What is Customer Identity and Access Management?

Every customer-facing application and service requires a Customer Identity and Access (CIAM) solution to enable secure onboarding and facilitate use.

What is Customer Identity and Access Management?

CIAM refers to the system/s that manage and secure customer identities, their access to an application or service and what they are able to do within it. CIAM solutions provide businesses with the tools they need to onboard, authenticate, verify, and authorize customer identities across all digital interfaces. CIAM can also refer to other types of identities, such as machine identity, IOT and AI products. 

There are different levels and access types, depending on the service and what the user is able to do. For example, some services only require authentication with basic credentials and single factor sign-on. Others require identity verification, strong authentication and authorization actions, such as payments. Often, CIAM is thought of as just the doorway or gateway to services but this is a severe under-utilization of a powerful business asset that can drive significant value for both business and the end-user. 

Enabling the customer’s journey

An effective CIAM solution can help businesses acquire customers faster, deliver smooth user experiences, and facilitate safe and secure transactions, driving value for both business and the end-user.  

Gartner predicts that by the end of 2024, organizations that provide a great overall customer experience will outperform competitors by 25% in satisfaction for both customers and employees. 

The issuance of unique credentials, access controls and identity workflows (such as signup and authentication) are well established and the race is on for lowest friction. What is less established, is what happens after customers are onboarded. As the customer traverses through your portfolio of services and applications, each interaction is facilitated in some way by your underlying CIAM system. Everything from how identity data is used by applications to authorization and payment facilitation is managed to some extent by the CIAM system. If you set it up strategically, you can unlock opportunities to drive value for your business. 

How CIAM works

The first step for a customer is usually signing up or registering for an application or service, using their credentials, which establishes their unique identity in the system. 

Once registered, users authenticate themselves to access different services and applications, using multi factor authentication (MFA), biometric verification, verified credentials (third-party verification) and federated or single sign-on (SSO).  

When authenticated, they can access multiple services and applications without the need to sign in repeatedly, delivering a low friction, seamless customer journey, while still delivering on privacy and security.

Authorization then determines what users can see and do in a particular system, ensuring that they can only perform actions they are authorized to. Implemented as authorization policies, it enables trusted identities to access digital assets based on appropriate assurance levels, attributes, metadata and real-time context. These controls are designed to enable legitimate use while protecting accounts, data and authorization actions (like payments). 

Users can then manage their personal information, update their preferences, and control consent settings - allowing a tailored experience. To safeguard user information, CIAM implements advanced measures for data security such as encryption, secure storage and compliance with privacy regulations. 

Skip ahead to learn more about authorization here, on how authorization can ensure secure and appropriate access, but also drive great experience with dynamic real-time decisions. 

Why CIAM is important

CIAM is more than just security and can be used to drive secure, private and incredible customer experiences. Serving as the cornerstone of customer-centric business strategies, CIAM is paramount to satisfy evolving customer demands while enabling delivery of desirable digital experiences that keep customers coming back. 

By effectively managing and securing customer identities, CIAM enables businesses to deliver personalized and seamless experiences across various touchpoints. CIAM empowers businesses with valuable insights into their customer behavior and preferences, enabling targeted marketing as well as better informed decision-making. Moreover, CIAM helps businesses comply with data privacy regulations by ensuring the protection of customer data while offering transparency and control over their information. 

It’s the customer who has the freedom of choice whether to do business with you or not. All they want is a great user experience, alongside protection from fraud and privacy violations. If their experiences fall short or if concerns about data security arise, they can easily move to a competitor. Conversely, when you exceed their expectations with seamless experiences and ensure their protection at every step of their journey, you will be able to attract and retain more customers, increase revenue, loyalty and ultimately establish trust. In the end, CIAM is vital for businesses looking to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world, where customer experience is paramount. 

IndyKite’s product suite provides modern and intelligent end-to-end CIAM solutions that drive business value and deliver great experiences. Learn more here on how to get the edge on your competitors, leveraging connected data to extend your identity workflows and enable new use cases. 

Now that we’ve looked into IAM and CIAM, let's navigate towards how we can enhance IAM with modern approaches in order to meet the evolving needs of cybersecurity and customer experience.

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