by Jarina D'Auria

Automation Can Save You Time and Money

Feb 27, 20094 mins
Data Center

How Brookdale Senior Living benefited by automating its employee identity management systems

Brookdale Senior Living CIO Scott Ranson was facing a challenge. After a three-year growth spurt fueled by mergers and acquisitions, the provider of senior living communities had gone from $400 million to $2 billion in revenue and added more than 7,000 employees to its user base. With that growth came a sharp increase in identity and access management (IAM) requests for IT to handle.

Ranson saw that the existing manual IAM system was like quicksand for his security staff; they were buried by the request volume. “Don’t underestimate the complexity of setting up a user in a system,” he says. Brookdale has dozens of systems as a result of the mergers, each with its own user set-up specifications.

“We had new hires waiting four days to get set up with the applications to do their job,” Ranson says, which hurt effectiveness. Brookdale also has a high turnover rate, with some jobs turning over between 40 percent and 60 percent annually. With 70 access-change requests per day, five IT staff were dedicated to updating employee access. “The process took too long,” he says.

Ranson made the decision to automate the process and turned to Courion’s AccountCourier to handle setting up and managing user accounts across Brookdale’s applications. Deploying the tool reduced the time to complete user-access changes to under 24 hours; it used to take three to five days. That productivity increase let Ranson trim three security staff positions (reducing overall IT costs by about $150,000), tighten regulatory compliance, enhance user support and improve security accuracy. Total ROI is hard to quantify since the tool was implemented last January, but automating the process freed the team to do more work in less time and focus on other projects, he says.

Managing employee access is a key issue. Forrester Senior Analyst Andras Cser points to four drivers for automating: reducing IT administration cycle time, increasing business agility, maintaining compliance and improving security. In fact, with layoffs gripping the economy, the need to control access has intensified. Cser says companies are more likely to seek tools to automate IAM in a recession.

Ranson chose AccountCourier for reasons of licensing cost, implementation and total cost of ownership. Four months after the rollout, Ranson saw “a tremendous increase in productivity.” It once took IT an hour to complete employee access changes for five systems; now the changes for 15 systems can be made in five minutes. The tool helps manage 15 of Brookdale’s 50 enterprise applications; Ranson hopes to cover them all soon. By automating more processes, Brookdale strengthened security, more efficiently met Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and HIPAA requirements, and efficiently allocated budget money at a time when cost savings are crucial.

How It Adds Up

Brookdale Senior Living Centers, Brentwood, Tenn.

Operates 550 senior living and retirement communities serving over 52,000 residents nationwide likely to seek tools to automate IAM in a recession.

How Brookdale Saved: Automating identity access management cut time to provision a new worker from days to hours. Increased productivity led to a reduction in staff—a cost savings of about $150,000.

Tool Used: AccountCourier, part of Courion’s Enterprise Suite solution.

Time Frame: Deployed in January 2008. Implementation is ongoing.

1) All Synched Up

Brookdale employees had to create (and remember) different passwords for each application they used. Brookdale has about 50 applications, with each user accessing an average of nine. Some wrote passwords on Post-its, which they stuck to their computers. Now the tool allows a user to choose one password for all applications. This lessens the chance of a stolen password, says Brookdale Senior Living CIO Scott Ranson. In addition, Brookdale’s help desk is only open from 7 a.m. CST to 6 p.m. CST. So if someone forgot a password after hours, they were stuck. But now, “we have a password reset functionality, which can operate at all hours,” he says. IT used to get 400 help desk calls monthly to reset passwords. With automation and synchronization, calls have been nearly eliminated.

2) Remember your Regulations

Brookdale must comply with SOX and HIPAA. One SOX requirement is control around access reaccreditation. This was done manually, which was arduous. Automating the process has cut the work by 60 percent.