevated downstream systems to become sources of information about their people when these systems are designed to be transactional in nature.

When an institution needs to change a major component of its information systems, the lack of a centrally managed and institutionally owned identity data source can be a significant hurdle.

When done correctly, any system that needs ‘people information’ should get the data from a central source. This reduces points of failure and simplifies integration. Sapp urges organizations not to be tied to a vendor solution lifecycle, and for institutions to control their own identity data.

“It becomes much easier to change from one vendor-provided solution to another when you own your identity data source,” Sapp says. “If your identity data is contained in a vendor-provided database, you could face a more complicated situation when it’s time to change vendors as the impact will be broader.”

If an institution wants to adjust or eliminate a system, they only need to analyze the integration of that system to the identity data source, which greatly simplifies the process.

“If you own your own data, and you decide to change a vendor-provided system, then all you have to do is look at the integration between that system and your identity management database,” adds Sapp. “Just change that to fit the new system, as opposed to changing integration to every system for which the vendor solution is providing identity data.”

One potential caveat to moving to a centralized identity data system is that, depending on the institution, it can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete. However, Sapp stresses that it’s important for campuses to take control of their identity data, and that the time will be well spent.

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