By GREGORY ZELLER //
Couple old-fashioned customer service with ever-evolving product ideas and always think like a startup.
That’s how Dean Wiech describes the recipe for Tools4ever, a global provider of identity and access-management solutions – the username/password combinations that let you into your email, for instance – and related security protocols.
The managing director of New York operations for the Netherlands-based firm says innovation has set the tone since 2000, when Tools4ever opened its first New York branch in Great Neck. It’s also the driving force behind two new products ready to roll out Jan. 1, both next-generation extensions of already well-regarded offerings.
“That’s our mentality,” Wiech told Innovate LI. “We innovate. We don’t need money, we’re profitable and self-funded, but the entrepreneurial attitude that comes with being a startup is how we operate day in and day out.”
The day-in and day-out lives of users are the main focus of Tools4ever, which officially launched in The Netherlands in 1999 and now has additional offices in Germany, France, the UK, outside Seattle and in Lynbrook, where it relocated its U.S. headquarters from Great Neck about nine years ago, around the time Wiech became managing director.
The company’s proprietary software suites streamline network-identity and network-access controls across large, multiuser systems. When an employee starts at a company, Wiech noted, he or she needs a network account including email and access rights to any number of private applications. Instead of HR contacting IT to set it all up, Tools4ever programs – which monitor the HR system – recognize the new hire and get busy, creating customized network access depending on the position and other variables.
When the new hire is eventually promoted, the system automatically creates new access rights and closes old ones as necessary. It also performs required identity and access functions upon termination – forwarding emails to the right people, for instance – and does it all without human intervention.
“These processes can take anywhere from hours to days to complete manually,” Wiech noted. “We literally do it in seconds.”
And the automated processes are virtually mistake-proof, he added.
“Preset rules for access are built into our system, so when new hires are made for certain positions, the system can’t accidentally give them additional rights or access.”
That sort of access-control automation is only one of Tools4ever’s services. The company has also made significant headway in the growing bring-your-own-device trend, wherein users request or require access to a private network through their personal smartphone or other mobile device.
Wiech hypothesized college students heading to school with personal laptops they want to connect to the university’s network. In the old days, either the user or the university’s IT department would have to manually install software; now the user can visit a website, enter a student ID number or other passkey and gain the necessary network permissions.
The same dynamic works in commercial settings, Wiech noted, when employees want to get work emails on their cell phones or otherwise access company resources from non-corporate devices.
“This (service) has gotten really popular in the education market,” he said. “Now the commercial space is catching up.”
Wiech led just four staffers when he became managing director of Tools4ever’s New York operations in 2006, after four years as VP of sales for New York City-based communications-billing specialist Cobite and 12 years, in various positions, at Massachusetts-based workforce-management software firm Kronos.
It’s 20 employees now, filling Tools4ever’s 6,000-square-foot Lynbrook facility. And as the employee ranks have swelled, so has the company’s client roster, in both number and prestige.
Swiss human resources titan Adecco is a client, utilizing Tools4ever’s password-reset applications at its offices in the United States, Spain and the UK. The company also provides password-reset products for a “major national retailer” – Wiech wouldn’t go on the record, but trust us, you know them – and complete identity and access management for the Washington-based National Geographic Society.
Other major-league clients span healthcare, government, finance and many other sectors, but none of those existing customers need worry about the upgraded products debuting in January: Tools4ever will continue to support previous-generation offerings already in the field, according to Wiech.
Coming Jan. 1 is a new identity and access manager – a beefed-up version of Tools4ever’s flagship User Management Resource Administrator with better graphical design of customer webpages, improved workflow and stricter adherence to complex, federally regulated Identity Governance & Administration standards.
Also coming with the New Year: an extension of the company’s classic Web Single Sign-On product, a single username/password combo that grants access to all of a user’s different password combinations.
The security potential is significant: The average employee must remember about a dozen username/password combos, according to Wiech, and usually does it by sticking yellow Post-It notes on a desk or computer, an obvious security risk. The managing director called the SSO a “second factor of identification,” similar to fingerprint or retina scanning on a smartphone.
“With the advent of the cloud, many user applications are moving from behind the firewall and into the cloud,” Wiech noted. “You need an SSO so people can access their applications from anywhere, on any device.”
The new products represent “absolutely new revenue streams” – existing customers won’t be forced to switch – and will continue to be tinkered with even after they hit the market. That’s par for the course at a company looking to corner an IGA market that, according to Wiech, will grow to $18 billion by 2020, and to do it by thinking like an innovative startup.
“We upgrade our password-reset software every six months or so, based on customer requests,” the managing director said. “So we’ll be enhancing these (new products) as we roll them out and people say, ‘Wouldn’t it get great if…”