Business Customer Identity – the next stage in identity management

Managing user identities is essential to all applications. In the SaaS world, business users want secure and convenient logins each time they access their company’s collaboration tool, database monitoring platform, or any one of a whole range of other services. The providers of these applications need a simple, convenient and intuitive way to manage authentication across multiple enterprise customers. Unfortunately, business customer identity is largely overlooked by today’s identity management market.

Somewhere between workforce identity solutions for employees and Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) are thousands of B2B SaaS companies, who’ve been forced to use some combination to fit their needs. If you match this description, you already know the frustration and that there has to be a better solution.

Managing business user identities is challenging

B2B solutions providers routinely configure applications for new users and provide ongoing maintenance in-life. Customisation and maintenance is required across a range of identity access features including Single Sign-On (SSO), access privileges, and branding. In meeting these obligations, providers face three clear challenges:

  1. Onboarding – which can often involve cobbling features together to meet the needs of each unique use case.
  2. In-life management – of SSO, role-based access control, user workflows, and other identity and access features.
  3. Visibility – without a single ‘one-truth’ view across the customer estate, more time and effort is spent on ongoing account management and the generation of management information.

It’s no secret that complexity across these three responsibilities results in high configuration and ongoing maintenance costs, and a slower time to market. Startup companies especially are keenly aware of how mismanaging business user identities can jeopardise go-to-market strategies that hinge on innovation, speed, and customer experience.

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A better way – Business Customer Identity

As the need for easy onboarding, authentication, and administration of business customers grows, we’re seeing the emergence of an entirely new category of identity management: Business Customer Identity.

Business Customer Identity is a way of modelling entire organisations. Rather than cobbling together identity features, these solutions are being specifically designed for companies to manage authentication for multiple teams, business customers, partner companies, or other groupings of users.

The space is young, but promising. B2B SaaS companies that are able to meet each customer’s needs around branding, logins, workflows, and other features without extending implementation timeframes see a raft of benefits.

Set-up and ongoing maintenance costs are reduced as engineering resources are freed-up from the complexities of identity access management. This lowers the cost of customer acquisition and retention for improved profitability. With components taken care of, more resources are available to focus on the core product offering and resolving other technicalities that impact the customer experience.

When implementations are less complex, the burden on development teams is reduced, giving them more scope and capability to work on the next product innovation – again, particularly important for start-ups moving quickly to stay ahead of market needs.

Efficient and intuitive onboarding of customers and teams, and simpler identity customisation and in-life management means operational overheads are reduced. Meanwhile, visibility across the entire customer estate or organisations makes for more effective in-house reporting and informed decision-making.

If this sounds like a pipedream, it’s likely you’re among those who’ve been forced to fit a square peg into a round hole when it comes to B2B identity management. The emergence of Business Customer Identity as a standalone use case is exciting precisely because it treats business customers as first-class citizens. I’m encouraged by the development of the space and it’s promise to help enable the next-generation of great B2B SaaS technology.

Written by Jasmit Sagoo, head of solutions engineering, international at Auth0

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