Published: 20/05/2021


Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is a service that enables organizations to securely capture customer identity and profile data, as well as control access to applications and services. CIAM helps you collect the information necessary for security checks, such as verifying a user’s identity or credentials before providing access.

How CIAM works

Customer Identity and Access Management processes can be divided into three segments:

  • Data capture
  • Data management
  • Transaction processing

Data is captured using a variety of methods including scanning ID cards or taking an electronic fingerprint scan. That information about the customer (such as name, address) is then stored in a centralized repository for access by other applications and services within your organization.

When you want to grant someone access to sensitive data or perform transactions such as digital payments, those customers are required to confirm their identities with CIAM before being granted that level of access.

Your corporate network resources may also have secure zones where only authorized users can enter after passing through security checkpoints controlled by CIAM systems. These types of zones provide protection from external threats like hackers who might try to break into your system.

CIAM is the cornerstone of protecting customer identity and secure transactions, as well as core to any compliance efforts for industries such as finance or healthcare. CIAM can help prevent unauthorized access by identifying customers with a high-risk profile before they are granted entry to a digital resource like an account or application.

How to get started with CIAM

Although there are many CIAM providers, you’ll first need to figure out if the system is a good fit for your organization.

The following questions can help identify whether or not it has what you’re looking for:

  • Which operating systems does the provider support?
  • What’s included in their pricing model?
  • Are they easy to implement and scale up as needed? If so, how long will this process take?
  • Can I get started on my own (do I have an internal IT team)?
  • What sort of training do they offer for end-users and administrators alike?

The benefits of CIAM

Customer Identity and Access Management brings a number of benefits to your organization, including:

  • A centralized repository for customer identity information that can be shared with other applications and services in the enterprise
  • More secure environments by requiring customers to confirm their identities when accessing sensitive data or performing high-risk activities such as digital payments
  • Faster onboarding times by automatically integrating new customer profiles into existing systems without manual entry errors

Common challenges in using CIAM

  • Ensuring that the right access is given to the right people at the right time
  • Managing and monitoring user identities, credentials, and access rights
  • Keeping up with changing regulations
  • Understanding how identity management impacts IT security strategy
  • Balancing enterprise-wide needs with individual requirements

Customer identity and access management vs identity access management

There is some overlap between Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM) and Identity Access Management (IAM). Information about authentication processes and methods as well as user roles and permissions both fall under these categories.

CIAM often deals more with storing information securely while ensuring seamless access to applications, while IAM deals more with providing the right access to the right people at the appropriate time for specific purposes.

Customer identity and access management vs active directory

CIAM is data-centric and typically manages customer information across multiple channels such as website, app or call center. AD (Active Directory) has a narrower focus on authentication processes within an enterprise network and usually does not store personal details about users.

In addition, CIAM focuses primarily on capturing all user identity information (e.g., name, address) whereas AD only stores those bits of information that are required by HR policies and procedures related to security clearance levels.

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Frequently asked questions about ciam

  • What is the goal of CIAM? The goal of CIAM is to manage customer identities securely and ensure access to the right applications at the appropriate time for specific purposes.

  • Are there disadvantages to using CIAM? There are no disadvantages to using CIAM. It is a beneficial solution that can help organizations comply with various regulations, provide more efficient customer services, and ensure security when accessing sensitive data or performing high-risk activities such as digital payments.

  • What does it take for an organization to get started with CIAM? Organizations must first figure out if the system is a good fit for their needs based on questions like which operating systems does the provider support? What’s included in their pricing model? If they’re easy to implement and scale up as needed, what sort of training do they offer (both end-users/administrators)? And finally, do the benefits outweigh any potential challenges?

  • How much will implementing CIAM cost me? Prices vary from provider to provider, but there are many budget-friendly options.

  • What sort of training do they offer for end-users and administrators alike? They provide all the necessary certification courses you need to be able to use a CIAM solution on your own. Alternatively, they also offer hands-on workshops that cover everything from instruction on how to create an account through configuring user profiles up until leveraging advanced features such as single sign-on (SSO).

  • What is a typical CIAM implementation timeline? A typical Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM) implementation can vary based on the size, scope and complexity of systems involved; however, most implementations take approximately 18–24 months to complete after initial contract signature with the vendor.

  • Do you need an on-premises or cloud-based solution? CIAM solutions are both available in either on-premise or cloud configurations depending upon customer needs.

  • How do I get started using CIAM if my company doesn’t have any IT teams? You will want to ensure that your chosen provider offers some level of technology consulting as well as installation and configuration services before signing up for long term contracts. This will help ensure that your CIAM implementation is successful and you have the necessary teams in place to maintain it going forward.

  • How do I get started using CIAM if my company needs a more robust or customized solution? You will want to seek out providers with consultants who are experienced, knowledgeable about customer identity management, and skilled at developing tailored solutions for customers’ specific business challenges.

  • What are some examples of CIAM features?

    • Single sign-on (SSO) and password vaulting – enables an organization to have a single, centralized repository for authentication credentials. This will create more security by reducing the number of passwords employees need to remember.
    • Self-service portal – provides end users with a personalized web page that allows them easy access to their accounts information without requiring help from customer service representatives or administrators; this helps eliminate manual steps which can lead to errors and delays in response time.
  • How does self-service work with CIAM? Every employee is given his/her own login and password when they join your company so no one has shared account levels – this also provides another layer of security for confidentiality purposes since each employee’s account is individually identified.

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