Authorization in Small and Medium Enterprises

Modeling authorization for workflows in Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) differs from the approach taken in large corporations. The latter employ heavy workflow management systems that are deployed by help of immense consulting resources. By contrast, typical SME need to implement fairly straight-forward workflows while preserving a good deal of flexibility that they are used to from the established informal workflows such as passing around spreadsheets.

From our experience in working with an SME to implement their workflows in a web application, modeling the authorization is a crucial factor. While information security is welcomed by the management, measures need to interfere as little as possible with the daily work. Also, domain experts tend to describe ideal workflows, which is sometimes called Process Confabulation. Frequent exceptions may be unknown to developers until late in the development cycle, despite user tests.

Therefore, we propose a new approach to access control, allowing users to decide when to extend their previously defined privileges in a controled manner. Thus, the effect of inacurate definition of process and authorization models is mitigated. This concept of “self-service” is described in detail in the German paper that I wrote together with Carsten Bormann, “Berechtigungsmodellierung im Geschäftsprozessmanagement von KMU” and presented at the DACH Security conference in Berlin.