How National Geographic coordinated their employees in various parts of the world

Connecting National Geographic employees globally


National Geographic, the 125-year-old worldwide non-profit, has more than 1 400 full- and part-time employees, and hundreds of contractors working at its headquarters in Washington, DC and in remote offices throughout the world.  However, the company faced the very real problem of coordinating all their employees. This is how the solved their dilemma…

Nat Geo’s employees must access several cloud applications, each with different credentials, to perform their daily duties. In addition, because of the hundreds of contractors the company employs, the IT department has to deal with high turnover rate of user accounts and manually ensure access is revoked once an employee moves on.

The situation was so out of hand that IT administrators were manually creating 10 new accounts for employees each day and deleting five others at the same time. The process was overwhelmingly time-consuming and inefficient, especially for such a geographically diverse organisation.

“Since each of the organisation’s different locations publishes the content in their own language, our employees need to have access to the work resources,” said Dan Backer, director of campus technology at National Geographic.

Such a task was a tall order, especially since most of the IT administration and help desk-related tasks were taking place in Washington, DC.

This is a situation taking place at a variety of companies around the world

Like the thousands of other organisations with employees at various locations throughout the world, National Geographic faced a variety of issues when employees lost access to their accounts, either because they were locked out or because they forgot them.

When employees were unable to take corrective actions to get themselves back to work because the helpdesk was closed or unreachable as it was located in a different time zone, productivity was lost and other issues developed.

To ease any password-management issues National Geographic added to their technology repertoire

To use this new technology, employees simply answer predefined security questions that enable them to reset their passwords, even in the middle of the night, without contacting the helpdesk. This ensures that they are able make a simple change, regain access to their files and get back to work without having to sit around unproductively waiting for the helpdesk to unlock their accounts.

The benefits of using such a technology are obvious, but the company also added an automated account management solution that allows its administrators to connect the PeopleSoft HR system to Active Directory (AD) to read new data twice a day automatically and synchronise it to the directory and Google.

Now, when someone enters a new personnel request, the account management solution automatically creates a new:

  • Google Apps account,
  • AD account,
  • Share drive and personal drive access, and
  • Profile.

The manager in charge then receives an audit trail of all actions and can continue to request additional services needed, such as hardware or mobile devices.

The automated account management solution also assists with automatically deactivating accounts. Once an employee account is disabled in PeopleSoft, the solution automatically disables the AD and Google accounts to ensure the employee no longer has access to any internal accounts, records or information.

The organisation also set its solution up to transfer that employee’s personal drive information to the manager, as well as ownership of all of the employee’s work-related Google documents. For organisations with high turnover and those with remote environments, implementing such a tool ensures that any projects that are in process are not lost forever.

According to National Geographic’s Dan Backer, the identity and access management solutions allow the company to serve employees worldwide better and help them address the high turnover of contract employees in a way that is simple and cost effective.

by Dean Wiech

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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