EDUCAUSE 2018: Higher Education's Struggles and Successes with Identity and Access Management


Educause booth-1

Last month, a group of our higher education experts packed their bags and traveled to Denver, Colorado to participate in the much anticipated 2018 EDUCAUSE Annual convention. Once there, they enjoyed three action-packed days completely dedicated to technology in higher education.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the convention for us was our presentation with Davidson College, one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in the nation. Kevin Davis, Davidson’s Deputy CIO, took the audience through the college’s journey with identity and access management (IAM) and their RapidIdentity implementation in his presentation, How Davidson College Accomplished Automation at a Smaller Scale.

Coming in at a close second for top moment of the trip was our outrageous Halloween happy hour celebration. Always looking for reasons to throw a party, we took full advantage of the convention to do just that! The happy hour was a roaring success, with many of the people we had met at the show earlier in the day coming out to enjoy the evening with us. The best feature? Our decked-out, shimmery, gold photobooth, which produced some of the best moments of the night.

Small Steps for Higher Ed

During the daytime hours, however, we rolled up our sleeves and got down to work. Our team spent the week learning about the struggles and successes of higher education IT professionals from all across the country, educating attendees about our product, and performing live demos of our solution.

These conversations reinforced what we’ve heard from many of our own customers: higher education institutions face unique IAM challenges, which most other industries don’t. Without the proper solution, identity management is time-intensive and complicated, making it difficult or even impossible to stay on top of with existing resources. However, most colleges and universities simply don’t have unlimited budgets to throw at these issues.

This means very few colleges and universities can take on a full IAM end-to-end deployment right out of the gate. Instead, these institutions need the ability to implement specific identity and access capabilities in phases, so a solution like RapidIdentity is a more viable option because it offers a full platform of IAM capabilities with the flexibility to be parsed out over time and as-needed. For our higher education customers, we usually recommend implementing identity management first then branching out to access management, such as single sign-on and multi-factor authentication capabilities.

We also hear from many colleges and universities that already have point solutions from alternate vendors in place that making a full rip-and-replace in the immediate future is impractical. Instead, RapidIdentity enables them to implement specific capabilities that fill immediate gaps and then slowly add on additional solutions over time.

Our customer and co-presenter, Davidson College, is a perfect example of the success this method can bring. With existing single sign-on and multi-factor authentication point solutions in place, Davidson added on RapidIdentity Automated Lifecycle Management in the fall of 2017 to fill gaps in their account creation and management processes.

A small but prestigious college, Davidson’s reputation brings added pressure to deliver an end-user experience and level of identity management on par with much larger universities. A modern IAM solution purpose-built for higher ed was the only way to accomplish this.

“The architecture of Identity Automation was really interesting to us”, Davis explained. ”Frankly that it works the way it works with such large organizations told us that you had solved for reliability, repeatability, and scalability. What we wanted to do then was take our smaller size needs and take advantage of the platform to make use of it.”

Before RapidIdentity, account creation was a manual process for Davidson’s IT department, which meant lots of room for errors and delays and a complicated and frustrating process for faculty, staff, and students. Even once their accounts were active, users had to work through Davidson’s already resource strapped IT team for any needed changes and updates. This continued stream of small, daily tasks had forced IT into the business of managing identities, instead of becoming a leader in the advancement of technology and innovation for the college.

Davis spoke at length about the way in which RapidIdentity has changed the entire functionality and mission of their IT department, as well as the experience of their students, staff, and faculty.

"Tying authentication and authorization together for us and doing it in a way that makes it self-service for users, we just think is really important for what users want," says Davis.

Instead of managing many small tasks, Davis reports that IT is now focusing on larger and more strategic initiatives, such as the speed at which they’re able to execute new and innovative projects and improving the service and experience for end users—all with only one component of the RapidIdentity platform in place.

Looking to the Future

Our mission is to take what we’ve done for Davidson College and bring that success to as many colleges and universities as we can, which means 2019 EDUCAUSE Annual convention is already locked down for us. Identity Automation will without a doubt be back next year and ready to take the show by storm!

Next up on our radar, however, is Gartner’s 2018 IAM Summit starting on December 3rd, where we’ll again be sending our all-star players to get the word out on our solution and capabilities. So if you’re planning on attending, don’t miss us!

Higher Education Identity Access Management


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