ColorID - Charting your campus' Identity Roadmap Plotting a course for future card office decision-making

Why do colleges and universities need a campus Identity Roadmap? Because every campus needs a clear plan when it comes to its identity environment, and how it delivers the many services therein. Simply put, the most successful and dynamic institutions don’t just focus on the day-to-day; they also plan for the future.

Planning for the future of your campus identity environment is vital to staying in line with industry trends, and avoiding the pitfalls of leaning on outdated hardware or technology. Having a vision for a your campus’ identity future isn’t a straightforward proposition, though, so being able to leverage the experience of industry professionals can be invaluable to plotting a program’s future.

That’s where ColorID and its Identity Roadmap come in.

 “The ability to unify existing campus services and successfully fold in emerging, advanced campus identity technologies like mobile, biometrics, contactless credentials and cloud solutions will be key to enhancing the student experience, as well as their engagement on campus,” says Danny Smith, executive vice president, ColorID. “Incorporating these new identity solutions is also being seen as a differentiator by institutions that recognize the technical expectations of the ‘Gen Z’ student. Adopting emerging technology is a reflection on the institution’s brand; forward-thinking institutions will attract like-minded students.”

Universities are complex ecosystems comprised of both independent and unified systems that provide everyday campus services. “These systems use many types of identifiers, along with a variety of backend systems that manage them, and it’s important that these technologies and business practices align to provide the most efficient delivery of services,” Smith says.

What is a campus Identity Roadmap?

ColorID has spent the better part of two decades on the road speaking with hundreds of campuses about their issuance environments and identity needs. The company routinely sends certified personnel across the country as part of its customer support programs, and it hosts Campus Identity Summits where dozens of institutions come to catch up on industry trends.

Along their travels, ColorID has unearthed a common need for strategic documents and future planning for card programs – they call it the Campus Identity Roadmap.

“Ultimately, the Identity Roadmap is a physical document, but its creation process provides institutions with the ability to establish standards, policies and procedures,” says Smith. “It’s an effective approach to identifying ‘blockers’ -- outdated technology, hardware, departmental restrictions – as well as assist in breaking down departmental siloes, and shed some light on emerging technologies.”

There are obvious elements that should be included in any campus’ identity roadmap and then there are unique elements that only apply to each specific institution. All roadmaps should address current identity environments, goal states and migration timelines for key component areas. These include: 

·      Card and reader technology

·      Transaction systems

·      Biometrics

·      Card printing and issuance environments

Setting migration dates is an important aspect of the timeline – for example the goal to migrate to contactless smart card technology within thirty-six months – because it can help to prevent uninformed decisions in the interim. For example, if the plan to migrate to contactless is looming, it would be foolish for a department to invest in a large, new deployment of access control readers for existing prox cards.

The roadmap would help inform such a decision, and advise that department to consider either (1) deploy multi-technology readers that can read both prox and contactless or (2) delay the deployment until the campus’ contactless migration is complete.

This is just one of many situations that a comprehensive Identity Roadmap can mitigate for a campus and its many stakeholders. “By laying out industry best practices, emerging trends and leading products, a campus can map out a plan that can prevent unnecessary headaches,” says Smith.

Once in place, the Campus Identity Roadmap will serve as a clear technology on-boarding guide for the institution. The result, Smith says, is a breaking down of departmental siloes, enhanced customer services and safety, and the creation of a more unified campus.

Seats at the table

Moving the needle on a college campus is easier said than done. It often requires participation and clearance from numerous departments. In addition to identifying a “champion” for the cause, Smith stresses that stakeholders utilizing the campus card must come together to discuss existing and emerging identification trends.

These stakeholder meetings are a core tenet to ColorID’s efforts on campuses and act as the foundation for an effective Identity Roadmap.

“Through these discussions, it quickly becomes evident that collaboration will be needed for innovation to take place,” says Smith. “If done correctly the discussions lead to the creation of a strategy for considering future changes to the card program and the overall campus identity landscape. This strategy is core to the roadmap.”

Typically the identity roadmap is based on a number of variables: existing infrastructure, political structures, campus IT strategies, government regulations, and more. “That’s why stakeholder buy-in is so important,” says Smith. “Everyone has to row the boat in the same direction.”

ColorID often plays a consultative role in helping institutions with their roadmap process. “By sharing insights gained through our work with hundreds of other institutions, we can help highlight the strengths and weaknesses in a campus’ existing issuance environment,” says Smith. “From those strengths and weaknesses, we can identify the areas where a campus should focus its identity efforts going forward.”

The importance of having a plan

Card offices, and campuses for that matter, that lack a clear vision for the future often find themselves making knee-jerk decisions when more calculated planning is required. Smith points to the still significant number of campuses deploying mag stripe and prox cards as an example of this pitfall.

“The biggest obstacle that you face is lack of education and awareness,” he says. “People know what’s happening in their department, but they rarely have insight into what other departments are grappling with.”

The campus card touches a wide range of services and departments at the institution. A disjointed relationship between these relevant stakeholders can be a detriment to plotting a course for a card office’s future.

The goal for ColorID’s Identity Roadmap is to move away from siloed thinking, and instead bring relevant departments on campus together to tackle identity challenges together as a unit. Campus IT, for instance, might have concerns over their data and connectivity, but they may not have perspective on how those concerns overlap with the card office or campus security. These are common disconnects that occur on campuses all across the country. 

“The stakeholder meetings open lines of conversation that bring everyone to the table, and get everyone on board with collectively managing identity on campus,” Smith says. “A lot of times when we’re on campus for these meetings, we have upwards of ten departments and stakeholders involved. Often times these folks haven’t collaborated in the past, and sometimes they haven’t even met before.”

In order to effectively plan for the future and chart an Identity Roadmap, a campus has to first have a grasp of where their card program is today. It’s vital to understand the campus’ current ID landscape top to bottom.

“We talk with campuses about the type of cards they’re using, the ID production environment, how the card is used on campus, how many and what types of readers are deployed on campus. We take a complete inventory of the campus’ identity structure,” says Smith. “From there, we look at how identity interacts with the campus, and which departments use it. Our personnel have a high degree of understanding and experience in the field, so we feel confident in our abilities to diagnose and solve campus ID challenges.”

The identity roadmap isn’t just about conversation, however.  “With the roadmap, we’re really talking about forging a working document for strategic planning,” Smith adds. “It’s about creating a long-term vision, and having those relevant campus stakeholders establish timelines and next steps together.”

The road ahead

It’s never too early to start thinking about new technology and implementation strategies for your campus. More and more campuses are making the move to advanced ID solutions seemingly by the day.

“Part of the identity roadmap is about having a migration strategy,” says Smith. “We want to help prepare campuses for newer, more future-proof technologies, so that when they’re ready to replace legacy structures there’s an established plan in place.”

Ultimately, Smith and the team at ColorID are providing card offices with the platform and the subject matter experts to facilitate discussion among key campus stakeholders.

“Creating a roadmap can help card office management lead by positive example for both staff and the campus overall,” says Smith. “We want to help campuses create a forward-thinking plan that will make a difference for many years to come.”