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Does HR matter?

Since I’m doing projects around IDM and IAM, there have been lot of conversations with HR guys and the role of their HR application within the project. In nearly every project someone out of the team of architects, consultants or engineers has to explain their importance. Not only once, not only twice… Sometimes you can tell them the fact a dozen times.

So why does HR matter in an IDM or IAM project? Simple answer: they are the authoritative source for HR information, driving provisioning processes, defining hierarchies (managers, direct reports, …) and delivering necessary attributes from the perspective of Identity Management.

Just an recent example to deep-dive in:
Situation as-is is an IT environment in change. There’s an groupware system in place currently and an foundation laid out, to rollout Active Directory as an central directory system. (There might be a murmur like “groupware but no directory system?”. Yeah, it is what it is. Even in 2012 some organizations does not have an directory system in place, using still local user accounts and host-files. Scary imagination, isn’t it?) The internal structure of the group ware system as well as the approach for the Active Directory are driven by locations. This means that there is an OU structure representing locations. From an Identity Management standpoint it’s pretty clear what to do: the location an employee is dedicated to will drive the provisioning target in the groupware system as well as in the upcoming Active Directory. There are other approaches as well to drive provisioning targets (just to name some of them):

  • departments
  • cost centers
  • business roles

So far so good. Now let’s have a look on the HR side: our IAM system is getting data from two different HR systems, containing different categories of employees. A third source of information is an HR originated location feed, giving us information about existing locations and their hierarchy. So we configured those imports to get the data into the IAM system, preparing the data for an afterward provisioning process. Just analyzing the data was kind of horrible:

  • we found overlapping data within data sources, which should have been completely disjunctive
  • within some ten thousands of HR records we had some thousands, where our IAM system was not able to determine an location from the previously reconciled location feed
  • we found multiple valid HR records per employee without any attribute to determine which record is the most recent one

It might turn out to be the worst HR integration I’ve ever worked on after recognizing that the HR data was even inconsistent within itself. While analyzing the source data (because I couldn’t believe that it’s that worse than I saw the result in our IAM system), I found out that there are even employees located in locations, which are not existing within the location feed. So I raised my concerns about the internal integrity of the data itself.

The story is still going on. I’m looking forward to the next update on the data and / or the conversation.

But it shows: HR matters. The quality of HR data is the key to data quality within your IT systems. Or to bring it to an simple conclusion: garbage in, garbage out.

Categories: IAM, IDM
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