Identity Crisis: The Challenge With Digital Transformation

Aug 27, 2015

The most important question confronting governments and businesses today is how to continue transitioning into the digital age. Many organisations have already started tackling several digital initiatives, including mobile, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT), and IDC predicts that organisations will spend more than $8 trillion in these three areas by 2017. But there’s a catch: all of these developments bring the customer to the centre of the business model, and this calls for a new approach to identity management.

What does this digitally transformed, customer-centric world look like? It’s the car that knows who you are and adjusts your seat, cabin, and GPS to suit your preferences. It’s the portal to your financial services that knows the details of all your policies and accounts in order to provide you with useful assistance and appropriate deals. It’s the e-government ID that grants you secure access to government services, letting you apply for loans and pay taxes online. It’s the set-top box that knows your television tastes and rules (2 hour limit and no TV when Dad’s not home!) And it’s a host of wearables, from the watch that connects to your credit card when you’re at a coffee shop to the shoes that sync to your laptop so you can analyse your workout. On top of that, it’s companies coming together to create customer-focused digital services. For example, the recent deal between Uber and Expensify allowing Expensify customers to order Uber cars based on travel reservations submitted to Expensify.

All of these services depend on consistent, clear, and secure identity management.  Identity management is the ability to set up and manage the relationships between users and things and to enforce rules for access and security. At its simplest, identity management must answer two questions: who/what are you, and what can you do? This sounds straightforward but it has never been more complicated, nor have the stakes ever been higher. For enterprises and governments alike, the ability to manage the digital identities of every citizen, customer, employee and prospect is a fundamental requirement.


Identity Management In Transition: From Employees To Customers

The vast majority of Fortune 2000 companies are using legacy identity and access management (IAM) systems that predate the release of the first smartphone, let alone the connected car. These systems were only designed to manage the identities of a fixed number of users—typically employees—on business premises. They cannot handle the identities of potentially millions of users, devices, and things connecting to a company’s networks from anywhere, at any time. Many organisations end up relying on a patchwork of disparate applications and systems to manage identity and access and this can get extremely complicated.

With digital business in mind, enterprises need a new approach to identity management. Organisations should focus on the customer, utilizing identity management platforms that break down business silos to create a single view of the user.  This outward-facing approach will provide data to build user profiles that give your business a comprehensive view of each customer and their habits, to guide the development of new and more meaningful services based on behaviour. Customers get instantaneous, relevant delivery of digital and physical services and intelligent security, based on dynamic characteristics such as location, device, time of day and familiarity.

This new approach is called identity relationship management (IRM). It is built for flexibility, scale, and mobility as well as security. It can interact with healthcare wearables, connected cars, smart appliances, and whatever other devices people will use in the future.


Identity Isn’t Just An Operational Choice — It’s A Strategic Decision

IRM delivers the customer-centricity that is key to many new products and services. According to a recent Gartner survey, fifty-one percent of CIOs admit that they cannot respond in a timely manner to digital opportunities. This means the rest of the business may have to take the initiative and it might be the CMO, not the CIO, who makes the decision to adopt IRM.


What’s The Best Way To Evaluate An IRM Solution?

If your organisation has innovative ideas idling on the back burner because of the difficulties around identity management, consider IRM. This is a platform, not a point solution, so once it’s in place, you can develop and launch new services within weeks.  The solution maximises value to the customer, leading to increased brand equity.

You should look past the pre-fab demo and ask for a proof of concept. Some companies that offer consumer-facing identity suites are just repurposing a legacy IAM solution. It is important to consider whether the IRM platform is scalable, repeatable, and device-agnostic, and if it can roll out quickly. A genuine IRM platform helps governments and businesses seamlessly integrate complex digital initiatives across departments—and so complete their digital transformations.

By Neil Chapman, Senior Vice President & Managing Director EMEA / International, ForgeRock


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