Roger Williams Implements Identity Management Solution

Roger Williams University is an independent liberal arts university located on 140 acres of New England coastline in Bristol, Rhode Island.

In an effort to become more efficient with time consuming and costly key management and security access assignments, the university worked with Johnson Controls to implement an identity management solution.

By integrating existing but disparate systems, physical security access assignments were automated using a role-based policy engine deployed by Johnson Controls. This resulted in reduced operational costs, avoided the need for additional staffing and improved customer satisfaction.

Like any university, Roger Williams must provide students, faculty and staff with appropriate access to facilities while maintaining the security of those individuals, university property and the facilities themselves. When you consider the many changes in student course-loads and housing assignments, and faculty, staff and contractor access -- manual key management, either digital or physical, is a daunting challenge on any campus.

Additionally, the university had recently undergone significant capital projects in an effort to modernize and right-size the institution. The projects included an addition to the Marine and Natural Science Building, construction of the Global Heritage Hall academic building, a 347-bed dormitory, an admissions and alumni center, and associated infrastructure and parking.

Finding A Better Way

“The new construction drove us to take a fresh look at our business practices -- what we do and how we do it. Rather than overwhelming our existing staff or add staff to manually manage security access assignments, we wanted to find a better and more efficient way. The new buildings, which were all designed with electronic access, presented the opportunity,” said Joseph Pangborn, vice president and chief information officer at Roger Williams.

“Johnson Controls brought the product to the table, which now serves as an interface between the security management system and our enterprise resource planning system that houses all the information on where students need to be and when. Now when students are registered, the system is automatically updated to allow appropriate access.”

Similarly, the system is automatically updated when changes are made to the databases that house access assignments for university faculty and staff.

Previously, disparate systems required manual programming of access assignments. For example, when students enrolled their course-loads and housing assignments were recorded in the university's system. That information was then supplied to security personnel, who manually programmed the system to allow access based on the students' schedules.

“This manual process required a lot of man-hours spent programming and reprogramming credentials into the security system. With the system in place we are now able to use that time for other ongoing tasks inherent to the university, such as alarm upgrades, securing additional entrances and replacing or rekeying necessary physical lock hardware,” said William Dallaire, master locksmith at Roger Williams.

The system automates approximately 40 percent of security operations at the university, potentially eliminating up to 95 percent of the errors associated with manual processing. Cycle time and right first time for physical access change requests are also improved.

The Johnson Controls system, originally installed in 2006, was expanded to the new facilities and provides access monitoring and control for all 65 buildings on campus. More than 500 card readers and more than 50 surveillance cameras installed across campus are integrated with the system. A Johnson Controls building management system provides monitoring and control of HVAC equipment across the campus.

Better Protecting People, Property and Assets

In addition to operational efficiency, the identity management solution helps the university maintain and improve internal policies and procedures related to the physical security of all personnel, property and assets. Improved accuracy of access assignments means only the right people are in certain places at certain times, which improves not only security but also accountability.

Upon completion of the new dormitory, the university implemented a five-swipe access policy. Students are required to swipe their card first to access the building, second their floor, third their wing, fourth their suite, and finally their room.

"Managing this type of access scheme manually would be astronomical and any errors would quickly be compounded,” Dallaire said.  “On a similar note, when students opt to change housing we can quickly and accurately change housing assignments and even allow them access to both dorm rooms for a limited time during their move. We have a lot of customers to please. Students, faculty and staff expect to be able to get where they need to be. When they can't it's a problem, so reducing the chance of human error is critical to both security and customer satisfaction.”

Efficient and accurate access control is equally important in the academic buildings. These buildings house rooms like computer labs, video editing suites, a multimedia room and green-screen room, all of which are controlled electronically.

“Imagine the key management of these facilities to accommodate the very diverse access needs of our students or the added cost to have personnel monitor the buildings,” Pangborn said. The identity management system allows us to provide electronic access automatically based on enrollment records, eliminating the need to manually program the security system. This is especially beneficial when you consider thousands of students, whose needs can frequently change as they add or drop classes or need intermittent access to resources. The system makes these changes much more immediate and efficient.”

The university can also create authorized groups within the system for people such as contractors who will be on campus for a specific period of time. A credential is issued, specific access points and date ranges are assigned, and when the time expires the system automatically restricts access.

“We are also considering allowing individual departments to manage access control. For example, the housing department could manage student moves or lockouts without having to get the security staff involved,” Dallaire said.

“The project has been successful and students see this as positive security move, but we are still in the early stages. There is potential for further database integrations such as human resources, accounting and housing among others, and for additional enhancements such as event management,” Pangborn said. “As we continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently, our job is to assemble the right players, like Johnson Controls and determine which projects make the most sense.”

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