By Newton Smith, Associate CIO; Stan Hammer, Assistant CIO; and Al Sanders, IT Project Coordinator.

Identity management will take the spotlight as a major IT goal in 2009-10 due to its importance to campus communication, effective business practices, information security, and the eBriefcase component of the QEP.

Identity management or “IdM” is an enabling technology that enhances productivity, communications, and security. IdM refers to how humans are identified, authenticated, and authorized across computer networks. IT is committed to automating most of these tasks and, in the process, improving campus communications and email, deploying single sign-on, providing targeted messaging, and instituting role-based access control to improve security and protect critical data files.

Currently, going from one system to another at WCU (from Outlook to My Cat and then to R25, for example) frequently requires new log-ins, different passwords or PINs, cumbersome coding by IT staff, and manual permissions when people change jobs or roles. The result is loss of productivity and shared frustration. The current setup is analogous to an individual having to show a different photo ID as they go from one building to another. Then, when they change jobs or leave, new ID cards must be made and the old ones collected.

Developing identity management is similar to developing the infrastructure network that is essential to any community. People need a road, water, power, phone, sewer, TV, and Internet connections, all delivered to them at one address. Identity management is what enables individuals to connect with the resources they need and create a community network.

Improving WCU’s identity management will result in better authentication of individuals with accurate information and eliminate the lag time between hiring and account creation or position changes. The result will be that when an individual (single) signs on, WCU electronic systems will know who they are, that they are who they say they are, what their role is (student, staff, faculty, adviser, finance officer, etc.), and what files or applications they need access to for their work so that they will be given access to the systems they need without delay.

Another benefit of improving WCU’s identity management is that it will allow WCU to begin using Shibboleth, a standards-based Internet2 authentications application that will allow faculty and staff to sign in to other campuses’ networks for collaboration since identity is certified based on WCU’s IdM.

One of the main goals of WCU’s IdM project will be a “front door” to services and business information. In its initial phase, the front door will provide an online entry point to IT services. As the project continues, the development of a portal-like environment will eventually allow users to access all the systems they have authorization for as well as targeted announcements.

Improving IdM will be a major, complex undertaking involving a series of separate projects. It will mean some IT staff will be spending much of their time on IdM, and it may mean some other projects are delayed.

For more information on identity management at WCU, contact Newton Smith at 828-227-2411.