Why insufficient automation of onboarding and offboarding leads to security risks and data loss

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The pandemic accelerated hybrid work and cloud adoption, but it also led to major resignation.

By the end of 2021, 69 million Americans (20% of the US population) “divorced” from their jobs.

As more organizations leverage technology, they have fewer people to manage it. All of this has put pressure on enterprise onboarding and offboarding capabilities. Yet companies struggle to automate this process, resulting in critical loss of technology assets and unauthorized access, according to a new report from the enterprise technology management (ETM) provider. Unclenitza.

“The pandemic and the Great Resignation put tremendous strain on enterprise onboarding and offboarding processes, to the point where automating them has become a priority for just about every company we talk to,” said Arthur Lozinski, CEO and co-founder of Oomnitza. “We conducted this study to better understand the magnitude of the problem.”

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Increased turnover, more apps to manage

Research shows that organizations continue to struggle with turnover. An investigation through McKinsey and Cofound, for example, that 53% of employers experienced greater voluntary turnover in 2021 than in previous years. The company also reported that 51% of employers expect to cut jobs by 2022.

At the same time, medium to large businesses have an average of 187 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, according to Okta’s Report Companies at work 2022.

Increased IT demands and growing employee turnover and the data privacy, security and financial risks that come with it make automating secure offboarding processes a strategic business imperative, said Oomnitza co-founder Ramin Ettehad.

“There is too much room for errors, loopholes, inaccuracies and inefficiencies when we rely on people having to manually go through different IT systems to fulfill onboarding and offboarding requests,” he said. “Many processes are also not well documented or maintained.”

Doubt about automation capabilities, loss of assets

The 2022 State of Onboarding Process Automation ReportThe survey, conducted by YouGov, found that nearly half of IT leaders have doubts about their organization’s ability to effectively automate employee onboarding and offboarding.

Also, of the 213 senior-level IT professionals surveyed:

  • Forty-nine percent reported losing at least 5% of their technology assets due to employees leaving the company; while 27% lost more than 10%; and a fifth lost between 10% and 20%.
  • Forty-two percent experienced at least 5% of unauthorized access to SaaS applications and cloud infrastructure due to former employee deprovisioning deficiencies; one fifth had more than 10% of such cases; and 17% did not know how much unauthorized access resulted from incomplete deprovisioning of employees and contractors.
  • Forty-eight percent of respondents reported deficiencies or lack of automated workflows across departments and IT tools to facilitate the safe offboarding of employees.
  • Technology, healthcare, and manufacturing organizations have worse (over 36%) asset recovery rates compared to other industries when offboarding employees and contractors. They were also more likely to report unauthorized access to SaaS and cloud resources by former employees compared to other industries.
  • Retail and technology showed lower overall confidence (over 60%) in their on-boarding and off-boarding automation capabilities compared to other industries.

As Lozinski noted of the report, “not only did it help quantify the amount of technology loss and risk associated with inefficient processes, it also underlines the importance of taking a cohesive, holistic approach to solving them.”

Inaccuracies and gaps in implementation

There are myriad reasons why organizations have such a hard time onboarding and firing employees, Ettehad said; it can be a complex and involved process.

For starters, there are many technology lifecycle management considerations — from endpoints and hybrid workplaces to SaaS and cloud infrastructure — to consider, he said. In addition to the vast amount of technology used by the workforce, there is also a wide range of needs, requirements and regulations of employees and contractors that must be consistently met.

In addition, the data required to effectively engage and disengage workers is fragmented across isolated HR and IT management tools.

As a result, organizations are merging data, tools, and workforce requests to fulfill the many diverse tasks required to onboard or disembark.

“Managing this with IT service tickets and waiting for human responses is no longer a viable or scalable option,” says Ettehad, especially as organizations lay off 10% of their hybrid workforce. “These manual processes are prone to human error, inaccuracies and gaps in execution.”

The first step: Assessment

ETM platforms that provide business process automation for IT and technology help overcome these shortcomings.

Still, “for starters, you can’t automate processes based on inaccurate or outdated data,” says Ettehad.

The process begins with a technology lifecycle management assessment, he said. For example, are endpoints, applications, network and cloud infrastructure accounted for from “purchase to end-of-life?”

HR, IT and security teams need to come together and define policies and procedures to address the different onboarding and offboarding user types, requirements and scenarios, as well as the tools and processes to meet those requirements, Ettehad said.

“You can start with the most common and simple processes and then move on to frequent but more complex scenarios,” he said.

Embrace automation

ETM platforms integrate with an organization’s existing HR, finance, and IT tools at the API level, enabling them to cross-correlate operational data across isolated systems.

This centralized data warehouse is then combined with a graphical, low-code workflow editor that enables all IT staff to quickly and easily automate key business processes, Ettehad explains.

Organizations can then define and automate the offboarding process, from separation to recovery, based on policies and conditions, he said. At the same time, they can minimize mundane and unfinished tasks and continuously improve onboarding and offboarding processes.

Ensuring the right endpoints, accessories, applications and cloud resources are available from the start will help new hires be productive from the start, he stressed. And ETM can enable secure offboarding by ensuring endpoints and their data are secured, software licenses reclaimed, and access to systems, SaaS, and cloud resources terminated.

In addition, an outgoing employee’s email, applications and workstations can be automatically reassigned.

“Once automated, analytics can help employees more quickly identify and resolve gaps, anomalies, new controls and additional compliance mandates to support continuous improvement,” said Ettehad.

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