Hackernoon logoWhat is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) and What Are its Benefits by@rakesh-soni

What is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) and What Are its Benefits

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@rakesh-soniRakesh Soni

Rakesh Soni is CEO of LoginRadius, a leading provider of cloud-based digital identity solutions.

Today's online space is all about identity and at the core of it lies customer identity and access management or CIAM. 

So what is CIAM and how do you make it count? 

For years, we used awesome identity and management platforms (IAM) that took care of managing the identities of thousands of employees, partners, and suppliers. On the backend, these platforms would provide a centralized system for managing those identities.

CIAM, however, is all about customer identities, not employee identities. Since the world is filled with billions of consumers, CIAM was made to manage them. 

So, how do you gather consumer data so that you can manage it? 

This involves following strict customer data protocol that only a “compliance-ready” customer identity and access management platform can handle.

What is customer identity and access management (Customer IAM, CIAM)? 

At its basic level, customer identity and access management (CIAM) is a platform that enables you to build unified, data-rich profiles of your customers so you can seamlessly let them into your digital properties. Some useful CIAM features for customer data management include:

  • Registering customers
  • Managing customer identities
  • Authenticating customers
  • Connecting third-party applications
  • Scaling multiple customer bases

In short, the strength of Customer IAM lies in its ability to let you know who your customers are. You can personalize their experiences and protect their high-value data, while simultaneously meeting all compliance requirements. 

What are the benefits of a CIAM solution?

In a standardized customer-facing environment, change is constant. Rigid processes will bring you no luck. Customers expect flexibility and easy-flowing journeys instead. Fortunately, the business case for customer identity and access management is easy to determine and comes with a lot of benefits for users. 

  • Single sign-on (SSO) allows single credential use across multiple applications. 
  • Multi-factor authentication and threat detection increase identity protection. 
  • CIAM platform ensures scalable performance with zero downtime. 
  • Personalized marketing from CIAM data improves conversions and sales efforts. 
  • Cloud-based unified infrastructure saves IT and maintenance costs. 

How should you choose a CIAM provider? 

The majority of organizations look for robust CIAM platforms that offer end-to-end security, real-time identity management, and a seamless customer experience. A few other deciding factors include:

  • Customer solutions beyond traditional IAM.
  • Unified customer views across several applications.
  • One data pool instead of separate data silos.
  • Adherence to global data compliance standards.
  • State-of-the-art security and monitoring. 
  • Out-of-the-box integration with other applications.
  • Seamless scalability for millions of users.

What are the key components of a customer identity management platform?

The driving force of CIAM is its ability to use data security as a tool to achieve commercial objectives. Organizations should consider a single customer identity management platform that solves various pain points for customers, suppliers, contractors, partners, employees (e.g., marketing or IT), applications, and more. By doing so, CIAM can help you leverage resources, delight your customers, and outperform your competition. 

After all, regardless of what your organization does, the main objective is to ensure seamless customer experiences and protect their digital identities online. 

So, what are some important components of a perfect CIAM platform? Have a look. 

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Everyone loves a service that is secure and seamless—one that doesn’t require multiple usernames and passwords yet allows access to different applications from a variety of devices. This is where Single Sign-On or SSO comes into play.

SSO allows users to securely authenticate with multiple applications via a single set of credentials (usually a username and password). Users need only log in once for access to all authorized systems. 

Source: Loginradius

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 

As the term itself suggests, multi-factor authentication is an authentication process wherein a user’s identity is verified through multiple layers of credentials. 

Why is MFA so great?

Traditional credentials are vulnerable to brute force attacks, hence these can be easily stolen. However, MFA doesn’t stop at asking for the basic username and password. In addition, MFA offers additional security with one-time passwords, requiring answers to security questions or facial recognition, and more.

Types of authentication requirements often include:

  • Knowledge-based: a password or a PIN.
  • Possession-based: a badge or a smartphone.
  • Inheritance-based: fingerprint, gesture, or voice

What’s more, you can combine different elements for authentication, such as: 

  • Smartphone app codes
  • Fingerprints
  • Iris scanning
  • Facial recognition
  • Verified email codes
  • Risk scores
  • Personal security questions
  • Behavioral analysis

Data Access Control

The security of your customer data should be your highest priority at all times. It should remain protected from the bad guys yet still be available for the customer to use it. 

To achieve this, CIAM allows you to determine exactly where data is coming from, where it should be synchronized, and who is allowed access to it.

Since a CIAM platform manages everything under one dashboard that you control, you won’t need to rely on third parties to handle any sensitive data. CIAM’s customizable user access, monitoring, and control will take your security to a whole new level.

Compliance Requirements

Your CIAM platform should help you meet the constantly evolving global compliance requirements for customer data. It should offer strategies to protect user data in transit and at rest. Moreover, your CIAM platform should be compliant with security standards like HIPAA, and ISO. 

Lifecycle Management

As your network grows, so does your business. When this happens, duplicate and ghost accounts may create havoc for your IT Team. That’s why lifecycle management is a must.

Your identity platform should manage all types of identities like: 

  • Registration
  • Provisioning
  • Activation 
  • Tracking
  • Locking 
  • Unlocking 
  • Resetting 
  • Deleting
  • Suspending
  • Unsuspending

API Integration

APIs make business operations easier. How? APIs help you integrate identity management data into technologies like CRM, content management, marketing automation, analytics systems, and ERP systems. In addition, APIs can create user-friendly identity management microservices, of which CIAM centralize for you. This can lower your company’s development costs and free up your developer’s time and energy. 

Advanced Customer Analytics

An advanced Customer IAM solution should offer frictionless access. It should provide a comprehensive view of customer data like analytics, insights and market intelligence. With this data, you can improve customer experience and enhance your marketing, sales, and product development efforts.

Multi-Modal Workloads

Cloud-based CIAM platforms offer better scalability, performance, and agility. However, many organizations still prefer in-house deployments for data security. Ensure that your customer identity platform supports hybrid deployments.

Understanding CIAM Use Cases

For Marketing 

Regardless of geographic location or the device in use, customers want fast, easy, frictionless logins. Common CIAM use cases for marketing include:

  • Deeper customer insights
  • Decreased abandonment rates
  • Improved customer experience
  • Easier compliance procedures

For IT

Businesses are on the lookout for easy-to-use solutions and prefer those that are compliant with local laws. Common use cases for IT include:

  • Secure social logins
  • Flexible user authentication
  • Reduced threat exposure
  • Smarter lifecycle management


The biggest takeaway about Customer IAM is that it’s customer-centric. By putting customers first, you’ll hit all the right chords with them—and in turn, you’ll benefit from their loyalty and their advocacy for your brand. 

(Disclaimer: The author is the CEO at LoginRadius)

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@rakesh-soniRakesh Soni

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Rakesh Soni is CEO of LoginRadius, a leading provider of cloud-based digital identity solutions.


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