Identity Experts help the Fashion Retail Academy reduce the amount of time IT staff spend on identity management by synchronising Microsoft Identity Manager with its systems
In the 21st Century, the myriad of systems that even users in small organisations need to access, is a major headache to administrate. But, keeping up to date with joiners, movers and leavers (JML) for these systems needs to be done promptly, to ensure system security and user productivity is maintained at all times.
This situation is exacerbated in educational establishments. Here, the regular annual turnover of large numbers of students coupled with the diverse number of systems they need access to, makes the job of administering JMLs immense and complex.
Such a situation was faced by the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) in 2016. The FRA was the first National Skills Academy to be opened in the UK in September 2006 to educate and train people aged 16+ to develop the skills required for a career in the fashion retail industry.
The FRA is backed by the retail industry’s big hitters and offers the very latest state of the art facilities including lecture theatre, IT suites and a Fashion Academy Boutique mock shop.
Bringing identity management in-house Dr Ian Dawson, Head of IT at the FRA explained:
“We wanted to obtain a complete view of the identity life cycle on all the systems across the academy. This would involve centralising everything with regard to identity management, which up to date been a very labour intensive process.”
Realising they would need an experienced identity management partner to help them achieve this goal, FRA reviewed the options before eventually choosing Identity Experts.
“I had worked with key personnel at Identity Experts before,” said Ian. “So, I knew we could depend on their experience and expertise for what we wanted to achieve.
“We had an existing relationship with a provider that was failing. Part of the problem was that everything was done off-site, so we never had any idea when anything was wrong until it was too late. With Identity Experts, we wanted them to help us bring more skills internally, so we could be more in control and own identity management ourselves.”
Integrating REMS with Microsoft Identity Manager
Identity Experts’ consultants started work in mid 2016 by synchronising the information in FRA’s Civica REMS MIS system with Microsoft Identity Manager. As REMS was the most up-to-date source of user information in the academy, any JMLs recorded in that would be automatically and quickly reflected in their Microsoft Active Directory structure.
“This project alone saves us so much time,” explained Ian. “Before, we would have had to manually update AD when there was a JML and this could be hours or days behind the actual event happening. This potentially left our systems unsecure in the event of a leaver, or new users waiting for access in the event of a joiner or mover. So, having it happen immediately and automatically removed these problems as well as freeing up our IT staff to concentrate on higher value work.”
Office 365 and Net2
The next phase of work involved the removal of the existing off-site identity management solution that managed Office 365 access. “This has given us a much better view of what is going on with Office 365,” said Ian. “As a result our processes around Office 365 now run a lot smoother and this has also helped to improve the productivity our IT support staff.”
The final phase of the project has involved integrating identity management through Microsoft Identity Manager to the FRA’s Paxton Net2 door access system, ensuring physical security is also synchronised. Net2 is an advanced PC-based access control solution that offers centralised administration and control of sites from one to thousands of doors and with up to 50,000 users.
Ian said, “With Net2, access privileges can be tailored to groups or individuals and with the system synchronised to our identity management solution across the entire FRA estate, the management of it became a whole lot easier.”
Now in control of identity management
“The overall impact of the work carried out by Identity Experts has been to greatly reduce the amount of admin’ time we now spend on identity management,” concluded Ian.
“We are now in much greater control over what is happening, so that if there is ever a problem, we can either resolve it internally, or if it is severe, escalate it to Identity Experts.
“I have been very impressed with their services and experience. They are always willing to help and are completely focussed on the customer, something our previous partner wasn’t. They are good people to work with and our relationship is strong as a result.”