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Provisioning/User Management System Upgrades: Part One -- Ten Reasons Why Not To Do An Upgrade or The Gentle Art of "Not Doing" When Good Systems Go Bad

 by: Hallett German

Tommy Sherman daily monitors a helpdesk-provisioning queue for a large company. The current provisioning/user management system was written with homegrown software. It has not had a major update for several years. Each day, he is getting more and more frustrated. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot keep up with the increasing workload. New employees are screaming for their system ids and have no way of checking their id creation status. Existing employees are demanding timely updates to their ids when they transfer across business units. Ex-employees exist in the system months after departure. His frustrated manager will be meeting with him this afternoon to talk about his "unresponsiveness."

The above is a real world example. It may happen if a provisioning/user management system is not meeting company needs and there are no plans to upgrade.

This is a two part series on the dark side of provisioning/user management upgrade projects. Upgrade will be defined here to include new hardware and software, and also the supporting environment of business processes, roles, organizations, business rules, etc. This article will discuss reasons why these projects do not get started or fail to reach completion. The next article will cover how to overcome these reasons.

Here are ten reasons why the needed systems improvement are not implemented:

1. No Budget

IT budgets are frozen or only the most needed projects get funded. This will impact hardware/software maintenance, hiring or contracting needed resources, and more.

2. Infrastructure is Not Sexy.

The budget is there but fixing an existing provisioning system is not considered a priority. Sadly, many companies see broken systems or processes as the "cost of doing business." Or companies will do only the minimum upgrade to keep IT infrastructure running. But beware, as once was said in a well-written article "Cheap is Expensive." It will come back to haunt you.

3. No Technical, Management, Or Financial Champions

It may be a great idea but there may not exist anyone who can sell this at the mid or upper management level in your company. Also, you may experience "champion burnout" where past champions who unsuccessfully tried to sell the upgrade no longer wish to do it again.

4. Business Case Is Hard to Write

Only by including both "soft" and "hard" savings can can one get the true picture of an upgrade's return. "Soft" costs include user login downtime and productivity declines (cost of finding the current information about a person, document, or hardware device), increased calls to helpdesk and decline of helpdesk staff morale) and more. However, "soft" savings are often considered irrelevant by management and usually the numbers aren't there if you rely on hard savings alone.

5. Can't Agree on Software/Hardware

For various reasons, technical types cannot always agree which is the best software to meet company needs. Differences may be over preferred operating system, vendor, hardware, software configuration and features, or political/personal whims.

6. Undocumented Current Environment

Perhaps due to turnover or lack of time, no one has documented (or recently updated) what the "AS- IS" user management/provisioning environment looks like. This includes roles and responsibilities, business rules and processes, and software/hardware.

7. No Shared and Communicated Vision

No one has written and communicated a possible "TO-BE " roadmap for provisioning/user management software to decision makers and influencers. This may be due to lack of understanding of the "AS-IS" environment, politics, lack of time, or lack of knowledgeable resources to create such a roadmap. To ensure overall success, the "TO-BE" roadmap ideally should advocate a phased approach.

8. No Project Resources

All available staff who would be working on a software upgrade are busy doing other tasks (like system administration, user support, or other projects). So, there are no available resources that can be dedicated full/part-time to the project. Also, the company may be reluctant to hire outside consultants to perform the upgrade for various reasons.

9. No Agreement on Upgrade Requirements

It is possible to agree on vision, product, and project team and still get nowhere! Reasons could be an honest difference of opinion on configuration settings, hardware setup, features to enable, degree of customization, and more. Unclear and disputed requirements from the start will likely bring disastrous results.

10. Other Concerns

These are other factors too numerous to mention which could impact getting an upgrade project off the ground. security concerns, lack of physical space for hardware, no organization/resources for administration, remote locations building their own unapproved "underground" solutions, organizational changes and mergers (with new organizations having their own IdM vision), vendor changes and mergers, and more.


I hope that this does not discourage you from moving forward on getting your provisioning/user management underway. By identifying possible obstacles, you can then begin to plan to overcome each of them. In the last article of the series, we will discuss what you can do to get your provisioning /user management upgrade on management's radar.

For Further Information

Abridean "15 Rules for a Successful User Management and Provisioning Project"

Gomolski, Barbara "When Cheap Is Expensive" Computerworld 2/16/2004,10801,90151,00.html

Lewis, Jamie, Blum, Dan "The Enterprise Directory Value Proposition" Burton Group 1999

Microsoft "The Provisioning Challenge"

About The Author

Hallett German ( is president of Alessea Consulting ( specializing in Identity Management, Project Management, and Business Development. Copyright 2004 Alessea Consulting All Rights Reserved

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