September 5, 2013
Interesting news recently that Single Sign On (SSO) vendor Okta has integrated with SharePoint in an effort to allow companies to collaborate with external users. The idea being that many organizations have externally-facing portals based on SharePoint and need to give external parties access to those. The integration enables IT administrators to manage customer or partner access to SharePoint with Okta in much the same way they currently use Active Directory to manage employee access to an internal SharePoint-based portal. It’s a hybrid approach towards authentication, and removes the necessity to use two authentication systems (one for internal and one for external use)
The traditional approach to this problem has either been to add external users to the internal employee directory (a wholly sub-optimal approach) or to set up a completely separate directory for outside users (again, pretty much the antithesis of efficiency). With integrations like this, IT admins can manage one set of permissions in one location.
There’s an interesting identity management story in here, but perhaps more interesting is the glimpse this gives into the way enterprises are beginning to work. If we look at organizations of yesterday, they were fairly monolithic, with a rigid boundary between the organization and the outside world. Add to that the fact that user churn was limited and you had a fairly static and easily maintainable situation.
Contrast that to the organization of today. not only are the boundaries between the organization and the outside world far more porous than ever before, but the userbase within an organization is also far more complex – we have project teams coming together in an organic manner, leveraging both internal and external personnel and morphing as projects shift. Given this fact, having to manage the identity of an individual who may be both a partner, and an external contractor and a quasi-employee, all in multiple locations is just plain stupid.
It’s the reason that in recent times we’ve seen companies like Salesforce and Zendesk roll out customer-facing products such as Chatter Communities and the new self-help center respectively – a demand to both reduce the costs of connecting internal and external services but also a reflection on the broader changes occurring in the economy.
SharePoint may be everyone’s whipping boy as the dinosaur product in its class – but if you’re a large enterprise running the product, and you’re offered bolt-on technologies that help modernize it… that’s a pretty compelling proposition overall.