Successful SSO deployments demand security and convenience. The former comes naturally, but the latter demands a user-centric approach.
Single sign-on (SSO) solutions are changing the security conversation. Federated sign-on offerings can help reduce IT help desk calls, limit credential sprawl and boost overall productivity. But many organizations still struggle when it comes to SSO implementation.
Part of the challenge stems from expectations and the employee experience around SSO. How do businesses ensure single sign-on efforts are a success with staff?
Skip the Security Talk (at First)
The primary purpose of SSO is security. By implementing federated access, IT staff gain both improved visibility and control; users and behaviors are easier to track and manage across SSO environments than fragmented application and login landscapes.
Putting security in the spotlight can draw unflattering comparisons between now and the late 1990s, when IT pros were less concerned with end-user concerns. At that time, the IT thought process around security was one of utility. Protection was necessary at any cost, and users didn't have a choice. In fact, they did have a choice: opting not to use cumbersome security solutions by finding less-secure workarounds.
To engage employees and ensure single sign-on deployment goes according to plan, skip the security talk (at first). Instead, start by highlighting the benefits of simplicity, convenience and productivity offered by SSO. Make it clear that staff need only a single login and password to access familiar apps and services with SSO. Forbes recommends showcasing security as an "enabler in helping employees do their jobs successfully." This means no more hunting for lost passwords or calling the help desk to inquire about login credentials across corporate networks, cloud services and application environments.
Keep Them in the Loop
It's also critical to onboard employees by communicating both the reasons for SSO adoption and the support processes in place if users encounter difficulties.
Consider SSO passwords. If an employee is given seemingly arbitrary rules about password length and complexity, the result will likely be bottom-of-the-barrel credentials that are little better than "password" or "123456." By explaining the core concept of federated access and educating staff on the vulnerabilities of common passwords, however, it's possible to generate shared responsibility that helps drive employee buy-in.
It's also critical that you clearly communicate the support process to your employees. Even in an SSO environment, users will still lose or misplace their passwords. If they call federated service providers, they'll typically be redirected to local support — and become frustrated with the process. By defining the support process step-by-step, organizations can empower users to quickly take action if they encounter SSO issues.
Ask for Feedback
To streamline single sign-on deployments, businesses must toss the 1990s mindset and develop empathy for end-users. Accomplishing this means putting yourself in their position and discovering how technologies like SSO can make their work easier — or complicate some day-to-day processes.
But how do IT experts who are already familiar with SSO's benefits and drawbacks tap into the end-user perspective? Feedback is critical. So critical, in fact, that businesses need to insist on feedback from employees. Here, the challenge is encouraging staff to say what they really think instead of filling out surveys or responding in team meetings with what they think higher-ups want to hear.
To counter this challenge, start with anonymous reporting. Let users share their successes and frustrations with SSO without having to worry about whether C-suite executives will single them out as "difficult." Then, implement user feedback where possible. Are SSO rollouts happening too quickly? Is there confusion around what services or applications are covered under the new framework? Adjusting for feedback can engage your users while enabling your technology staff to deploy the best fixes possible for efficiency and ease of use.
Sell the Secure Vision
Last but not least, deliver on your security vision. Although federated SSO helps reduce credential sprawl and password fatigue, it also creates a single point of failure if compromised. And while employees may not be as tech-savvy as your IT staff, they're well aware of risks related to data breaches and compromised passwords.
It's essential that you educate your employees about the security value of single sign-on. This includes communicating the division between SSO-enabled front-line staff and more traditional controls for admin users, as well as highlighting the use of trusted third-party providers to deliver reliable, results-driven SSO deployments.
The Secret to SSO Success
Successful SSO deployments demand security and convenience. The former comes naturally, but the latter demands a user-centric approach. Start with practical benefits, keep staff informed, ask for their opinions and showcase the value of SSO security to drive employee engagement.
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