Every one of us, whether a security professional or not, is also a part-time online customer or a subscriber of digital services. Providing personal information to a service organisation, to a social media platform or a retailer is a deliberate act. This will be even more the case with the upcoming GDPR being in full effect soon. Ideally the disclosure of potentially sensitive information should always lead to a win-win-situation with both directly involved parties, the customer and the provider of services benefiting from information provided by the end user.
So organisations need to make sure that managing customer information needs to be performed at an utmost level of diligence to the benefit of both the customer and the organisation. That means that the customer identity is to be put into the centre of all processes. And organisations need to understand that there are more sources available within (and outside of) the organisation, where information about a single customer is available, providing social, behavioural, interest, transactional and much more data, including historical data. Combining and consolidating this data into a single unified customer profile while maintaining scalability, security and compliance is most probably one of the essential challenges organisations will have to solve in the future.
Customers interacting with a service provider or any other internet-facing organisation typically start with eight registration process, either from scratch by creating a new account or by reusing and complementing existing 3rd party account information, e.g. from social logins. From that moment on they are interacting with the system and thus they implicitly provide a constant flow of information through their behaviour. But Customer Identity and Access Management strategically goes far beyond that. Information about a single specific customer might already be available in the enterprise CRM system, providing in-depth insight into former interactions, e.g. with helpdesk. Previous purchases or subscriptions will be documented in their respective systems and more information might be available in the enterprise IAM system (especially when the organisation needs to understand, that a customer is also an employee) or the corporate ERP system.
These types of information and valuable when it comes to understanding customer identity as a whole. The actual task of retrieving and leveraging this information should not be underestimated: in many organisations these different systems are usually run by different teams and different parts of the organisation and this often leads to so-called information silos. Getting to a unified customer profile necessarily requires breaking up the barriers between those organisational and technical silos. Cross-organisational and cross-functional teams are typically required to consolidate the information already available within a single enterprise. Aligning different sources of information and different semantics resulting from different business purposes to get to a meaningful pool of consumer profiles requires expertise from various teams.
After having done their“homework”(by exploiting their already existing knowledge about each customer identity), many organisations are also looking into integrating information available from third parties, which means data sources outside of the organisation. Potential sources are manifold: they range from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many others, including regional and special interest social media services) and the reuse of profile data (including likes, recommendations, comments) to sources of commercial marketing data, and from existing sources for Open Data to credit rating organisations.
When it comes to comparing effort and benefit, it becomes obvious, that greedily collecting each and every information available cannot be effective. Identifying the right set of information for the right business purpose is one of the major challenges. Having the right information available for the end user to improve his user experience and for the organisation to support decision-making processes has to be the key objective. Nevertheless, the definition of an adequate set of “right” information is a moving target that needs to be adjusted during the life time of a customer identity and the underlying CIAM system.
However, it must be made sure that the reuse of all the above mentioned information is only possible, when the owner of this data, i.e. the customer, has agreed to this processing of the information for additional purposes. User consent is key, when it comes to recombining and analysing existing information.