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Your CIAM choice: To build or to buy (Part 1)

Customer data -- consumers' digital identities -- are the heart of each brand's digital transformation and the driving force behind future innovation. With heightened public awareness and new regulations, the value of customer data and the need to manage this data in a transparent and secure manner are greater than ever.

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions allow businesses to recognize their customers across every single one of their touchpoints including mobile, web and social media. In addition, they are central to registering and authenticating users, capturing consumer data and empowering personalized customer experiences. Managing and centralizing these diverse processes -- and scaling that solution to support millions or billions of unique but universal customer identities -- is a complex challenges that all brands face. In mapping and implementing a digital identity strategy, companies have a basic choice: to build their own CIAM technology or to buy a platform from a vendor dedicated to CIAM.

In our eBook, Build vs. Buy - A Guide for Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM), we detail the considerations, pros, and cons of each approach. In this series of posts, we will touch on key topics from the eBook, beginning this week with the key business considerations of identity management and how they factor in to your decision to build or buy.

Customer Identity is the Foundation of Digital Transformation

At the most basic level, the ability to register and authenticate users is a prerequisite for eCommerce and any transactional application. Registration and authentication are also core processes for managing access to content, data and services. Building these processes in a siloed environment is fairly straightforward; building them in a way that supports multiple authentication options -- including login using Facebook, Twitter and other social media -- allows single sign-on across multiple apps and web properties, and scales to support hundreds of millions of identities is much more complex.

Equally, customer identity data is required for any type of personalized user experience to occur, from personalized email marketing to dynamic content delivery. Identity data is the fuel for an elevated customer experience; simply put, the better you know your customers, their preferences and the histories, the more able your brand is to deliver meaningful experiences.

CIAM is Integral to Customer Experience

There are so many different factors that determine the overall quality of the brand experience, and even getting one aspect wrong could undermine the entire operation. Brands can't take anything for granted, and should assume that any point of friction in the customer journey will result in lost business.

It all starts with the registration process. When users go to create a brand account or set up a mobile app, registration needs to be quick and effortless. Bombarding users with web form after web form to fill out could turn them away before they activate an account. Features like social login streamline theses processes and remove barriers to registration.

The customer experience goes beyond user interface concerns. Digital platforms must be fast, stable and reliable. Excessive downtime breeds distrust, and today's digital-native users won't stand for a mobile app or website with slow load times or frequent performance problems.

Simply put, if your authentication system does not have exceptional -- and documented -- uptime or is not designed to manage steep fluctuations in session volume, you will create a barrier to engagement from which you may not recover. Business will stall and revenue could be negatively impacted. Simultaneously, your support team will see a spike in help requests and your brand may suffer from negative comments in review forums and social media.

How Identity Platform Scalability Fuels Innovation

Customer experience best practices look very different today than they did just five or 10 years ago. Who would have guessed in 2008 that social media would become so important to customer engagement? The best CIAM platforms enable businesses to execute the most advanced and elaborate customer experience and engagement strategies, while also remaining flexible enough to evolve over time.

The digital world moves fast, and what's status quo today may quickly become a quaint afterthought tomorrow. Conversely, fringe technologies and platforms could rule the roost in the coming years. When it comes to omnichannel, you can't take any chances on which touch points matter most to customers, because they're likely to change in short order.

Your customer identity management solution needs to support whatever priorities develop, including the fast go-to-market of new apps, expansion into new global markets and support of identity for connected (IoT) devices. Having a strong identity solution as your foundation enables your brand to explore new marketing, service and product options with confidence.

Consumer Identity: Compliance, Privacy & Security

Customer identity data sets are well-documented targets of bad actors. New security threats and system vulnerabilities emerge every year -- strong security practices are needed to keep cybercriminals at bay. Demonstrating adherence to the best possible security and privacy standards is an important part of building the trust that customers require to share their data.

In addition, the development of new consumer privacy standards are changing the requirements brands must meet in managing personally identifiable information. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the latest set of guidelines companies must contend with, but it certainly won't be the last. Any brand with a global footprint must account for and address all associated compliance demands, especially when handling consumers' personal information.

As a central repository of customer data, your customer identity and access management platform will need to go through numerous changes and upgrades to account for new threats and compliance requirements. Whether such tasks are better left to a third-party CIAM provider or an internal team is up to each individual company.

This is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to addressing the question of "Should my company purchase a CIAM platform or build our own?" Stay tuned for the next installment in these series, where we'll dive even deeper into the most important considerations to make when implementing a CIAM solution.