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Achieving digital-first success with identity management

(Image credit: Image Credit: Dom J / Pexels)

The current global pandemic has had a major impact on businesses across the globe. From shifting employees towards remote working practices to adjusting processes to match new customer needs, organizations are having to reconsider existing approaches and adapt them in order to survive.

If businesses are to succeed, they will need to futureproof their operations through digital offerings. Adopting digital processes can enhance operations across the company and ensure business continuity during times of uncertainty.  Ultimately, transitioning towards digital-first could be a make or break step for many organizations. 

As they take the leap towards digital transformation, decision makers across the board will need to consider three crucial areas: improving overall efficiency while lowering costs; securing existing revenue and securing future income; and ensuring that remote operations can run smoothly and securely, no matter the location. 

But where should business leaders begin on their journey towards digital-first? Identity management is a key first step.

Boosting efficiency while reducing costs

Matching financial goals is proving to be a main challenge for businesses currently, and therefore it’s vital that they protect revenue in other ways. For example, both cutting back on costs and optimizing efficiency and productivity will have a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.

Newly remote businesses are also facing challenges when it comes to manual, admin heavy tasks and support desks. By driving forward in their digital transformation journey, companies can accelerate the adoption of automation. For example, by automating workflows, organizations can reduce time taken on manual processes and improve cost efficiencies.

User experience: the key to both securing existing revenue and gaining new customers

Another fundamental focus area is user experience – especially for businesses looking to accelerate their position in the market while transforming their digital offerings.

The number of businesses offering remote, digital services is growing exponentially and, as a result, customer expectations are on the rise. They now expect applications and online services to be streamlined, smooth running and secure, with easy access to services. And if an application’s user experience doesn’t meet these requirements, customers can simply turn to a competitor to find what they need.

At the end of the day, businesses need to both engage existing customers and draw new ones if they’re to survive – and to do so, seamless user experiences will be crucial.

Optimizing security for remote operations

Covid-19 instantly flipped the business world on its head – companies had to shift to remote working almost overnight if they were to keep moving forwards. From global, enterprise-wide operations to small, internal tasks, all processes must now function digitally. As well as impacting the operations of all parties involved – from employees and customers to partners and suppliers – this has also brought a number of new security questions to light.

When working from an office, a centralized workforce Identity and Access Management (IAM) system is used to manage employee identities across the business. However, with employees now working from home, they are having to access company servers from remote locations. Office security and physical IT help desks are no longer accessible, and organizations are having to permit employee access rights to confidential resources via the public Internet.   

What’s more, cyberattacks are rising as more and more employees work remotely. For example, a new report from McAfee revealed that cyberattacks on enterprise cloud services increased by 630 percent between January and April 2020. Vulnerabilities are also being left exposed as organizations reassign cybersecurity staff to help in other business areas – 47 percent of security staff have been deployed to help with IT tasks during the pandemic.

With physical interactions now off limits, all customer demands must be fulfilled via digital functions. There has been a surge in new account openings across industries, while many are re-accessing old, unused accounts. Users therefore have to reset old login details – each of which opens another window of opportunity for cybercriminals.

In order for supply chains to continue operating, partners and suppliers must be able to access services from a distance. This likewise poses security threats, and supply chains must be sure to maintain security vigilance as they adopt digital-first methods.

Becoming identity-centric

With most offices still closed and businesses shifting to remote operations, internal employees are now accessing servers in a similar way to external users. As a result, many existing IAM systems are now unable to sufficiently support the required identity management capabilities. When considering the current, and likely ongoing, overlap between internal and external identities, businesses are having to adapt identity management practices, with many leveraging the benefits of Customer IAM (CIAM) solutions.

CIAM offers many functions, each with its own advantages for digital-first, identity-centric organizations. Single Sign-On (SSO) is a key CIAM capability, configured for external users, which now includes both customer and remote employees. SSO unifies log in credentials across connected systems, meaning that users can access multiple services using a singular digital identity. Security risks are therefore reduced as users only need to manage one set of credentials, plus the cost of credential resets and support desk management are lowered.  

Another effective CIAM capability is user-friendly Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Allowing users to verify their identity using various factors – such as an existing identity provider (like a bank, social, or enterprise identity), passwordless login via mobile phone or fingerprint - MFA makes the identity management process more secure for enterprises, and when implemented well can actually improve the user experience for the customer. With a layered approach to identity security, attackers have more hurdles to face when attempting to access sensitive data.

CIAM solutions have built-in, self-service identity management, decreasing the need for manual workflows. This can in turn help in reducing OPEX costs, while also boosting efficiency and ROI. CIAM can also support the digital delegation of authority to third parties, assisting businesses as they shift away from face-to-face interactions.

Achieving digital success

By implementing digital identity solutions, such as CIAM tools, businesses can strive towards becoming digital to the core. Digital-first organizations will not only optimize efficiency, enhance security measures and protect revenue, they will also gain a competitive edge in the current, uncertain market.

Ultimately, becoming a digital-first organization will both support businesses as they navigate the global pandemic, as well as set them up for success in the long-term.

Simon Wood, CEO, Ubisecure