UK businesses use identity and access management (IAM) mainly for cloud and collaboration rather than security.
Security is an element, but UK businesses recognise that IAM as vital for business innovation and growth, according to a survey by analyst firm Quocirca of more than 300 IT and business professionals in eight European countries.
IAM systems are increasingly being seen as the bridge between users and applications, either inside or outside the firewall, the survey report said.
“Identity is the new perimeter in an organisation,” said Colin Bannister, vice-president and CTO at CA Technologies UK and Ireland, which commissioned the survey.
“The survey clearly shows that IAM has moved from being a security tool to become a business enabler,” he said.
IAM strategy can help organisations create new online revenue streams, increase customer satisfaction and drive business innovation and growth.
“This is true if the tools are installed on-premise, accessed on-demand or the two are brought together in a hybrid mode, which is becoming increasingly popular,” said Bannister.
According to the survey, authenticating and understanding users is critical to business success among UK organisations, with 65% of those polled opening up applications to partners and consumers.
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The main reason is to transact directly with these external users online, according to 54% of UK respondents, on par with other European countries but below the 72% figure for companies in Scandinavia.
This is followed by improved customer experience, more integrated supply chains, increasing business with existing customers, and attracting new customers.
Advanced IAM enables efficient transactions and access to required resources, while maintaining appropriate levels of security and compliance, said Bob Tarzey, analyst and director at Quocirca.
Some 80% of UK organisations said IAM is essential to achieving certain business goals, the highest level in Europe and 14% above the average.
The survey showed the second reason for the growing importance of IAM is the increased use of cloud services, with 97% of European organisations that are enthusiastic about cloud services using IAM, compared with only 26% of organisations that are still avoiding using cloud services as much as possible.
Tarzey said the proportion of the IT budget spent on IAM and security among companies that are enthusiastic about cloud is higher than those who are not.
“There is a much higher level of attention to security and IAM among those companies that want to enable the use of cloud services,” he said.
UK organisations lag behind European counterparts with only 48% recognising the value of IAM cloud services, 20% below the average, but Tarzey ascribes this in part to the UK’s long-standing investment in on-premise systems. Some 46% of UK organisations have on-premise IAM systems, the highest in Europe.
Of those UK organisations that do recognise the benefits of IAM as a service, 53% point to lower management costs, 47% cite ease of integrating external users and 33% say it makes it easier to create new business processes.
The third main reason UK businesses are seeing a return on investing in IAM is the growing use of social media as a key source of identity, the survey found.
The study shows that 35% of UK respondents use social media to identify and communicate with potential customers, 1% about the European average and higher than all other countries in the survey, except Scandinavia and the Benelux countries.
Tarzey points out that even the UK government is evaluating Facebook as part of its Identity Assurance (IDA) programme. “In future, Facebook or Google identities may even become the basis for customer access in online baking,” he said.
This has led to the emergence of the concept of “bring your own ID” in UK organisations, said Tarzey, which may extend beyond consumers to employees.
This concept, he said, may eventually see employees taking their identities with them from one job to another in much the same way as they take their smartphones and other mobile devices.
“Already, some IAM cloud services have pre-configured links to many social media sites enabling easy integration into business processes and the growing use of ‘bring your own ID’,” said Tarzey.
The survey shows that the business potential of social media is great, with 57% of UK organisations saying they use or plan to use social media to improve customer retention.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said that a key goal for the use of social media tools is to profile potential customers.
However, Tarzey points out that the use of social media sites as a source of identity can be enabled only through IAM tools that are sophisticated enough to support multiple identity sources.
There is so much more to IAM than improved security, he said.
“It offers businesses an open-ended business opportunity and potentially large return on investment, and digital identities enable organisations to understand who their users are, effectively control their interactions with the outside world, and maximise staff and organisational potential,” said Tarzey.