Why does Identity matter for Collaboration? (Part II)

Blog Post created by paucorre on Jul 26, 2013

In collaboration area, why is identity so important?


Without defining a User Identity, it is impossible to deliver the correct experience to make a collaboration deployment successful. Most of the time, the reason for a collaboration project to fail is because there isn’t any concept of User Identity.

In any Collaboration deployment it is as important, if not the most important, to plan the identity infrastructure, as it is to plan for the communication dial plan, IP Addressing, etc.

The challenges that justify an Identity architecture in a collaboration deployment are as follows:


OS Agnostic collaboration solution

When we talk about collaboration, we aren’t any longer confined to the Windows network. Collaboration is now OS agnostic and has gone mobile. We can’t any longer rely only on Windows identity mechanisms, we need to have open standards that will allow us to support any device in any location.


On Premise/Cloud deployment models

A big challenge that we have now a days, when talking about collaboration, is the fact that the traditional model, where everything is inside the organization (on premises), no longer applies. We are seeing more and more organizations that have hybrid models where a part of the services are on premises while others are hosted in the cloud by services providers. This means that we require a mechanism to identify a user across administrative domains without either losing control or revealing private data. A manual process delivered by the IT staff, apart from being inefficient it is very subject to mistakes. This ”synchronization” of information needs to happen seamlessly and from a single source which is, in most cases, the identity provider inside the organization.


Business to Business and Business to Consumer

If we think on B2B ( Business to business ) and how to exchange identity information, things may seem easy enough when we are talking about one or two business partners. But what happens when we have ten or one hundred or even one thousand business partners? We need to use standard protocols that allow an organization to exchange user information in a seamless and secure process.


Forrester defines the extended enterprise as one for which a business function is rarely, if ever, a self-contained workflow within the infrastructure confines of the company and of course that brings extra challenges. In their “Navigate the Future of Identity and Access Management”, they describe the concept of Zero Trust Identity Model, which is very interesting and makes all the sense when applied to the collaboration architecture.



A single user has multiple Devices

Collaboration has multiple delivering mechanisms to achieve better productivity and user efficiency, using multiple channels to communicate like voice, video, and data. We see less and less approaches where a single device or application matches all the user requirements. What we are doing and what we want to achieve defines the device that we use to collaborate.  This means that the number of devices that we use in our business and private life tends to increase. We need the user information to be consistent across all of them and that we have the same policies in all of them.

Tablets, SmartPhones and the UltraMobile PC out pace traditional notebook sales six times, together we will have 1.7 Billion of mobile units by 2017.



User Experience counts

With so many devices and so many different ways to collaborate with others, inside and outside our organization, it is the user experience that makes the difference between a successful or an un-successful solution. It is these kinds of challenges where “details” such as Single Sign-On across different applications and devices becomes critical.


Security Policies

When we talk about identity management we should not forget the security aspect of it. With information being the most valuable asset of an organization today, most of the organizations are implementing policies where they try to reduce the security risks.


Gartner predicts that by 2016, 40% of enterprises will make proof of independent security testing a precondition for using any type of cloud service.



We start to see more and more organizations that now realized their weak security link is the user itself. If their identity is hijacked, it will certainly cause a lot of damage to the organization. This is exactly why some organizations are looking for systems that don’t use passwords anymore. User identity can be provided by means of biometrics, smartcards, and dynamic passwords with single or dual factor authentication.


Gartner estimates 20-50% of support costs are related to password management.

Cisco IT estimates $250/user/year of cost for password management.



What should be the goal of the organizations?


We need to make sure that a collaboration deployment has identity strategy behind it. It will facilitate integration between products, reduce onboarding and training time for new collaboration products.

It is really important for customers to think about their Identity strategy even before they think about collaboration. A customer Identity strategy is one of the most important pillars on building a successful IT Service, especially nowadays where the B2B and B2C is one of the biggest challenges for any organization.

With a clear and well-defined identity strategy, the benefits to collaboration are very clear, but they do not stop there. Instead, they will extend to any application inside and outside the organization.