How Identity gives SMBs a competitive edge

Note: If you’re already set on IAM basics and ready for resources, we recommend checking out IDaaS for Dummies or A Comprehensive Guide for Your Workforce Identity Maturity Journey to really dig into the topic.


How can something like Identity give small and medium businesses (SMBs) a competitive edge?

Organizations are increasingly defined by their digital presence. Customers and employees start at your login box, but their experiences after that can have a snowball effect on how your company grows and operates. 

You’re probably striving to make it as easy as possible for your workforce to be productive and for customers to access your product without compromising security. When employees can work safely and more efficiently, you can move your business faster than larger organizations and attract the best talent. When a customer feels as good with your company as they do with larger orgs, that can help level the playing field when it comes to the success of your business.

So, how do you get your workforce and customer digital experiences from “good enough” to delivering ROI?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) provides a series of tools that can help streamline operations, enhance security, and give you that competitive edge. Let’s explore the business value of identity and IAM, why it’s a big deal for SMBs, and how it can seriously boost your business. 

What is IAM?

To recap, Identity — in the digital sense — is what lets IT systems know that you're you. Identity provides you with identification, authentication, and authorization to access restricted information, whether that's an employee accessing their work email or a consumer managing their preferences on your website. 

IAM is a set of technologies used to manage users, groups they belong to, resources they can access, and functions they can perform. 

Workforce Identity covers the roles and permissions of employees for work or business partners who want to collaborate with you securely and effectively. You may also see Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM), which manages Customer Identity and controls how customers access your apps and services. 

IAM addresses authentication, authorization, account management, and access control; it helps companies manage who has access (that’s the Identity component), what services they can or can’t access, and how (the access management part).

IAM services can be quite feature-rich. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Single sign-on (SSO): lets users access multiple applications with a single set of credentials, enhancing user convenience
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): adds layers of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification
  • Lifecycle management (LCM): managing the creation and permissions of identities throughout their existence within the organization, from onboarding to offboarding
  • Identity governance and administration (IGA): extends account lifecycle management with specific features — like Access Requests, Certification Campaigns, and reporting — to manage identities at scale and meet regulatory requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley (SoX).
  • Role-based access control (RBAC): an authorization control feature that restricts network access privileges based on a user’s role in an organization (best practices, automation, setting up for growth past 10+ employees)
  • Privileged access management (PAM): provides additional access control features — like vaults, time-based access control, and session recording — to secure accounts with elevated privileges (such as administrative accounts) 


Why Identity management is important 

For SMBs, IAM can be the strategic key to various pain points affecting your operations. It can drive scalability, reduce costs, and increase security. 

Let’s break down some of the top considerations.

Security concerns

Data breaches are a growing threat across all sectors. SMBs may lack the resources, knowledge, or expertise to implement robust security measures, making them uniquely vulnerable targets for cyberattacks

Regulatory requirements

Regulatory requirements continue to grow and increasingly apply to businesses of all sizes. Privacy regulations like CCPA and GDPR and customer demands such as SOC2 audit reports make compliance a table stakes item to operate and earn customer “trust.”

BYOD diversity

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a workplace policy where employees can use personal devices (phones, laptops) for work. Smaller companies often embrace BYOD more because it reduces hardware costs, but that may introduce additional risks. It can be difficult to ensure consistent security and Identity across device platforms, operating systems, security features, and vulnerabilities — whether that’s employees needing to use a personal laptop while working remotely or customers demanding effortless account access from every mobile device.

Company scaling

As SMBs scale, managing the growing numbers of apps and user identities becomes complex.     The risk of security breaches, data leaks, and unauthorized access rises significantly without proper IAM, as does the time IT and developers may need to spend maintaining those systems. 

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

One of the easier metrics to track is the cost of IAM in developer hours, but that’s only the start of potential problems poorly optimized IAM can cause. A partial list includes greater overhead, loss of productivity, poor customer experience, being unable to attract larger clients, and an increased chance of security breach — not to mention the tech debt creep you may risk by sticking with a “good enough” solution instead of one that generates value for your company. Tech debt could even be holding back your growth potential.  


AI startup navigated rapid growth and IT growing pains by automating identity and saved time and boosted security by integrating 70+ apps with their IAM solution.


Benefits of using IAM

Improves security and can help meet compliance requirements

You can’t fully commit to strategic goals while complex security and regulatory requirements are left unsolved. IAM bolsters security by controlling user access and safeguarding sensitive data. It can help with regulatory compliance, reduce the risk of breaches, and even mitigate insider threats. IAM features like SSO or adaptive MFA can help buffer your user experience without compromising safety standards. While no single security solution is a silver bullet, IAM provides layers of security on multiple stages of the Identity journey. 

You may know that phishing and business email compromise (BEC) attacks are on the rise, but a recent report also found that employees opened malicious emails 28% of the time (and 15% even replied to the emails). IAM features like phishing-resistant MFA help keep you safe, even when mistakes happen.

Reduce costs

IAM reduces costs by boosting efficiency, and the largest cost reducer may be investing in a pre-built solution rather than building one in-house. 

Creating Identity solutions is probably not why your business started in the first place, and reinventing that wheel can be a complex, time-intensive process. If you’re outgrowing an early point solution, taking the next step in the growth process (and avoiding tech debt) with an out-of-the-box solution can greatly boost efficiency and ultimately lower costs.  

Lifen saved three full-time staff members’ worth of time, or $100,000 annually, by purchasing IAM instead of maintaining a legacy in-house IAM solution.


Benefits of using IAM to secure your workforce

Securing your workforce isn’t as simple as sharing the office WiFi password anymore. Provisioning, onboarding and offboarding, and juggling user licenses for your apps and software are all concerns. And, of course, there’s security. In an interview with the Washington Post, Zscaler pointed to the rise of AI to explain the 47% surge in phishing attacks last year. 

The good news: With the right solution, you can give your employees the right tools to stay ahead of threats and continue adding business value to your company while you’re at it.

Improve employee onboarding and offboarding

We’ve all been there: the dreaded onboarding process. One of the big bottlenecks in terms of productivity, an unoptimized onboarding experience can lead to friction for employees, lost productivity, or even introduce risk from unnecessary or mistaken provisioning. A flawed offboarding process has its own problems, like failing to remove employee access to sensitive data. 

IAM makes it easier - and faster to automate access provisioning across your organization. Features like RBAC simplify permissions by assigning them by role instead of individually, and PAM lets you authorize and monitor account access with confidence. Automated permissions ensure you’re not paying for software licenses if an employee doesn’t need them for a role and ensure those licenses are deprovisioned when an employee leaves the organization. 


Digital energy company Tibber achieved 100% automation of user creation within IT, saving around 1,200 hours (or $36,000 in average wage productivity) for employees waiting on account access their first day.


Productivity gains

Delivering on customer expectations and market demand is only the beginning. For a real competitive edge, you need to move fast — and everyone feels the burn, particularly when they’re also juggling Identity-based challenges. 

IAM allows employees to be more productive and focus on what matters. Reduced friction and boosted productivity with features like SSO allow employees to access resources with a single password, and passwordless authentication options allow swift, secure access for any app or device. And a pre-built IAM solution can give hours back to devs, who no longer have to maintain or build IAM features from scratch. 


HESTA saw an 80% reduction in IT time spent on manual, administrative tasks, including offboarding users and workflow reporting and auditing.


Benefits of using IAM to secure your customer apps

Frees developer resources

IAM streamlines user authentication, security features, and data management — including the time it takes to create and maintain those systems when built in-house. With IAM solutions, developers are liberated from reinventing security measures for every app and extension. With more time for core functionalities, devs get back the hours for innovation and accelerating time-to-market.


For ORTEC, a business optimization company, setting up authentication for customers used to take weeks. With a better IAM solution, that number is down to a few days max.


Improves customer experience

Making customers happy can be a balancing act. They need access to their accounts, but they also demand an easy, personalized, and secure experience. How do you reduce friction without creating risk or drowning in support tickets?

IAM enhances the customer journey by offering convenient and secure login process options. You can personalize content and services based on user profiles, helping boost satisfaction and drive revenue. By safeguarding customer data and privacy, you build trust and your reputation as a brand that cares. When it’s frictionless to create an account and log in, it’s easier for customers to stay loyal. 


MoneyFarm reduced the time to unblock customers' locked-out accounts from five minutes to seconds.


Learn more about Identity for SMBs

The small business success story is one of overcoming challenges and risks. One of the ways to help is making sure your technology investments are working for you, not against you. 

You don’t need to wait for IAM to become an emergency to make a change. If you’re interested in what you should look for in an IAM solution (or want to know more about what IAM can do for you), we’d love to help you explore options. Click here to talk to Sales.


Related resources

The Business Value of Identity
The Business Value of Customer Identity Access Management