Interesting day today at the Identity Management Task Force, set up as part of the JISC Innovation initiative. Instead of looking at technical solutions to problems, our job is to look at the people and cultural issues to identity management. One of the biggest issues we identified was most of the University, with the exception of the Library and IT departments, not only not knowing what it is, but not really caring. Put simply, it's about people getting access to the services they are entitled to access. That includes electronic journals, academic software, corporate systems, buildings.
It's usually seen as an IT problem, as we are are the "blockers" - we are the ones saying you can't have a computer account, you can't access this service etc. Librarians also get the blame when they don't allow access to resources or buildings.
What we identified today is that it is rarely an IT or Library issue, and more often than not it is an HR, student or governance matter. For example, two completely hypothetical examples. A University sets up a franchise agreement with an overseas college. As part of the deal the students of the college are told they will get access to the VLE and eResources. But, the students are not really students of the University and won't be returned to HESA, so the student registry don't want to input their details onto the student record system. So, they can't have computer accounts, and because they are not our students they're not covered by licences for the VLE or eResources. Or, a University sets up a wholly owned subsidiary company, and the staff of it are not employed by the University. But they teach and supervise students and need access to software and buildings. But they're "not the right kind of staff" so can't have it.
These sorts of issues are common in many institutions, and usually happen because no thought is given about IM when strategic decisions are made. Often the IT department/library only finds out after a deal has been done.
We identified a number of other cultural and people issues, but this was the one that got the most discussion. We've agreed that we need to have a much wider discussion and involve a bigger cross section of the university sector including HR professionals, student registrars and senior management staff to get to a shared understanding of the issues, and come up with some guidance and good practice examples. We also need to demystify what IM is, and talk in a language that everyone understands. It's all about improving the student and staff experience of getting access to everything they are entitled to, when and how they want it.
Oh, and we need to simplify and clarify our licence arrangements, but that could be a much bigger task!
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