Staying current: Merit Medical Systems and Symplified
Staying current: Merit Medical Systems and Symplified

A medical device manufacturer built in access to apps for mobile devices to allow staff to keep up with the times, reports Greg Masters.

Merit Medical Systems has hundreds of employees, partners and distributors who need to access multiple software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to facilitate collaboration.

It's vital, as well, to be able to disseminate up-to-date training and sales information using laptops, iPhones, iPads, and the like. The apps used on these devices contain sensitive – and regulated – data, so the company needs to ensure that access control and authorization policies are enforced. 

The company, headquartered near Salt Lake City manufactures medical devices used in diagnostic and interventional cardiology and radiology procedures. With more than 2,000 people worldwide, the IT team determined it was necessary to streamline the efforts of workers in the field who have multiple login requirements. There was too much stress from sometimes-conflicting access permissions, says Lincoln Cannon, the company's director of marketing technology. If the login wasn't correct, the company's information wouldn't integrate and display correctly, he says. 

Also, Merit's sales executives and IT staff of the company – which markets its products in the United States and Europe through a direct sales force and a network of distributors – wanted to evolve to keep up with technological offerings. So, first, Cannon determined to provide Merit's mobile workers with simplified and secure access to company sales tools, training modules and collaboration applications from their laptops, smartphones and tablets. 

He and his team also sought to eliminate the existing multiple username/password combinations required to access cloud applications. Further, there was a need to reduce IT security risks associated with provisioning and de-provisioning users (setting up user accounts), and management costs associated with resetting passwords. And, the IT team wanted to establish centralized access management and a tight audit trail for security and compliance requirements.

The fact that Merit has a highly mobile workforce prompted action, says Cannon (left). “We have employees, partners and distributors with varying access permissions who need to collaborate from anywhere on the device of their choice,” he says. “We are supporting an array of smartphones, pads and laptops in the field.” Though, he adds, the days are numbered for laptops, as Merit's sales and marketing staff prefer the portability and form factor of iPads. These, he says, enable staff to more effectively share online brochures and videos during meetings, and they believe the pads foster a more collaborative conversation with prospects and clients. 

“Without unified identity and access management, IT staff was burdened with higher security risks for user provisioning/de-provisioning, and higher costs for password resets for users worldwide,” Cannon says. “The users themselves were burdened with logging in to several applications each time they required information to do their jobs effectively.”

Cannon's team of around 30 information technologists took a look at solutions from a number of large identity and access management (IAM) vendors, but the cost and implementation time would have been prohibitive, he says, and they didn't solve the mobile issue or cover SaaS, in-house and custom apps, which Merit needed to address. 

Symplified was the only vendor Cannon could find that was able to provide universal single sign-on (SSO) to on-premises, cloud and custom applications directly from any mobile device. And, he adds, as a cloud-delivered service, Symplified doesn't require his team to install and administer software on each device. “This enables our small IT staff to manage hundreds of global users on an array of mobile devices with relative ease,” Cannon says. “With one username and password, our user base has secure, fast and easy access to all the applications and data they are authorized to use.”

Cannon uses Symplified to manage corporate identities from Active Directory. The solution can also manage consumer identities provided by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other OpenID providers, unifying SSO for professional and social network applications, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Merit is using an integrated combination of, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video, eLeaP learning management, a 3DCart store and various intranet applications with authentication provided through Active Directory. Cannon selected Symplified for what he terms its unified access management model, its speed of deployment and its ability to extend security to any mobile device.