IT management is in a new phase as business technologies become more and more automated. Now, IT managers won’t be out of a job anytime soon – even automated systems need humans to keep them running correctly, and there’s only so much that can be automated. 

With so much automation making its way into IT management, IT leaders can become overwhelmed with the changing business needs. 

While things aren’t going up in flames, they are changing rapidly. We know it’s tough to stay on top of everything, which is why we created this guide.

We’ll take an in-depth look at a few of the foundational elements of IT management and the current automation solutions which exist for them. With the rapidly changing landscape, understanding how and where to start can be difficult, so we have created a quick guide to give you valuable insights regarding key tenets of process automation like identity access management and mobile device management. 

So strap on that power glove, grab an energy drink, and get comfortable. 

Identity Management

What is it?

According to Peter Sullivan, Identity Access Management Systems (IAM) have many layers and complexities behind them. However, IT managers should group them into the following buckets:

  1. Identification and Authentication – traditionally something as simple as single-factor username/password systems along with a multifactor authentication – like being logged into an intranet before access to a computer is granted.
  2. Tokens – these are physical “key cards” of the type we see commonly used in granting building access to employees. This technology can be adapted, however, to work with access to physical devices.
  3. Biometrics – this is straight out of your favorite James Bond movie. Fingerprint scanners are ubiquitous on smartphones these days, so it makes sense we’re seeing experiments with biometric security in the business world.

Identity management is a critical tool in today’s world – one where we seem to see stories of data breaches every week. Identity management aims to cut down on breaches by providing secure, encrypted access to cloud, mobile, and on-premise applications.

For larger organizations that handle sensitive data, the need to know who’s accessing which files, apps, or services, when, and from where, is imperative. Identity management isn’t a new concept, but automation provides some vital solutions to current IT management problems, including access authentication, variable authentication processes, and connecting all company apps to a single authentication gateway.

Identity management is a foundational building block of IT management. Stopping security breaches or misuse of company assets starts and ends with knowing who’s accessing what, where they’re accessing it from, and how. Identity management provides answers for all of those questions and adds another layer of security to your infrastructure. 

What problems does IDM solve in an automated workplace?

As an IT manager, ask yourself this questions: what is your biggest time-consuming task in regards to identity management? 

Your answers probably look like this:

  • Choosing authentication methods
  • Varying those authentication methods to provide a higher rate of security
  • Connecting your authentication process to all apps used by your company

Automated services can solve all of those issues. Services such as Centrify or OneLogin provide you with a ton of different choices for authenticating access, randomizing those authentication protocols, and seamlessly connects all processes to each app.

That means you have more time to kick back, fire up the in-office Xbox, and get paid to play Skyrim. That’s what everyone thinks IT guys do, right?

Joking aside, automation of these processes does give you more time to manage data threats, handle hardware issues, and keep a better watch on server uptime.

Now, a few other things to consider if you’re still on the fence about automation being a good or bad solution for identity management:

Centrify provides the following services:

  • Eliminates passwords that are easily cracked, are recycled, or stored incorrectly
  • Creates comprehensive user access policies across all platforms
  • Context-aware multi-factor authentication
  • Secure employee-owned devices (as opposed to a pre-secured company-issued device)
  • Installs multi-factor authentication and policy processes based on a per-app policy that doesn’t add more time to the end user’s login experience

Those are just the highlights. Any self-respecting IT manager/proud nerd can find a limitless amount of ways to use this type of technology.

Mobile Device Management

What is it?

Mobile device management (MDM) takes the themes of identity management but applies them solely to mobile devices. Specifically, MDM allows IT managers to keep users connected to all company apps – creating a nimble mobile workforce – and secures personal devices any employee wants to use.

As PC Mag noted, a lost corporate mobile device poses a significant security threat. Even if an employee brings their own device, the right MDM solution can let you locate, lock, and wipe any lost devices. This is just one of many examples of why you should view MDM as a necessary additional security feature for a modernized, automated company.

Why is it foundational?

Mobile is king. Every major ecommerce retailer, online publication, or social media network optimizes their web experience for mobile because it makes up so much of overall web traffic.

Even though Wired Magazine inaccurately predicted that your smartphone would be your only computer in less than two years, it does illustrate the reality of mobile computing.

According to BGR, in October 2016, more web visits came via mobile devices than from desktops – the first time that’s occurred in the history of the internet. 51.3% of web traffic was via mobile, while only 48.7% was from a “traditional” platform.  

Mobile is here to stay and it will remain a foundational aspect of IT automation for years to come.

How Does MDM fit into the mix?

Remember back in college when you’d get invitations to parties? A lot of them had the letters, “BYOB” somewhere. You were invited to the party, but you had to bring your own beer.

That’s exactly how today’s modern workforce operates. Sure, you may not wake up late after a party only to have missed a final, but the point remains the same. While many companies still “provide the beer” for their employees, they’re now able to allow you to bring your own thanks to enhanced mobile device security.

The ability to bring your own device (or BYOD) lets you work within an ecosystem you’re familiar with, instead of switching between company-provided devices and your personal ones. For a long time this wasn’t seen as feasible due to the potential security threats.

Now, thanks to automation solutions from companies like Airwatch, everyone can bring their own device to the party.

Comprehensive MDM automated solutions provide: 

  • Consistent support for all users, at any endpoint, from a single management access point.
  • The ability to connect to company apps and files, enabling employees to work when, where, and how they’d like
  • Enhanced security for all devices connected remotely to company apps or assets
  • Enterprise-level data encryption

Again, these are just high-level glimpses into what MDM automation provides, but you can clearly see the time you’ll save with this type of solution.

Flexible Infrastructure

What is it?

Now, automation is great and all, but as IT managers you’ll likely want to tinker with – and even completely change – some of the automated solutions you use.

That’s where a flexible infrastructure plays a key role. A flexible IT management infrastructure gives you the tools to customize automation solutions based on your own personal wants, or your company’s unique needs. You can use a flexible infrastructure to add on to existing MDM or identity management solutions and create a customized automation experience. 

Why is it foundational?

IT management has always rewarded those who can think outside the box and utilize everything at their disposal. By diving head-first into the actual building blocks of your management processes, you’re able to create something unique and suited perfectly to your company.

What problems does automation solve?

A service like SaltStack can help you with the following infrastructure needs:

  • Enforce security policy configuration compliances across your entire company infrastructure
  • Automate IT operational security
  • Automatically check compliance based on event-driven triggers
  • Intelligent file integrity and access monitoring
  • Drive policy compliance from a single access point

SaltStack is unique in that it’s an open source software that allows IT managers to build automation into virtually any aspect of their company’s processes. According to their website, Adobe uses SaltStack to automate its IT ops security, compliance, and infra hardening.

If Adobe can use an OSS in that fashion, how can you use it effectively?

Automation is here to stay, and the best course of action you can take is to stay ahead of its curve. Adopt technologies as early as possible. Think of creative ways to use automation. Implement it cost-effectively and prevent data breaches.

The foundations of IT management are shifting to complete automation, which presents a unique challenge for IT managers in the coming years. Learn more about the way things are headed in the world of workspace automation by downloading our 2020 predictions.

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