IBM have announced an identity-management analytics tool that eases what can be a tedious job for information-technology managers - defining roles for employees in order to establish policy-based access to a network and application resources.

The software called "Security Role and Policy Modeler" has been added to the IBM Security Identity Manager suite, IBM's flagship product for policy-based access management and governance.

The tool is able to actively poll a wide range of databases and directories, such as Microsoft Active Directory, Oracle, Siebel and SAP, that are used to store information about employees, their jobs and current access privileges, says Marc van Zadelhoff, vice president of strategy and product management at IBM Security Systems,.

The IBM tool can then analyse collected information in order to define a set of roles and their recommended access rights so users can be grouped for security purposes. That makes it possible to provision or de-provision users based on role. "This automates the setup of role-based permissions," he says.

The modeling tool alleviates the need for more extensive manual reviews by managers to make decisions about organisational roles, which can be a time-consuming process in larger businesses with tens of thousands of people.

IBM is not the only technology firm to offer a modelling tool intended for this purpose, but IBM hopes its tool, developed at IBM Research, will be distinguished by its analytics, such as flagging unusual behaviour or inconsistencies in role access and expired user access.

There will always be some employees who will not neatly fall into roles and will have to be regarded as exceptions, but IBM says the modelling tool makes it simpler to establish role-based arrangements for provisioning. There are early adopters of the tool, including Bharti Airtel, a telecommunications provider in India, and IT service company Cognizant. Cognizant's director of security, Barry Miracle, says he expected it would make compliance reporting more efficient.

IBM isn't breaking out the cost for the Security Role and Policy Modeler tool, but notes that deploying identity management in a large organisation can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.