15.07.2007 19:47Martin Kuppinger

Role Management ? a general survey of the Market
An Interview with Paul Heiden, CEO at Bhold
I am working on a comprehensive report on standard tools for Role Management and their vendors. This has long been an item on my to-do list, but only now it has gained top priority. The reason is of course that Role Management was a cutting-edge issue on KPC`s European Identity Conference.

This is in accordance with the results of our Identity Management marketing study 2006/2007 which was also focused on Role Management as a central subject. But the decisive incentive was a telephone call between Paul Heiden, CEO of Bhold, and myself. Paul cited a couple of – let´s say –“interpretations” by other so-called experts concerning this segment. Apart from the fact that obviously all observers of the market have introduced their own terms, the market itself assembles different participants and products. As a result, apples are not only compared with oranges, but also with potatoes and tomatoes.

So far, this development is not unusual with younger markets, where a lot of vendors with a variety of different products are trying to find their position. And Role Management itself shows, as well, various facings. My report concentrates on exploring these different aspects.

This is a simple example: Some vendors focus the as-is analysis, as in Role Mining, for example. In this context it is essential to acquire and to analyze information about existing assignments of authorizations, either directly or via groups or roles – bearing in mind that the term “role” is a bit tricky because it allows a lot of different interpretations.

Also vendors of Provisioning solutions use the term Role Management because their products are able to define roles and use them, in addition to rules, for Provisioning. But the enormous difference between the two will be evident at the latest when we take a look at Beta Systems having both a Provisioning and a Role Mining tool in their portfolio.

Vendors as Bhold define their task as an uninterrupted control of business roles one level above Provisioning. Others for example are specifically involved with the roles in SAP systems.

Amazingly, some of the manufacturers of totally different products often compete against one another. Sometimes, their approaches are as different as a first analysis in a Role Management project and – maybe – Auditing on the one hand, and delivering the basis of a continuous Role Management on the other.

This also raises a problem for manufacturers who, as Paul Heiden, spend a lot of time explaining their customers what they actually do. This is a typical characteristic of immature market segments, and these include, in my opinion, Role Management tools – although some of them have been available for years.

Only now, Role Management is gradually moving from the specialist level into the focus of business people. And this development requires more transparency. Arbitrarily set up lists of vendors who have not more in common than a keyword, are of no use to anybody. In any case, we at KPC are determined to shed light on the situation – that was my promise to Paul Heiden, and this is my promise to you.

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