What is your identity?

In psychology, our identity defines who we are, the way we think about ourselves, and how we believe the world views us. Our identity contains those key characteristics that define us. These key characteristics are used to classify us, describe us and outline our qualities and behaviours. Our identity informs who we are today and who we aspire to be in the future.

In the world of corporate technology, identity has historically been associated with governance and compliance; a way to managing and controlling staff access to applications, systems and data, for the purpose of risk management and fulfilling regulatory requirements. However, the explosion of digital enabled technologies and services has fundamentally shifted the way organisation’s think about identity and access management (IDAM) and more and more, the psychological traits of identity are being used to harness competitive advantage, particularly for ‘external’ identities.

No longer is identity simply about governance and compliance. Identity has rapidly shifted to focusing on how users (customers and business partners) are empowered to tailor their access and privacy and inform how they behave across multiple organisational boundaries. As businesses become increasingly customer-centric, many are discovering the importance of identity as a significant customer-experience differentiator for personalised services – this is a key driver behind the rapid growth in identity products and services; the desire to enhance the customer experience and understand behaviour to authenticate customers, cross sell and up sell products and services.

As customers are engaging with organisations in more ways using a greater variety of digital channels, there is an increased requirement to manage identity, access and data capture. Strategic alignment between digital strategy, customer experience, digital technologies (including channels and CRM) and identity is becoming critical.

Large organisations, government departments and start-ups are trying to align customer identity to broader digital transformation objectives. They all want to improve the customer experience and support a high pace of change and flexibility to meet new and evolving products and services. However, many are grappling with how to provide a delightful user experience and ensure security and efficiency, while making certain customer identity is aligned with historic workforce identity tools, techniques and processes.

We see three key themes emerging in the world of identity management:

  • Increased use of two identity teams, with a single point of accountability: Organisations are increasingly employing two distinct identity teams – one for workforce and one for customer. These separate teams are often guided by a single point of accountability and central governance function. Typically, a strong enterprise architecture function is used as the accountable party, but equally this has been shared by executives (i.e. CIO, CMO, CTO, CISO etc.). Identity teams are most successful by ‘building bridges’ and seeking out opportunities to collaborate with each other across digital, customer, security, compliance, HR, and technology teams.
  • Business strategy defined, without considering the realities of identity. While organisations want to meet desire customer expectations, existing organisational constraints (e.g. people, processes, existing tooling etc.) may not always be considered. In numerous cases, high level executive customer strategies are set by marketing teams without consultation from identity teams. This is problematic as the strategy does not consider what is feasible given the technology and resources available, and vice versa, often leading to multiple teams, tools and processes in place, further adding complexity to the customer experience (i.e. multiple logins, multiple authentication methods etc.).
  • Single platform as a goal, less of a reality: Although many organisations have tried to use a single platform for both workforce and customer identity, this objective has been stated as reducing the ability to meet diverse stakeholder needs, coupled with difficulties in aligning requirements due the extensive range of stakeholders and expectations that exist across both customer and workforce. Strategy, design and execution of identity requires input from a range of stakeholders across the organisation, from those interested in scaling the customer / user experience (i.e. digital, customer, marketing and product teams) to those concerned about security, compliance, risk reduction and operational efficiency. Aligning these stakeholders and achieving consistent processes, tools and techniques remains a challenge.

One thing is clear: the world of identity is no longer about propeller heads controlling access to corporate data and systems. It has become a key tenant in evolving the customer experience and bridging product and technology teams to enable more frictionless access. This is allowing customers to consume services at speed, on their own terms, while enhancing overall security. While enabling this vision can be a challenge, organisations endeavour to continue to know more about you, your qualities, your behaviours and what defines your identity as a consume

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