Selection bias often leads us to pick out details that are advantageous for us. The classic example: soon after buying a new car one begins to seemingly see that car and that make of car much more often. You don’t actually see it more often, but you notice it more often. When I was at the Gartner IAM Summit last week in Las Vegas, I was pretty sure that I was suffering from selection bias on day one. As I went from session to session, it seemed that there were hints of unstructured data everywhere. I heard it in the focus on digital business needing to focus on the whole of people’s IT related lives. There were pieces of it woven into the call for comprehensive IAG (Identity & Access Governance). It became clear it was more than just selection bias when half of the dynamic duo now guiding the IGA MQ (Identity Governance & Administration Magic Quadrant), Brian Iverson, used the MQ stage to say “Some of these IGA vendors are looking deeper, like into the filesystems.” It seems unstructured data has arrived as a core part of any healthy IAM program.
The MD of Security for a large Canadian bank and I walked the halls between presentations, and she explained she was hearing it, too. She said unstructured data was coming up in a lot of sessions, both from the presenters and from the folks asking questions. If it was my happy ears hearing it before, I knew the condition was catching. She and I had discussed how we could add unstructured data to their large and still growing IAM world a few months before. Then JR from ExxonMobil presented about his very mature IGA program. To an audience of over 400 fascinated listeners, including me, JR laid out how he had built and bought what he felt were the world’s best solutions. When he discussed figuring out owners of assets, he said you need to include all your files. Then he mentioned STEALTHbits by name and said we were the only one who could contribute that data with a booth at the show. Clearly, it was more than just selection bias now. Our speaking session happened about 90 minutes after that, and the people standing to listen outnumbered the ones who got seats in the small vendor presentation space by two to one. Some people walked away when they saw the crowd and went right to the booth, where my sales folks tried to keep up. Luckily we ran a virtual version of the presentation earlier this week and they could refer them to that.
Why the focus on unstructured data? It was inevitable. Ignoring problems does not make them go away. IAM and IGA have been ignoring the unstructured data problem for a long time. Convinced that protecting files was the job of some firewall, there simply wasn’t a push to get the access granted to fileshares and other data stores into the world of identity and access. Even where people wanted to make it part of that world, for a long time there weren’t good ways to do it. Now that there are sophisticated methods to understand access to unstructured data and a clear understanding that leaving it ungoverned is a risk for both security and compliance, everyone is finally ready to take on the challenge. Which means, in this case, it was people saying cool things about my products in the halls and not just selection bias trying to make me smile.