The six challenges an IT team will face when managing customer identity data

Digital innovation is increasingly being demanded across a variety of business units in order to capitalise on an increasingly mobile and digitally astute consumer base that expects dynamic and personalised experiences.

'IT is now ubiquitous,' hails a recent Gartner report, transforming IT’s role to that of a driver of new growth initiatives, prompting a shift in perspective and strategy for CIOs that begins with a well-planned and executed approach to managing customer identity data.

> See also: The data hunter gatherer: questions that will help your business

While traditional, employee-facing identity and access management (IAM) systems might seem like a natural starting point for meeting this chal­lenge, customer identity and access management (CIAM) has significantly dif­ferent requirements and outcomes. 

So, what are the big challenges organisations face when managing customer identities?

User experience

Legacy IAM systems are designed primarily around security for good reason, but to create the personalised and engaging user experiences today’s customers demand, brands must not only store customer information in a centralised and secure manner, but also ensure that this data is available for use in real-time by every business unit so CX can be optimised.


Whilst employee, partner and vendor identities are generally measured in the thousands, customer identities are often measured in the millions. To deliver a user experience that keeps brands competitive, there must be no compromise in performance at any time for any layer in the identity stack, regardless of the volume, variety or velocity of incoming data streams.

Data structure

The vast majority of customer-generated information is unstructured, and isn’t compatible with traditional, hierarchical databases and directories. To optimise omni-channel marketing, sales and service initiatives, businesses must ensure that a wide variety of customer data from all sources is managed properly and made actionable.


Authentication integrations with business applications like Google and Workday often provided by IAM systems are entirely different from those needed to support customer-facing interactions and activities.

Providing relevant user experiences requires direct data synchronisation between marketing, service and sales applications, as well as a centralised identity repository.

Whether an organisation is building out its own solution or piecing one together from several third-party tools, each technology a business adopts calls for more custom coding and expensive connectors. Besides exorbitant development costs, this process can also significantly slow down time to market.


Web and mobile APIs have become the backbone of digital business. This is a reality that legacy IAM solutions still grapple with when trying to manage consumer data, since these systems were primarily designed for employee and vendor access.

To deliver an impactful customer experience while remaining highly secure, authentication and authorisation standards like Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) and OAuth should be used to secure high-volume API transactions, on both client and server sides.

Personally identifiable information (PII) should be encrypted at rest, in use and in motion; passwords should be hashed and risk-based; and two-factor authentication should be in place for end-users.

Finally, strong rules and permissions-based access control and audit logging are vital to ensuring that an IT organisation maintains granular administrative control of its system.


Privacy compliance isn’t typically a factor for traditional, employee-facing IAM, since the business owns all the data being managed. However, to integrate social network login – crucial for maintaining a competitive edge in today’s digital marketplace – brands must stay compliant with ever-changing third-party privacy policies.

Businesses also need to maintain compliance with regional policies and regulations, which vary widely from country to country. Manually managing these tasks eats up significant IT bandwidth.

> See also: Trusting sensitive customer identity data to legacy systems: a risk worth taking?

These challenges can be approached in three main ways: building something from scratch, in-house, to consolidate disparate data silos; stitching together existing IAM systems; or implementing a specialised, cloud-based system that is purpose-built to manage customer identities.

When adding up the costs of building and maintaining a custom CIAM solution, going with a specialist provider starts to make a lot of sense. CIAM is much less expensive to implement than DIY solutions for large-scale enterprises, and also offers a streamlined implementation that can get to market in a fraction of the time.

Add the factor of outcome – a better performing, more scalable, flexible and secure system – and it’s easy to see why enterprises are turning to specialised CIAM providers to manage consumer identities and drive superior customer experiences.

Sourced from Richard Lack, Director of Sales, EMEA, Gigya

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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