Implementing Role-Based Access Controls in Integrated Business Management

Implementing role-based access controls in integrated business management

Centralised databases and unified security measures are core components of any integrated business management system. Here’s what they mean to your business.

One of the biggest challenges today’s technology leaders face is that corporate data tends to be fragmented across multiple apps and systems between which interoperability is limited. In such an environment, it soon becomes a practical impossibility to manage everything at scale without adding significant risk. Unknown and unmonitored interdependencies end up resulting in severe performance bottlenecks, and it becomes impossible to apply effective information security measures across the board.

The fact is that, in many enterprises, IT systems have become excessively and ungovernably complex to the point that company-wide risk-management becomes impossible. For example, one system might have adequate protections, yet it might have a dependency that lacks robust security, thus potentially giving attackers an alternative way in. These disparate environments inevitably result in having many single points of failure that are extremely difficult to remediate, simply because it is so easy to lose sight of where they actually are.

Managing security through a single pane of glass

Data is everywhere in your organisation, and it will only continue to proliferate. In many cases, information exists in siloes, which is bad news for productivity and governance alike. Consider, for example, how many software packages you currently use to support your business-critical processes and functions. Chances are the number is significantly higher than you might think. In fact, the average organization uses 110 SaaS products alone, up from just 8 in 2015.

The biggest problem with such an environment is that there is no centralized access point for viewing and managing critical information. Thus, you end up losing sight of potentially sensitive information, such as intellectual property, personal and payment data, and information subject to regulations like GDPR. After all, you cannot protect what you do not know. You may be able to apply access controls and other critical security measures to some systems and data, but there are bound to be assets that end up being overlooked.

The only solution to this problem is centralisation. To protect and manage your assets at scale, you need to gain a bird’s eye view of your entire data environment. This means managing all data assets in a centralised database – which is what integrated business management is all about. The benefits of such an integrated environment go far beyond the demands of security alone by giving decision-makers complete visibility into their operational environments. Armed with such insights, they can make informed decisions, identify performance bottlenecks, and continuously optimise their operations.

Securing data with role-based access controls

It is, of course, much easier to protect one centralised database than myriad fragmented data sources spread across a range of on-premises and cloud-hosted environments. By applying consistent security measures and policies across the board, you can alleviate the burden on management and ensure compliance with current data-protection standards and regulations.

By now, most business leaders are aware of the basics of security, such as the need to encrypt data at rest and in transit and apply multi factor authentication (MFA) controls. What is lacking in many organisations, however, are role-based access controls (RBAC). RBAC is a method of restricting access to networks, systems, or data based on the roles of individual employees within an enterprise. It has become especially important for maintaining security standards in the era of distributed work.

RBAC is closely tied to models like zero-trust security and the principle of least privilege, which hold that trust should never be granted by default and users should only have access to the information they need to carry out their roles. For example, there is probably no need for users in the marketing department to have access to customer payment information, just as a junior employee should not have the same level of access to that of someone in a managerial role.

Ironically, the need for RBAC is one of the reasons why data siloes persist in many companies. The unwillingness to share or grant access to certain data is often born of security concerns. For example, finance might want to keep their systems wholly separate from human resources simply to avoid exposing their data to additional risk.

A common misconception about integrated business management is that making information more available also means compromising its security. However, the opposite can be the case. RBAC is, in fact, the perfect accompaniment to any centralised system, since it allows leaders to apply access controls per individual user or per group. The data is still segmented, making it impossible to access without the necessary permissions, but it all runs off the same platform. This means unified security controls, such as RBAC, can be applied across the board.

This consistent approach also applies to any other security measure or policy. For example, managers may apply attribute-based access controls (ABAC) in cases where they need fine-grained controls for specific situations. ABAC controls go beyond user roles to incorporate unique attributes like the name, organisation, time, and location of the user.

Bolstering security with single sign-on

Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication method that often works in conjunction with RBAC to give users a way to access all the apps and data they need to perform their roles. Without SSO, users have to enter multiple sets of login credentials. This can quickly stifle productivity and compromise security by encouraging poor password hygiene – such as reusing the same passwords for multiple accounts.

Since integrated business management system revolves around the centralisation and optimisation of company assets, it also means users only need one set of login credentials. Access control can then further be bolstered by multifactor authentication, which combines two or more user verification measures required to access the system. For example, a user might enter a login and password, but will then need to verify their identities with an SMS access code.

In the end, having all data assets hosted in the same integrated environment ultimately means easier management and the ability to apply as many layers of security as your organisation needs to stay compliant and protect itself against threats.

ContinuSys develops integrated web and mobile business apps that manage interdependent functions of the enterprise to empower greater operational resilience and reduce risk. Register now for your distributed work

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