A Beginner’s Guide to Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)

27 Mar, 2024

With external enterprise users involved in conducting digital transactions and exchanging sensitive personal information, it is crucial for organizations to safeguard external user identities and data from cybercriminals. Given that 53% of customers prioritize digital services of companies that safeguard their data, securing customer data and access management becomes even more vital. At the same time, organizations must deliver a seamless experience to customers across all platforms to gain their trust and loyalty. This is where Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) becomes crucial. It unlocks the dual benefit of securing external user identities while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Modern access management and governance solutions equipped with CIAM capabilities can help organizations streamline access management for external users. 

AccessFlow, natively built on the robust ServiceNow platform, is one such modern access management and governance solution that empowers organizations to effortlessly manage access for external users, including business partners, vendors, and contractors, from a unified portal. But before we dig deeper into how AccessFlow streamlines access management for external users, let’s first understand:   

What is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)? 

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) focuses on managing external user identities and controlling their access to enterprise systems. CIAM tools are designed to deliver a secure, seamless, and uninterrupted experience to your customers, regardless of the enterprise application or platform they use, while ensuring top-notch customer data security. CIAM empowers organizations to meet the evolving access needs of external users and maintain compliance with data privacy regulations.   

Broadly, CIAM is categorized into two categories:

B2B CIAM: It involves securing and managing access for business partners, vendors, and contractors who routinely interact and exchange sensitive data with your organization. Given that business partners and vendors are involved in highly sensitive financial transactions, they are prime targets of cybercriminals. Hence, you must invest in access management solutions with robust B2B CIAM capabilities for improved external user access management.  

B2C CIAM: Instead of business partners, B2C CIAM tools focus on protecting and managing consumer identities and delivering them a seamless multi-channel experience. They track user journeys across various customer-facing applications and apply behavior analytics to help enterprises drive more engagement and conversions. 

Now, that we’ve understood the CIAM concept, let’s understand how it differs from identity and access management:

Comparison Points CIAM IAM
Identity Management It focuses on managing external identities like business partners, vendors, contractors, and customers. It focuses on internal or employee identities.
Authentication Multiple authentication methods like social login and passwordless authentication. Strict internal authentication via enterprise directories. 
User Experience It requires a more intuitive UI and ease-to-use features with minimal technical complexity. The UI must meet the organizational standards of user-friendly product with minimal training needs.
Data Privacy and Security  Customer data is generally used for marketing, business compliance, and strategy planning with prior consent from the customer. Employee data is used for internal purposes like streamlining access management.
Scalability CIAM tools require more scalability as they are designed to manage a large external user base. IAM tools manage internal users in organizations with predictable growth. Hence scalability is not a major concern.


Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) Capabilities  

  1. User authentication: Modern CIAM solutions ensure a smooth user experience across various web and mobile platforms by offering single sign-on, passwordless authentication, and social login options. In addition, CIAM tools help you strictly validate user identities before permitting access to sensitive data or systems through multi-factor authentication.
  2. User authorization: Assisting you in continuously validating the access permissions held by external users like business partners, vendors, and customers, CIAM offers capabilities like role-based access control and attribute-based access control.
  3. Self-service registration and account management: Provides a dedicated registration page for your customers and business partners to submit requests for account creation. Additionally, external users can utilize self-service catalogs to reset passwords, update account details, and change communication preferences.
  4. Access management: CIAM enables you to provide external business users with secure and timely access to your sensitive business data and systems. For instance, B2B CIAM enables retailers to provide vendors with secure access to inventory management systems.
  5. Analytics & reporting: Comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities help enterprises gain insights into customer access activities, including pending and approved requests, total permissions, policy breaches, and more. 
  6. User privacy and consent management: CIAM enables you to comply with data privacy laws by offering customers control over their personal information and privacy preferences through self-service portals. 

Key Benefits of Implementing CIAM for Organizations  

  1. Enhanced customer experience and loyalty: External users often find it difficult to register and access your in-house business applications and systems. CIAM provides a secure, one-stop portal with self-service registration and sign-on capabilities, ensuring a smooth and consistent customer experience across platforms.  
  2. Customer data privacy and protection: Modern access management tools with CIAM capabilities provide robust authentication capabilities like single sign-on and multi-factor authentication to safeguard the personally identifiable information (PII) of your customers. For high-risk identities and login events, CIAM tools also enable adaptive authentication to add an extra layer of security. 
  3. Improved regulatory compliance: Ensuring compliance with evolving data protection regulations is necessary for modern businesses to avoid legal, financial, or reputational losses. CIAM allows you to provide customers with self-service options for managing and controlling their personal data and privacy settings, enhancing your organizational compliance posture.
  4. 360-degree customer visibility: CIAM enables organizations to obtain detailed insights into customer access and continuously track and validate their privileges to minimize access-related risks.
  5. Improved scalability and uptime: Modern, cloud-native CIAM solutions can easily manage access for a large base of external users without any performance and security bottlenecks. Built on the reliable cloud infrastructure, these solutions can easily scale up to accommodate the growing volume of external users like business partners, vendors, and customers. 

Elevate Your CIAM Journey with AccessFlow – an automated, centralized, and compliant IAM solution built on ServiceNow

In a nutshell, securing external enterprise identities and access is vital for organizations to improve customer data safety and prevent the risk of cyberattacks. A modern, automated, and unified solution like AccessFlow can empower enterprises to streamline their external user access management journey. Being a SOC 1 Type 2 compliant solution, it not only effortlessly manages access for business partners and vendors but also ensures a seamless customer experience with powerful self-service and reporting capabilities.   

To know more about AccessFlow and how it transforms customer access management and experience, contact us at information@alcortech.com

arrow Back to Blog
Related Blogs
Workforce Optimization – Evolution at a Glance
24 Apr, 2023

Workforce Optimization (WFO) combines the tools that IT service managers...

Read More
Why is Employee Recognition a need of the hour?
6 Dec, 2022

Let’s get Started Recognition in human society holds a very...

Read More
Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Alcor
31 May, 2021

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! At...

Read More