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By Abhi Yadav

In traditional enterprise IAM systems, Human Resources is the usual “system of record” for our individual users. HR files and logons are how we track our employees’ data.

But when it comes to tracking our customers’ data, we often use several different systems, processes, agencies and social providers. Each with authority over certain identifying attributes of the individual.

This is problematic.

Holistically, we lack the knowledge of who the customer is outside of these disjointed – possibly not even properly integrated – systems. Yet we need, and our business partners often need, to understand our customers and their behavior better. More importantly, we need to identify the good guys from the bad guys.

Companies need to always keep “digital transformation” at the forefront of every business decision, including how the tools they offer their customers to engage with them. If they don’t, they risk frustrating their customer to the point they stop interacting with them at all. They must target services to a technology savvy audience, who are used to the convenience offered by mobile and social. Today’s customer wants to engage with services that are respectful of their consent and privacy rights as it relates to sharing data. The avenue to reach this technology is identity-facilitated. It represents a growth opportunity for  us as an identity services provider.

User expectations for your enterprise digital transformation initiatives have already been set. They have been shaped by Internet-born (and freely available) consumer services: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal. Customers demand a seamless, easy to use, intelligent and secure experience. The success of digital transformation can be significantly impacted – negatively or positively – by user perceptions about security and privacy.

Improving the customer experience…

So what do we need to pay attention to, when it comes to Customer Identity? Quite simply, it’s about Sign-up, Sign-in, and the Onward journey.

Identity touches the customer at every stage of the customer’s journey. It makes it possible to know your customer (KYC) and  to simplify the “buyer process.” Perhaps most significantly, it gives you the means to have a single view of the customer –making it possible to establish and build customer trust in your brand, and to become the customer’s trusted advisor. This way you could integrate data across departments or stores, and then to provide the next great offer to your customers.

Just as there is transformation happening in business, there is also a transformation in how to approach customer identities in the digital era. But this requires investments in better technologies.

With Sign-Up processes, businesses need to focus on reducing friction to commerce such as reducing registration abandonment and increasing customer acquisition. After all, the goal of CIAM systems should be to establish the first connection, allow a personalized experience, and champion retention.

But most online experiences today are often terribly siloed – the customer is burdened to create a new username and password on each site and businesses are at risk sometimes of managing copies of customer identities across multiple services. So to simplify this sign-up process, most online companies turned to social identity providers to skip registration, which unfortunately passes on identity information that has a low level of assurance. A recent survey by Facebook, for example, showed that 65% users chose Facebook login because of convenience whereas only 20% because of Trust & Safety. This complicates the matter if one needs to issue two-factor credentials to a customer who has used ,let’s say, a Facebook login measured at assurance level of only 1.

Back In The Driver’s Seat

A new class of solutions is emerging called “self-sovereign identities” that would allow customers to bring their own identity and that would point to a set of verified claims on a blockchain as trusted and immutable record of their identity. This would put customers back in control of their data, giving them autonomy over the administration and ownership of their identity data. A solution based on self-sovereign identity, for example, would let a customer bypass registration altogether and use their personal device as a biometrically secured crypto token to access services online seamlessly in the digital age. The customer would have a single view of their consolidated information, verified by respective authorities, and have control over which information they wish to share with retailers and channels.(We shall dive into this in detail in Part Two of this series.)

Sign-in processes are often a good test of user experience. Part of the opportunity to support digital transformation is for us to target services to a technology-savvy audience – so designing this correctly often becomes a good test of user experience. Customers simply want a single point of service…they don’t need to know which department provides the service. Once authenticated they just want SSO and services as requested.

Some businesses are turning to advanced methods of authenticating their customers. For example, they are using implicit authentication techniques, ones that use machine learning classification models to identify known actors from unknown ones with a calculated degree of confidence.

The third aspect, managing the customers onward journey provides the context needed for every interaction. A well-designed solution should include provenance, how or where did this customer sign up (in-person, the web, via an API etc.) and what have they been doing so far…which really is about getting to know your customer. The key to this is to first get a single view of the customer across the business or across B2B channels, which can help enrich their experience. But moreover, this can really help rally the business around the customer, to simplify the buyer process and possibly trigger a transaction as the relationship matures.

Stay tuned for Part Two, coming soon.

As Simeio's Vice President of Product, Abhi is a CyberSecurity leader and product management executive with 10+ years of repeated success in security innovation, helping Fortune 500 companies build industry-leading IT Security capabilities, and grow business value through improved customer engagement with initiatives like digital transformation. Recognized by industry analysts Gartner for building the world’s most capable Identity as a Service (IDaaS) platform in their 2016 report; Winner of the 2017 Small Business Innovation Challenge in Canada for demonstrating leadership in security innovation for mobile IAM solutions; and member of team that built the market-leading role management product as recognized by Forrester Research & Gartner, by being the first to apply data science principles to CyberSecurity in 2007.