BCE Emergis reworks internal identity provisioning

TORONTO — A 4,000-page phone bill may be the best argument yet for consolidated billing and a revised approach to identity management.

That’s the size of the bill Bell Canada was sending to key customer Air Canada each month. The BCE

family of companies decided back in 2000 that it was time to look at new options for provisioning identity not only for customers but within its own enterprise.

BCE took a very different approach to IT management in 2000, according to Peter Bissegger, the company’s director of business development and e-security. Bissegger gave a presentation Wednesday called “”Privilege management for the large enterprise,”” as part of IQPC’s IT Security Management two-day conference.

In 2000, each company within BCE had its own IT department, which resulted in a fractured approach to security and identity management across the organization. The solution was to reorganize IT into three business units: consumer, small and medium business and enterprise. That way, said Bissegger, the Bell companies could better respond to competitive pressures from Rogers, which was already advertising one-stop shopping for cable service and Internet.

“”If you look at Bell in 2000, they were selling 1.004 services to each customer,”” said Bissegger. In other words, customers were very rarely buying more than one service at a time from the company. Billing was separate for ExpressVu, Sympatico, basic phone service and cell phone service, and customers were complaining that they had different user names and passwords for each of the services they subscribed to, he said. It was also an expensive proposition for Bell’s customer call centre, since each inquiry cost the company an average of $12.

It didn’t make sense for customers to switch providers and move to Bell service, said Bissegger, since the process could be so complicated. “”A few years ago, people had to type in their names four, five, six times to move,”” he said.

The solution was to move to a single sign-on platform to appease customers outside the business and make it easier for employees to handle their own accounts inside the business.

By providing e-billing presentment to consumers, the company saves approximately $1.25 a bill by not sending it snail mail and customers can view a dashboard of their services with a consolidated total. “”You would never do this for a business to business customer, but for consumers it works well,”” he said. But the one downside, he added, is that the total bill can look quite daunting to customers when all of their services are added up.

In the case of Air Canada, and other B2B customers, Bell is able to provide a breakdown of the bill by department. For the Toronto Dominion bank, Bell can break it down by branch. TD required a greater layer of security, said Bissegger: the individual branches are so competitive, one didn’t want the others seeing how much it spent per month.

The transformation at BCE was effected by BCE Emergis and the solutions it developed have been sold to customers like the Government of Alberta. Ed Rebane, Emergis’s director of e-security and privacy solutions, said that companies should take an incremental approach to any revisions to their security and identity management.

Companies should address three high-visibility applications and use that project as a springboard for a broader rollout program, he said. They should also assess the impact on the organization’s privacy policy, he added — but that should be a continual process anyway.

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