ID mgmt. projects: Getting by-in from the stakeholders

* Making sure your stakeholders understand the need for the ID mgmt. project

The benefit of, or even the need for, roles was a major theme at last week's Converge conference, which Courion puts on annually for its customers and partners. What was most fascinating to me, though, was the strong undercurrent to the presentations at the previous Converge events I've attended - as well as at most identity management related events I've been to in the past few years - getting corporate buy-in.

<aside> The most fascinating revelation, though, was when Courion Vice President and Converge emcee Kurt Johnson admitted that he takes a nap in his office in the afternoons. That's something we should all emulate! (He claims it was a joke, but I'll bet CEO Chris Zannetos finds reasons to stop by Johnson's office every afternoon for a week or so!)</aside>

It was two years ago, after attending my first Converge that I related the story of how difficult it had been to get users of one large company to enroll in a self-service password reset project. That theme was reiterated by this year's keynote speaker, H. Lee Buchanan, former assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

One of his themes was that change will be resisted no matter how much improvement comes with that change. He recounted a story (perhaps apocryphal) of the German Army around the time of World War I. The German military switched to mechanized transport for moving cannon around, but still had two soldiers in each group designated as "horse holders" - they would hold the reins of the (now non-existent) horses so that the cannon's roar wouldn't spook them! Evidently, it wasn't difficult for the technologists to displace the horses with trucks (the horses had no standing so as to speak), but the horse-holding soldiers balked at changing what they did.

This same theme keeps coming up whenever I meet with identity management vendors - the technological changes are easy to accomplish if only you can overcome the objections of the stakeholders. And they are true stakeholders - people who feel they have a personal stake in the outcome of the decision. Somehow their standing, their prestige is tied to the data or systems which they maintain. They don't want you to find an easier way for them to do their job, perhaps because that implies that their entire function could be automated and they could become "surplus to needs."

In planning a new identity management project, it's important to identify who the "horse holders" are in the area you'll be covering. Those are the people to talk to first. Find out their views, their needs and their "itches." Make sure that they understand you want to make their job easier, not eliminate it. Once they're convinced then it should be smooth sailing.

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