Customer Identity: A Q&A with Forrester Research

Consumers today are demanding rich experiences on their own terms, on their own schedules, just in time, and on mobile. Medical appointments can be scheduled with a few taps for later in the day, photos can be uploaded from your iPhone and printed at your local pharmacy, and last minute hotel rooms can be booked for a bargain with the swipe of a thumb.

As companies race to build these omnichannel experiences, identity management challenges such as fragmented user experiences, incomplete user profile and activity information, and security at risk can slow down development efforts.

After a recent Okta webinar featuring Merritt Maxim, Principal Analyst at Forrester, we discussed why customer identity and access management, also known as CIAM, is critical to building seamless customer experiences. Below are the key takeaways from our discussion.

Okta: There are an increasing number of stakeholders as every company races to digitize their business/become a technology company. Who are the players (CMO, CDO, CIO, CTO, etc) and what are their goals?

Forrester: Maintaining the balance of a positive customer experience with tightened security controls always requires a discussion among the security, marketing, compliance, and eBusiness teams. It's within this collaboration that CIAM can play a critical role in today's digital businesses.

Historically, line-of-business and marketing teams built systems to store and manage customers' identities in isolation from their S&R counterparts. CIAM solutions are now emerging to help serve as the critical integration and collaboration point between security and marketing teams for delivering an optimal customer experience. CIAM platforms provide a range of capabilities such as user-centric privacy controls and integration with marketing automation platforms. However, CIAM requires a highly cross-functional approach.

In our experience, there are a wide range of roles involved in successful CIAM deployments, including CDO, CMO and CIO. There is no specific requirement that the deployment be owned by a specific rule as long as there is a defined person who can champion, manage and monitor the implementation. So, in addition to engaging with all interested parties to build a CIAM strategy, organizations need to assign a single functional area to own and manage the CIAM implementation. This owner will usually sit in either an IT architecture/security role or in the digital marketing team. Once selected, the owner still needs strong ongoing input from other functional groups to keep the deployment on track as well as ensure that the deployment is delivering maximum value post-deployment.

Okta: What are the trends/challenges that we are seeing in securing customer PII/data? How does CIAM solve these issues?

Forrester: In the consumer IAM world, consumers expect websites to accommodate their preferences so that they can decide how firms use their data. And multinational brands with millions of customers must address various demands including global privacy compliance laws such as the European Union’s GDPR. Concerns around large monetary fines associated with GDPR non-compliance means that any CIAM implementation must understand the complex, changing multijurisdictional aspects of privacy compliance to store data for all customers appropriately. A CIAM solution allow consumers to update their preferences (e.g., opting out of marketing communications). Strong privacy management in a CIAM implementation empowers consumers to determine how firms collect and use their personal data and must be a core component of any implementation. Centralizing this information in a CIAM platform also assists the dedicated audit/compliance functions, verify ongoing compliance with consumer privacy mandates, because even the slightest violation can have a material impact on a brand or company.

Okta: What are the commonalities in the types of modern customer experiences that enterprises are building? How does modern app development play into this? How can CIAM accelerate the pace of development of these experiences?

Forrester: In the age of the customer, today's digital business must be customer-obsessed to remain competitive. Given the preponderance of customer interactions that occur via digital channels (mobile apps or websites), these digital channels are the primary battleground where your organization wins or loses customers. If your customers or prospects have a poor digital experience, such as being unable to register, log in, or engage with you, there will be immediate, negative consequences, ranging from lower purchase transaction volumes to your company losing a potential new sale or customer.

This requirement for seamless digital experiences that do not compromise on security and privacy is influencing the development of customer-facing applications. CIAM platforms provide a centralized, consistent mechanism that app development teams can leverage to ensure consistent security. By relying on the CIAM platform to manage security functions such as authentication, app developers can actually speed application development because they do not have to concern themselves with hard-coding IAM logic directly into the application.

If done well, CIAM can help today's digital businesses gain deep customer insights to successfully deliver new products and services that can increase customers' engagement and sustain brand loyalty while maintaining customers' security and privacy.

As Merritt Maxim discusses, building modern customer experiences that are seamless and secure is a necessity in today's world of outsized customer expectations. CIAM platforms play a critical role in addressing the capabilities required by development teams while providing a centralized control pane for security. When implemented correctly, CIAM provides business value for a range of stakeholders:

  • Faster time-to-market for developers
  • Better customer experiences for marketers and line-of-business owners
  • High operational efficiency for IT
  • Enterprise-grade security

The Okta Identity Cloud is one integrated IAM and CIAM solution that was born and built in the cloud. It scales to meet the needs of any size organization and enables businesses to focus on transforming their industries.

Looking for more? Take a deeper dive in our on demand webinar with Forrester, featuring guest speaker Merritt Maxim, to learn about trends in CIAM and the critical capabilities required. Access the webinar here.