Is customer identity access management (IAM) really all that different from traditional IAM? Such a question has become very contentious. Vendors and solutions providers around the globe have marketed their products to be on either side of the IAM vs CIAM debate. There is also a party of solutions providers who believe that the whole debate between IAM and customer IAM is purely semantic, as they posit that IAM solutions that are comprehensive can have customer IAM functions and uses. Needless to say, both traditional IAM and customer IAM are so similar that their distinctions have become blurry and reason for debate.
Such controversy has risen out of the fact that both traditional IAM and customer IAM share many similarities in terms of technological structure and capabilities as cyber security software. Some examples include single sign on (SSO), multifactor authentication (MFA), universal centralised directories, federation, authorisation mechanisms, identity lifecycle management and monitoring of identity behaviour. In addition, both solutions fall under the domain of privacy regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, as the usage and storage of employee and customer data are equally protected under the rules.
On the other hand, customer IAM solutions utilise features that IAM solutions normally do not possess. These tools include customer consent management, the control of branding, user registration as well as personalisation tools for profiles. Moreover, customer IAM is expected to be more accessible than traditional IAM (which is itself already very accessible for it to function) due to the fact that the e-commerce of the company will be affected by any issues. Scalability is a crucial factor for any customer IAM solution in order to accommodate to large amounts of traffic and identities of customers. The irregular and unpredictable access patterns of user behaviour can be easily overcome with the elastic nature of customer IAM solutions.
While the main goal of traditional IAM is to secure the identities of users, they are best suited for in-house solutions and to prevent any threats (either internal or external) leading to a data compromise or a security breach. Traditional IAM would usually use a user portal to manage employee access for on-premises applications and systems, thus requiring multiple logins to ensure comprehensive security. For customer IAM however, the company’s brand is expected to interact with potential customers, through a plethora of channels, be it through browser or mobile applications, or through registered devices. As a result of using different access tools, employees may find themselves having to go beyond the corporate firewall. Customer IAM solutions are able to facilitate this accommodation between the consumer and the company. At the same time, personalisation of user interfaces and convenience is maintained with great priority, which is extremely important for any industry that is driven by customer loyalty.
This major benefit of customer IAM cannot be simply overlooked. Compared to traditional IAM, customer IAM solutions have a great emphasis on convenience. This is vital to ensuring a smooth and seamless user experience for customers that will encourage future transactions.