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CIAM Without Compromise

By Bob Bentley, Director, IAM Product Marketing, WSO2

The growing importance of CIAM

In today’s ‘always on’ world the customer’s digital experience and the journey the customer takes when interacting with any organization is now paramount to the success of that relationship. Whether customers go online to pay a bill, set up a doctor’s appointment, or shop at a favorite retailer’s site, they want to know that the organization knows who they are, protects their privacy, and lets them control how their personal data is shared.

Here in the UK, CIAM is playing a central role in maintaining trusted relationships with consumers online. In fact, 78% of the 200 UK and Ireland respondents who took part in a recent WSO2 and Vanson Bourne research study (launching at the end of April) said they are already using an identity and access management platform (IAM), with 67% using a customer identity and access management platform (CIAM). Additionally, according to Gartner, customer expectations for a great user experience continue to rise, which is putting more pressure on organizations to deploy better security, and in particular, better customer identity and access management solutions (CIAM), that don’t compromise the business or security.

But how do you make that user experience as frictionless as possible while remaining highly secure? How do you make sure that the organization is delivering an engaging personalized customer experience that protects both the users and the company?

Meeting the needs of the business and IT security teams.

Organizations now view their ability to create trusted digital experiences as a significant opportunity not only to build customer loyalty but to also gain a competitive advantage. To be successful, any solution must meet both the requirements of the business and of the security team.

Where lines of business are concerned, they are looking at how they can provide a highly personalized customer experience that enables the organization to convert prospects into customers faster. Business lines are also looking at how they can stay ahead of competitors while they strengthen their brand and online image. Let’s face it, if you don’t have a good presence on the Internet in today’s digital world you are nowhere!

Whilst IT leaders are looking at how they can empower business initiatives, they don’t want to be seen as the anchor or blocker, but equally, they don’t want to sacrifice security as this could damage user trust and put the company at risk . With the escalating threat landscape, IT teams are tasked with keeping pace with all the emerging security vulnerabilities. IT leaders must also ensure IT systems can reliably meet performance and scale requirements. While an organization may have a few thousand internal users, a public-facing customer experience service could rapidly scale up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of external users. Therefore, being able to achieve scale quickly but securely is critical.

Growing pressures on application development teams to deliver

Additionally, as we face an ever-growing IT skills shortage, finding specialists within the organization who have CIAM skills is tough because there is a shortage of identity specialist developers. At the same time, implementation cycles are shortening, with the business demanding faster and faster release cycles. IT teams are under pressure to continuously deliver as businesses strive to be as competitive as possible. As a result, more software developers with little IAM expertise are assuming responsibility for incorporating security into the applications driving consumers’ digital experiences. This is driving demand for developer-friendly solutions that allow developers to add CIAM functionality quickly and easily – without having to become IAM specialists.

In the long run, both business and IT teams want to build a great digital customer experience with robust security and a seamless omnichannel presence. However, to do this they need to address the complexity of building a large scale and unified view when customers’ digital data may be fragmented and spread around different IT silos within the company. And they must do this in a more efficient and cost-effective way to achieve quicker time to value.

Difficult choices and compromises

All this means there are uncomfortable trade-offs that organizations must often make when selecting a CIAM vendor partner for their digital experience project. These include the tension between maintaining appropriate security controls without causing high friction which can alienate users. Organizations must consider how they realize their unique vision of the ideal customer experience without launching complicated, expensive development projects. They need to establish how they deploy successfully today within their existing IT landscape without sacrificing flexibility to meet tomorrow’s evolving needs, without service disruption. Lastly, they must solve how to scale up to meet growing demand and usage without incurring unacceptable licensing costs. Get it wrong and there is a huge amount of risk incurred and cost sunk.

Maximizing flexibility to minimize risks

In our experience every organization has a unique view of what its ideal digital customer experience should be, and its vision changes and adapts over time. Furthermore, companies will be at different levels of CIAM maturity as well as varying levels of expertise. Therefore, it is vitally important to work with a CIAM vendor whose solution provides a low bar to entry (helping those just beginning their journey achieve their goals quickly and easily), while also not imposing an artificial ceiling (where the simplicity of the tools is a barrier to sufficient customization and extension as the CX project matures). Also, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of flexibility to address the varied and complex IT landscapes within organizations and this means that any CIAM solution must have the ability to scale both technically and economically – so that an organization is not penalized for its growth ambitions.

Unfortunately, all these requirements won’t be met by a simplistic one-size-fits-all approach. CIAM is not a once-and-done initiative but a multi-year project. Rudimentary CIAM starts with basic identity management capabilities such as user registration, consent management, social logins, and access to customer portals. Over time this can mature to have a seamless omnichannel user experience, a fully unified view of the customer, real-time customer analytics, and secure API-level integration with many business systems and applications to add depth and functionality to the modern user journey.

1 billion identities under management

Organizations using WSO2’s CIAM Platform have over 1 billion combined identities under management. Our solution offers the industry’s best end-to-end developer experience, is built for massive scale, and offers multiple deployment options including IDaaS/SaaS, open source software and Private Identity Cloud managed service. These capabilities provide customers with a solution that truly extends and adapts. As a result, we have received great industry accolades: KuppingerCole positioned WSO2 as an overall leader in its CIAM Platforms 2020 report, while we were recognized as a Strong Performer in the Q4 2020 CIAM Forrester Wave. The benefits of CIAM can be substantial. Forrester Consulting conducted a Total Economic Impact Report on our CIAM Platform for several of our customers who reported an average of $4.51 million in benefits over 3 years with 332% RoI and a 60% increase in developer productivity during that timeframe.

At the end of the day, organizations simply want to present their customers with the most compelling, intuitive, and pleasant experience possible, without the trade-offs that can limit or jeopardize the success of the CX project. Therefore, it is in the best interest of any organization to employ a CIAM solution without compromise as the identity foundation for their digital customer experience.

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