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What is Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM)

Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) is the overarching process of managing user identities throughout their entire lifecycle in an organization. It includes everything from the initial provisioning of an account when a user joins, to the ongoing administration of their access privileges as their role evolves, and finally to the secure deprovisioning of their access when they leave the organization.

ILM helps organizations improve their security posture by ensuring that no digital identity maintains access privileges for longer than needed. It also reduces administrative workload by automating the otherwise tedious processes of onboarding and offboarding people.

Key features of ILM

Here are some useful features of ILM solutions:

  • Centralized user provisioning and deprovisioning: ILM solutions eliminate the need for lengthy and error-prone manual processes. Administrators can create, configure, update and delete user accounts from a centralized dashboard.
  • Granular, role-based access control: ILM allows administrators to define fine-grained access privileges based on users’ roles and responsibilities within the organization. For example, the “software engineer” user group may be granted access to all the source code repositories, whereas the “production engineer” user group may only have access to production servers.
  • Self-service password management: With ILM, your users can reset or change their passwords independently. This reduces help desk tickets and IT workload.
  • Identity synchronization: ILM tools synchronize user identities across various systems and applications to maintain infrastructure-wide consistency and accuracy.
  • Auditing and reporting: The best ILM implementations also include security auditing and lifecycle reporting features. They track all user activity and access changes, providing valuable insights for security compliance and forensic investigations.
  • Interoperability with other tools: It’s often possible to integrate an Identity and Lifecycle Management solution with other security tools, like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, Active Directory (and other directory services) and third-party identity management services.

How does Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) work?

Here’s a simplified overview of how ILM works:

1. Onboarding

The process begins with onboarding. In this stage:

  • Administrators use the ILM dashboard to create new user accounts and grant them access privileges based on their expected roles and responsibilities.
  • Initial authentication and verification processes are conducted to ensure the identity's validity.

2. Access management

This is an ongoing activity that involves:

  • Adjusting the user’s rights and privileges as their role evolves. For example, if a software engineer is promoted to be an engineering manager, they may get additional permissions related to team management or project oversight.
  • Temporarily providing elevated credentials to users for specific tasks or projects. For example, a software engineer may be granted temporary credentials to access the production database to debug a critical issue.

3. Regular auditing

Regular monitoring and audits are performed to ensure:

  • Adherence to corporate security policies and best practices, like the principle of least privilege.
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements, such as GDPR or HIPAA.
  • Timely detection of any anomalies or unauthorized access attempts.

4. Deprovisioning

The lifecycle ends with deprovisioning:

  • When a user leaves the organization or no longer requires access to certain resources, their accounts are deactivated or deleted.
  • ILM ensures that any rights or privileges associated with the user account, across the infrastructure, are revoked.
How does Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) work?

Why is ILM important in identity governance and administration (IGA)

We’ve already hinted at multiple ILM benefits for improved IGA, but for emphasis, let’s reiterate them along with some additional ones:

  • Reduced security risks: The ILM functionality strengthens IGA by ensuring that individuals are granted only the permissions necessary for their roles and that these permissions are revoked immediately when no longer required.
  • Improved compliance: By enforcing access control policies and maintaining audit trails of user activities, ILM helps organizations achieve and maintain compliance with regulatory mandates and industry standards.
  • Operational efficiency: ILM decreases administrative and helpdesk overhead and chances of errors by automating user provisioning, access management and deprovisioning. For example, a manufacturing company with a high employee turnover rate can leverage ILM to automate the offboarding process and free up staff to focus on strategic initiatives.
  • Smoother user experience: Automated provisioning, streamlined permission update workflows and self-service password portals contribute to a more user-friendly experience. For example, an educational institution may implement ILM to manage student and faculty access to online learning platforms. This ensures that each user has the appropriate level of access to support their learning and teaching activities at the beginning of the school year without facing any unnecessary barriers or delays.
  • Enhanced scalability and agility: ILM enables the secure and efficient onboarding of new employees, contractors or partners, even during periods of rapid growth. This makes it possible for organizations to adapt quickly to changing needs.

Identity lifecycle in cloud environments

Cloud environments present unique challenges for identity management. A robust ILM solution is necessary to manage an ever-growing number of user identities across a variety of cloud and on-premises resources. In modern environments, a hybrid approach to ILM is a critical requirement: by focusing on cloud-only or on-premises-only environments, some vendors offer only limited solutions to the market.

A key feature of any full-featured IGA solution is the possibility to integrate with a wide variety of line-of-business applications, HR systems, identity siloes and more. Integration is typically provided by connectors developed, maintained and supported by the IGA vendor, bringing the power of identity governance and lifecycle management to all applications used by the organization.


Identity and Lifecycle Management controls the entire lifecycle of digital identities within an organization. If you are looking to decrease your attack surface and administrative overhead while providing a more seamless experience to your users, consider investing in an IGA solution with complete ILM functionality.

Identity Governance and Administration Solutions

With our Identity lifecycle solution, you can deliver standard on-boarding and off-boarding processes for employees and contractors, and quickly and easily manage access to resources as a user’s responsibilities evolve along with the business.