Thought for the day: Keep it simple

The ID card, whatever form or name it takes, cannot answer businesses' needs for a wider policy for information and data...

Simon Moores  

The ID card, whatever form or name it takes, cannot answer businesses' needs for a wider policy for information and data management over the coming year, says Simon Moores




"We’re all agreed then, we’ll call it a ‘Blunkett’." This momentous decision was taken around the table at a meeting on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the City of London.

About a dozen leading suppliers, journalist and analysts were discussing compliance and identity management over lunch and having broadly agreed, in principle, that a national identity card was not able to offer the bold solution promised by the government. There was an energetic argument over what such a card should be called, as neither “trust” or “entitlement” were appropriate adjectives.

In the end, we settled on calling it a “Blunkett”, as this would leave no doubt in anyone’s minds about the card’s true intentions and objectives. We did consider for a moment outsourcing the national identity card to Tesco or even Nectar because people would recognise that carrying or using such a card for e-government services might earn loyalty points or benefits with the Inland Revenue or the NHS.

However, this was rejected on the basis that the commercial brands were trusted and the Home Office was clearly not a brand that inspired confidence.

Steering our way back to more serious matters, we were attempted to find ways of encouraging a culture of trust in a world that increasingly demands authentication of one kind or another, whether it be logging on to e-mail or transacting with Amazon.

The sad truth is that business and government, in the battle to reduce risk, is either overwhelmed with identity management policies or, quite the opposite, has a limited capability which achieves little or nothing.

“What we need to do”, I said, “is take the whole debate from tactical to practical. How do we frame the issues that surround security, regulatory compliance, identity management and policy management into a neat package that is clearly understood at board level and from the human resources dimension? Simply approaching the central risk management argument from a technical perspective says little or nothing about protecting brand, delivering competitive advantage or even impacting bottom line costs in reducing fraud or the loss of intellectual property”.

With companies about to be hit with a paper blizzard of new compliance issues, simplifying the underlying technical framework and presenting the message in a clearly approachable business context is a challenge for the regulators and the technology suppliers. Ironically, some wonder whether the underlying regulatory exercise, influenced by Basel 2 and Sarbanes-Oxley, will actually achieve what is intended.

A well-placed but anonymous source said, “The current governance paper chase prevents compliance officers from spending any time checking for malpractice and doing anything about it. The FSA et al, let alone Sarbanes-Oxley, could not have helped the miscreants more if they had actually been allowed to draft the rules.”

Like it or not, the management of risk will, from next year, become as much a part of one’s business responsibilities as the management of pensions.

The best advice for company directors is to break the regulatory compliance package down into its constituent parts and seek to introduce policies and systems that simplify processes rather than making them more elaborate. In other words, if you are holding a dozen different passwords and identities for access to corporate applications, can these be reduced by half?

Although government plans to introduce a "Blunkett’ card to simplify its own identity management challenges, businesses will discover that although consistency will bring its own rewards, understanding how all the pieces that touch on risk management fit together in an everyday, practical working context will be a big challenge in 2005.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit

Read more on IT legislation and regulation