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By Dinali Daberera, Associate Lead Solutions Engineer, WS02


The world is now emphatically digital-first, and the pace of the transition from offline to online is only accelerating among organisations that want to survive and thrive in today’s market. In its analysis of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, consultancy McKinsey calculated that digital transformation programmes accelerated by seven years in just a few months in order to meet customer demand. Although digital transformation was undeniably under way prior to the pandemic, it has been catapulted forward. What organisations expected to be their future state, at a point some way down the line, is now their current state.

As a result, businesses are planning significant investment in the technologies that will enable them to meet the expectations of their customers and employees. The cloud application market is expected to grow to $356bn by 2025 and, reflecting the importance of customer experience in underpinning growth, Gartner predicts that 86% of businesses expect to compete via improved customer experience. Consequently, 72% of organisations are planning to adopt customer identity and access management (CIAM) solutions in 2022.

The complex role of CIAM in the enterprise

CIAM is central to delivering a good experience that gets customers quickly onboard with the business with easy and fast log-in and authentication. It unifies customer identities across products, platforms and partners, keeping them engaged with the organisation and making it easy for them to return and generate repeat revenue. Effective CIAM also provides organisations with advanced analytic data on customer behaviour and retention, allowing them to plan future initiatives to drive sales. At the same time, CIAM is also central to managing security and protecting data, ensuring that this is carried out with reference to the relevant compliance regimes and regulations, such as GDPR, that affect different vertical sectors and geographical areas. Finally, a strong CIAM solution allows customers to self-serve and update their own privacy settings, profile information, self-recover forgotten passwords and register trusted devices.

However, enterprises often manage customer identity at the application level. This can create inconsistent customer experience, which reduces the ‘stickiness’ of the app and reduces customer engagement and satisfaction.

Managing CIAM on an individual application basis also adds to developer workload, as they need to duplicate work for each application, and creates operational siloes leading to inefficiency.

Finally, it can raise security risk, exposing the organisation and its customers to compromise, due to inconsistent application of policies and protocols across the business.

Solving CIAM challenges with omnichannel identity servers

By lifting CIAM out of the application level and implementing an omnichannel identity server, organisations can address multiple customer-focused and internal challenges simultaneously.

First, an omnichannel solution offers centralised identity functionality and creates a single point of truth. This enables faster and more seamless application and backend development because you don’t have concerns about multiple users doing things in different ways.

Second, for the front end project team, it enables new growth and scalability opportunities by facilitating the rapid creation of new products and increasing engagement and stickiness per client. Customers are engaging more, invited to use more of the service, product or the companies’ capabilities. This results in a better user experience for customers and delivers advantages for developer teams, too.

Recent research commissioned by WS02 and carried out by Forrester Consulting aimed to quantify the scale and split of benefits the businesses can accrue by deploying an omnichannel identity server solution, such as WS02’s. The study found that an organisation with 20,000 employees, a turnover of $3bn and a user base growing from 800k in year one to 2million by year three could expect to achieve a staggering $4.51m benefit over a three-year period, resulting in more than 300% ROI on the procurement cost of the solution.

Where do the benefits lie?

By far the largest component of this benefit is the reduction in the identity management and customer support burden on staff – this accounted for 67% of savings. Because the identity server sits across the entire software development lifecycle the product team was enabled to develop a product and deliver it with minimum friction and minimum kickbacks and recoil as they went thought their development lifecycle. Over three years the benefits were significant.

13% of the benefits accrued from a reduction in development efforts around integrations. Developers don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time they build and deploy new applications from a CIAM point of view but can apply the same standards across all their projects, saving valuable time, and reducing developer burden.

Uptime was also a key factor, accounting for 15% of the economic benefit. Where identity management is concerned, especially with open-source providers, there can be a misperception that reliability is a problem, and downtime is a critical issue that can lead to lost revenue and customer frustration. Consequently, a reliable solution with maximum uptime is vital to minimise business risk and this research proved that an open source solution can actually deliver a benefit in terms of uptime.

Finally, 5% of the economic benefit derived from the accelerated time to market that derives from freeing up developer time, reducing integration complexity and minimising downtime. Products can be developed and updated, new features and functionality added much faster and released to production, so businesses can rapidly improve customer experience and engagement.

CIAM powers innovation

Another advantage of deploying an omnichannel identity management server is that an API-first CIAM solution can sit at the heart of business strategy, bridging the chasm between backend systems – some of which may be legacy and difficult to adapt to new demands – and the emerging technologies on the front end that will drive future customer experience and competitive differentiation.

At the front end you will be able to manage consumers, enterprise customers, partners and even workforce across multiple touchpoints, from web applications to mobile-native platforms and third-party systems. The advanced CIAM layer allows organisations to look at incorporating new third-party apps and technologies that can integrate with the identity server, while having minimal impact on the backend.

As businesses prioritise customer experience in the process of adapting to digital acceleration, gaining a 360-degree view of customer behaviour while also releasing new products to serve their needs is key. By deploying advanced CIAM via an omnichannel identity server, businesses can unlock significant cost and productivity benefits that will position them strongly for the future.


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