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GM's Jarrod Jasper drives a common user profile across all systems

Identity management likely isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what it takes for an automobile to roll off the assembly line. But a thoughtful, secure organization of users and collaborators may be just as crucial to production as a robot welding a body to a chassis.

General Motors recognized this three years ago.

The giant automaker was bleeding money processing help desk calls, especially for provisioning access requests. Most of those requests ultimately required manual remediation, which could have delayed the process more than a week. Existing users weren't happy either, and the blame lay on disparate directory systems that often led to colliding digital identities. Users could be left with as many as 40 identity/password combinations to remember just to get into the applications necessary to do their jobs. Toss in privacy issues and language and international legal barriers--GM does business in more than 170 countries--and the world's largest automaker was looking at $22 million per year in direct and indirect costs related to managing the identities of its 1 million users.

Someone had to hit the brakes.

GM's goals were ambitious. It wanted to reduce account provisioning from days to minutes and give users a common identifier to access the enterprise's thousands of applications and portals. About 30 months later, the project is closing in

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on its final stages. Users have a noticeably better experience interacting with GM's logical systems; costs are down; data is safely accessed by employees, partners, suppliers and customers; and business gets done quicker.

At a time when many U.S. automakers are struggling to rev up revenue, GM can point to its ID and access management makeover as a model of efficiency. "From the business point of view, we're helping to design and sell cars more effectively than when we started out," says the project's chief architect, Jarrod Jasper.

This was first published in May 2006

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