Proper credentialing is a critical element of identity management. In some organizations, however, credentialing may not be automated or integrated into an enterprise-wide identity management system. Credentialing too often remains a manual process, especially as it relates to visitor management, or it may be handled by a standalone system that is part of a legacy of disparate functions that makes it difficult to manage identities.

Here are some ways to streamline credentialing to improve enterprise-wide identity management:

1.      Central management and automation. Every organization should have policies in place related to credentialing, and incorporating those policies into one centralized repository can streamline the entire lifecycle of the credentialing process, while also ensuring its integrity related to identity management. Security policies should include factors such as when and how enrollees are on- and off-boarded, what access is allowed to each enrollee, and when and how badges are issued. Software enables these policies to be consistently implemented using a single system. It also supports centralized requests from enrollment stations, Web portals and kiosks. Using unified software-based credentialing enables systems and processes to be automated for more efficient operation that also ensures ongoing compliance with security policies.

2.      Integrate with physical security systems. Credentialing should be integrated with access control, identity and human resource management systems; Active Directory services; and other systems that provide identity information such as background check systems, training systems, etc. Integration of credentialing ties together functionality of the various systems into a single identity reflected by the related credential. Integration also supports pre-defined policies for badge management, such as making a badge inactive automatically if not used for a specified amount of time. Multiple systems should not equate to multiple identities. Instead, software can create a single identity that is recognized and accepted by all the disparate systems and is managed centrally.

3.      Automate and unify compliance policies.Compliance with security policies and regulatory requirements can be a complex function that is greatly simplified by the use of a software system. Security policies should be more than a list of requirements. Instead, they should be ingrained in all aspects of a company's operation – including credentialing. Software systems can define all compliance policies in one place and automatically ensure that the central system – and other external systems – all remain in a state of compliance. For example, automation can ensure policy-based production and issuance of badges, i.e. a badge can be printed only if pre-requisites are met, such as completion of training or a security check. Policies form the basis of an enterprise's overall security stature, and regulatory compliance is increasingly a concern for organizations related to identity management. Software systems can manage both of these factors efficiently and easily, and it begins with unifying information and automating processes.

4.      Automate correlation of event data with identity. Every physical security system generates event data, whether it's a granting of door access or a canceled credential, and software systems can automate correlation of that changing data to provide dynamic and up-to-the-minute management of identity. Every door access or computer access should be based on accurate and current identity information, and operators should have immediate notification of any event that violates security policy related to any identity. Correlating identity with event management allows complete control and visibility into physical security operations, a critical tool for effective security management.

5.      Provide a dynamic interactive dashboard. Security professionals and company management depend on visual elements such as a computerized dashboard and security metrics to provide visibility into the state of physical security operations. Software systems excel at compiling a vast amount of information about a wide range of enterprise systems and presenting it in a visual format that is easy to understand at a glance. Rapid reporting of security policy violations and other metrics keeps security and management professionals constantly updated, and it enables them to react quickly and decisively to any events or trends.

Credentialing doesn't have to be a manual, decentralized function that can undermine an effective enterprise identity system. Instead, credentialing should be integral to – and a central component of – effectively managing identity enterprise-wide. As part of an enterprise-wide identity management system, centralized and automated credentialing can improve adherence to security policies and facilitate compliance with regulatory requirements.