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What is an Identity and Access Management System?

Oct 23, 2020
3 min.
Does your business need IAM? If data security, operational efficiency, and user satisfaction are important to your success, then it might!
Eva Strübin

Twenty years ago, our idea of a digital life was transitioning from phone calls to text messages. Maybe we even went so far as to embrace the first generation of personal digital assistants like the Palm Pilot. These early forays into digitization were all about using technology to make analog tasks less analog.

Times have changed! The digital transformation has ushered in a host of applications, devices, and innovations that offer so much more. Services like contactless payment, online marketplaces, and mobile banking are changing how, where, and when we do business, shop, and navigate routine tasks. It has become easier than ever to sell and pay for items using our mobile phones and smart watches. We can log into office software, online courses, and project management tools anytime and from anywhere thanks to cloud-based applications and software as a service.


The Data Game

This easy access has simplified our personal and professional lives. However, all this flexibility and ease is contingent on a key ingredient: data. Depending on the software and apps we’re using, we might have to share anything from our date of birth to our family status to our annual income. All very sensitive and critical information.

And any business, which relies on this personal data for internal and external applications knows that protecting it is essential. Not only because of new international data security and compliance regulations, but especially, and most importantly, because protecting user data is key to protecting company information and systems and maintaining client trust. That’s where IAM comes in.


The Mechanics Behind IAM

IAM, short for Identity and Access Management, is concerned with letting the right people, have access to the right resources, at the right time, and for the right reasons. An IAM system relies on an IAM architecture. Basically, a giant data repository. Think of it as a massive warehouse where all the information and data we provide about ourselves is stored with the strictest privacy controls. 

Step one of IAM is identity management (IDM). Before providing access to a system, the user has to be identified as the right person: the most common and familiar way of doing this is with a simple username and password login. Although, many companies now opt for more intricate authentication measures: like two-factor, or even multi-factor, authentication, biometric markers, or security tokens.

Once a user’s identity has been authenticated, the next step is access management. Depending on the IAM system in place, a company, organization, brand, or the users themselves determine what information is visible and which privileges and systems can be accessed.


Finding the Right IAM

There are three types of IAM: EIAM, Workforce SaaS, and CIAM.

EIAM and Workforce Saas

Enterprise Identity and Access Management and Workforce SaaS are both designed to facilitate access to internal facing applications and software, ranging from ERP to CRM to human resource software.

The main objectives of EIAM and Workforce SaaS are to reduce risks and increase operational efficiency. This is facilitated by their employer-centric approach. The employer sets the policies and procedures and determines who gains access to what information, systems, and software. Then, thanks to a single sign-on feature, users are granted access to multiple tools with just one password. Eliminating the need for multiple profiles with different passwords also eliminates the risk of data falling into the wrong hands.

But what differentiates EIAM from Workforce SaaS?

EIAM is an in-house and integrated solution, one that large corporations with extensive resources invest in and tailor to their unique needs. Workforce SaaS (software-as-a-service), on the other hand, caters to SMEs. It eliminates the need to invest heavily in an expensive customized solution by providing cloud-based IAM management.


Customer Identity and Access Management operates on the same basic principles, but its end aims are different. CIAM is used to manage external users (clients, customers, patients) using external facing applications (mobile apps, web platforms, IoT).

CIAM is also customer-centric. Users are responsible for managing their own settings and preferences. They are in control of what they see and share. With CIAM, the business is less involved in setting access parameters and more vested in creating a top customer experience. This means a friendly user interface, seamless functionality, and data security.


Is it time to invest in IAM?

If your business is juggling multiple identities and access roles and rights, IAM is an efficient and consolidated approach to managing them all. Its simplified login process and data security measures also ensure that you are in compliance with the latest regulations and directives on privacy and data protection. If you’re looking to bolster data security, streamline the granting of privileges and data access rights, or simplify the user login experience, it might be time to invest in IAM.