Online-ification: The Role of Identity

The Wikipedia entry for Digital Transformation, "refers to the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society".  That is a pretty broad statement.

An increased digital presence however, is being felt across all lines of both public and private sector initiatives, reaching everything from being able to pay your car tax on line, through to being able to order a taxi based on your current location.  This increased focus on the 'online-ification' of services and content, drives a need for a loosely coupled and strong view of an individual or thing based digital identity.

Digital Theme I - Physical to Digital

The classic digital transformation approach that many organisations are going through, generally focusses on the structural change of delivering an on line service that was previously sold in a more face to face manner.  Insurance is a simple example.  20 years ago (or even less..) brokers were common place - high street independents that provided advice and guidance on purchasing insurance for a range of common scenarios, from cars and homes, to health.  Roll forward to 2014, and you can get aggregated quotes in minutes, simply by going through an exchange of personal information with a website.

Whilst this requires greater decision making on consumer side - being able analyse and consume complex information - the ability to reach more customers in a quicker manner, is now a standard mantra for many CEO's.

The main driver of course, is competitive advantage.  If you are not providing your service on line, somebody else will.  This results in rapidly evolving web sites, delivery platforms and profile management solutions, that take only months if not weeks to implement.  Speed and agility are key here.

Digital Theme II - Increasing Self Service

From a cost perspective, getting existing customers into the mindset of self-service is a game changer.  Less reliance on call centre staff, branches and again narrowing the field of vision when it comes to face to face communication.  The interaction with a physical person brings not only cost, but friction, when it comes to executing simple information exchange transactions.  If the service or piece of information being exchanged can be commoditized, or at least treated in a repeatable manner, self-service is a no-brainer.  The most simple example, is password reset or being able to update a users own profile or details.  But this again requires strong identity verification and authorization processes to be successful.

Digital Theme III - Introducing New Services

Whilst themes I and II are more focused on existing customers - and ultimately keeping them happy and being "sticky" towards your organisation, service or good, the introduction of new services is often about expanding and looking for entirely new users and customers. Of course, cross selling and up selling something new into your existing customer base is key, but attracting new users is the "rain making" mantra of sales VP's up and down the land - Net New Business.  Attracting new customers is one thing, getting to sign up to a new service is something entirely different.  There needs to simple and transparent registration processes - perhaps reusing identity attributes from social media providers for example - but providing enough of a carrot, so that the user is happy to exchange their contact and user details in order to either buy or consume a service from you.

Identity at the Core

Throughout the above themes, identity is front and central.  Existing customers need to be set up, transferred or reconciled, in order to have a digital presence.  They require notifications, training, and login credentials, so they can access goods and services to at least the same level as they did when a face to face or physical transaction took place.  Just think of that for a second - 'to at least the same level as they did when a face to face or physical transaction took place'.  That is a big statement.  An on line service that is replacing something physical, cannot be any worse!  It will certainly be different, but it must be at least on parity and hopefully an improvement on the previous ways of working.

There also needs to be effective methods of not only registering a user, but allowing a relatively seamless and transparent method of logging in - single sign on, contextual based login, perhaps taking a device finger print - as well as the reuse of existing identity attributes and passwords through the "bring your own identity" concept.

Identity is core, but it is also often taken for granted.  Security aspects need to be simple and robust - the use of things like one time passwords, not only increase the secure theatre, but should also help reduce risk.

So whilst digital is everywhere, having a strong focus on identity management will help not only fulfil the promise of delivering existing content in a new medium, but help to attract new users and consumers to your organisation.

By Simon Moffatt

Online-ification: The Role of Identity

The Wikipedia entry for Digital Transformation, "refers to the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society".  That is a pretty broad statement.

An increased digital presence however, is being felt across all lines of both public and private sector initiatives, reaching everything from being able to pay your car tax on line, through to being able to order a taxi based on your current location.  This increased focus on the 'online-ification' of services and content, drives a need for a loosely coupled and strong view of an individual or thing based digital identity.

Digital Theme I - Physical to Digital

The classic digital transformation approach that many organisations are going through, generally focusses on the structural change of delivering an on line service that was previously sold in a more face to face manner.  Insurance is a simple example.  20 years ago (or even less..) brokers were common place - high street independents that provided advice and guidance on purchasing insurance for a range of common scenarios, from cars and homes, to health.  Roll forward to 2014, and you can get aggregated quotes in minutes, simply by going through an exchange of personal information with a website.

Whilst this requires greater decision making on consumer side - being able analyse and consume complex information - the ability to reach more customers in a quicker manner, is now a standard mantra for many CEO's.

The main driver of course, is competitive advantage.  If you are not providing your service on line, somebody else will.  This results in rapidly evolving web sites, delivery platforms and profile management solutions, that take only months if not weeks to implement.  Speed and agility are key here.

Digital Theme II - Increasing Self Service

From a cost perspective, getting existing customers into the mindset of self-service is a game changer.  Less reliance on call centre staff, branches and again narrowing the field of vision when it comes to face to face communication.  The interaction with a physical person brings not only cost, but friction, when it comes to executing simple information exchange transactions.  If the service or piece of information being exchanged can be commoditized, or at least treated in a repeatable manner, self-service is a no-brainer.  The most simple example, is password reset or being able to update a users own profile or details.  But this again requires strong identity verification and authorization processes to be successful.

Digital Theme III - Introducing New Services

Whilst themes I and II are more focused on existing customers - and ultimately keeping them happy and being "sticky" towards your organisation, service or good, the introduction of new services is often about expanding and looking for entirely new users and customers. Of course, cross selling and up selling something new into your existing customer base is key, but attracting new users is the "rain making" mantra of sales VP's up and down the land - Net New Business.  Attracting new customers is one thing, getting to sign up to a new service is something entirely different.  There needs to simple and transparent registration processes - perhaps reusing identity attributes from social media providers for example - but providing enough of a carrot, so that the user is happy to exchange their contact and user details in order to either buy or consume a service from you.

Identity at the Core

Throughout the above themes, identity is front and central.  Existing customers need to be set up, transferred or reconciled, in order to have a digital presence.  They require notifications, training, and login credentials, so they can access goods and services to at least the same level as they did when a face to face or physical transaction took place.  Just think of that for a second - 'to at least the same level as they did when a face to face or physical transaction took place'.  That is a big statement.  An on line service that is replacing something physical, cannot be any worse!  It will certainly be different, but it must be at least on parity and hopefully an improvement on the previous ways of working.

There also needs to be effective methods of not only registering a user, but allowing a relatively seamless and transparent method of logging in - single sign on, contextual based login, perhaps taking a device finger print - as well as the reuse of existing identity attributes and passwords through the "bring your own identity" concept.

Identity is core, but it is also often taken for granted.  Security aspects need to be simple and robust - the use of things like one time passwords, not only increase the secure theatre, but should also help reduce risk.

So whilst digital is everywhere, having a strong focus on identity management will help not only fulfil the promise of delivering existing content in a new medium, but help to attract new users and consumers to your organisation.

By Simon Moffatt

5 Steps To Protecting Customer Identities

Bringing customers closer to an organization's services and applications is a key part of many Chief Digital Officers' (CDO) online strategy.  Organizations that have previously never provided their products and services online - I'm thinking traditional insurance providers, pension providers and other financial services - are now in a place where digitization of customer purchased assets is critical to future business success.

The main priority of the CDO is often to deliver new or improved online services quickly, to allow for market opportunities to be fulfilled.  Their primary concern is not necessarily focused on security, or privacy requirements.  Historically, these functions have been seen as inhibitive to user convenience, or a slowing factor in the software development cycle and are often applied retrospectively via audit and penetration testing.

So what main steps are important to securing customer identities?


1 - Identify & Register


Customers need a mechanism to register and identify themselves before they can access your online services, assets or applications.  This is generally done using a mixture of self-service, call centre and manual registration.  Unique usernames - if not using email address based identification - need to be upheld, as well as the ability to gather other personal attributes such as contact information.  This can be gathered using existing social network accounts using standards such as OAuth2 or OpenID Connect.

2 - Verify, Correlate & Store


If using self-registration, a mechanism needs to be in place to verify that the end user is who they say they are.  This becomes vitally important when dealing with financial assets, policies and so on.  Verification can occur using several methods including correlation of attribute values such as account numbers, ZIP codes and other personal information, back to an internally managed authoritative store.  The use of two-factor verification processes is also common here.  The issuance of verification codes, to either a registered email address, or more securely to a pre-registered physical mailing address, are two options.  The customer identity then needs storing in a globally available, highly scalable directory.  Depending on business requirements existing customers may well be in the hundreds of thousands, whilst potential customers could well be in the 10's of millions. This sort of scale needs to be considered.  The storage of password and other sensitive data also needs to be considered, with a wide use of hashing and salting algorithms put in place.  The algorithms and their implementation should also be done using existing frameworks and be not homegrown.


3 - Context Over Risk


Risk is of course subjective, but methods must be in place to help identify risk and apply the necessary steps to reduce business exposure to things like fake accounts, incorrect access, redundant accounts and so on.  Applying the same rules to all users, only goes to migrate the risk and not identify it.  The use of things like two factor authentication for previously unknown devices for example, is a simple way to tie down previously trusted machines.  The use of device signature printing and user risk scoring based on the time they log in, from which network and which authentication source, goes along way to help provide identity assurance levels.  A user logging in from an unknown device using a social network account, may have a lower assurance level for example, than a fully registered user using your customer directory.

4 - Give Them What They Want - But Not More Than They Need


Bringing customers closer to your brand, service or assets, not only makes good business sense (opportunities for up and cross selling), but also provides the customer with the information they want. Each customer is unique and will require access to their personal policy data, account information, purchases, unique history and service choices.  That information needs to delivered effectively across multiple device types, without the worry of cross pollination of information, or risk of misaligned access.  Provide the customer with the information and services they need, either based on what they have purchased or what you want them to purchase.  This can be done via conditional policies, enforcement points and continual resource access checking.

5 - Be Adaptive


Most digital strategies are based on agile development and rapid go to market approaches. Taking 9-12 months to implement an online service, is often too slow for that to be effective in keeping and gaining new customers.  Generation Y users (not to mention Digital Natives) require mobile ready content that is not inhibited by poorly constructed security and registration processes. The ability to rapidly build out new applications and services on top of the existing customer security platform is key in being able to drive revenue and keep customers close.  The security platform should allow for loosely coupled interfaces, often based on things like REST, that can allow for the integration of key identify and access management services, without inhibiting the agile develop of the key business services.

By Simon Moffatt

[1] Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/854540

5 Steps To Protecting Customer Identities

Bringing customers closer to an organization's services and applications is a key part of many Chief Digital Officers' (CDO) online strategy.  Organizations that have previously never provided their products and services online - I'm thinking traditional insurance providers, pension providers and other financial services - are now in a place where digitization of customer purchased assets is critical to future business success.

The main priority of the CDO is often to deliver new or improved online services quickly, to allow for market opportunities to be fulfilled.  Their primary concern is not necessarily focused on security, or privacy requirements.  Historically, these functions have been seen as inhibitive to user convenience, or a slowing factor in the software development cycle and are often applied retrospectively via audit and penetration testing.

So what main steps are important to securing customer identities?


1 - Identify & Register


Customers need a mechanism to register and identify themselves before they can access your online services, assets or applications.  This is generally done using a mixture of self-service, call centre and manual registration.  Unique usernames - if not using email address based identification - need to be upheld, as well as the ability to gather other personal attributes such as contact information.  This can be gathered using existing social network accounts using standards such as OAuth2 or OpenID Connect.

2 - Verify, Correlate & Store


If using self-registration, a mechanism needs to be in place to verify that the end user is who they say they are.  This becomes vitally important when dealing with financial assets, policies and so on.  Verification can occur using several methods including correlation of attribute values such as account numbers, ZIP codes and other personal information, back to an internally managed authoritative store.  The use of two-factor verification processes is also common here.  The issuance of verification codes, to either a registered email address, or more securely to a pre-registered physical mailing address, are two options.  The customer identity then needs storing in a globally available, highly scalable directory.  Depending on business requirements existing customers may well be in the hundreds of thousands, whilst potential customers could well be in the 10's of millions. This sort of scale needs to be considered.  The storage of password and other sensitive data also needs to be considered, with a wide use of hashing and salting algorithms put in place.  The algorithms and their implementation should also be done using existing frameworks and be not homegrown.


3 - Context Over Risk


Risk is of course subjective, but methods must be in place to help identify risk and apply the necessary steps to reduce business exposure to things like fake accounts, incorrect access, redundant accounts and so on.  Applying the same rules to all users, only goes to migrate the risk and not identify it.  The use of things like two factor authentication for previously unknown devices for example, is a simple way to tie down previously trusted machines.  The use of device signature printing and user risk scoring based on the time they log in, from which network and which authentication source, goes along way to help provide identity assurance levels.  A user logging in from an unknown device using a social network account, may have a lower assurance level for example, than a fully registered user using your customer directory.

4 - Give Them What They Want - But Not More Than They Need


Bringing customers closer to your brand, service or assets, not only makes good business sense (opportunities for up and cross selling), but also provides the customer with the information they want. Each customer is unique and will require access to their personal policy data, account information, purchases, unique history and service choices.  That information needs to delivered effectively across multiple device types, without the worry of cross pollination of information, or risk of misaligned access.  Provide the customer with the information and services they need, either based on what they have purchased or what you want them to purchase.  This can be done via conditional policies, enforcement points and continual resource access checking.

5 - Be Adaptive


Most digital strategies are based on agile development and rapid go to market approaches. Taking 9-12 months to implement an online service, is often too slow for that to be effective in keeping and gaining new customers.  Generation Y users (not to mention Digital Natives) require mobile ready content that is not inhibited by poorly constructed security and registration processes. The ability to rapidly build out new applications and services on top of the existing customer security platform is key in being able to drive revenue and keep customers close.  The security platform should allow for loosely coupled interfaces, often based on things like REST, that can allow for the integration of key identify and access management services, without inhibiting the agile develop of the key business services.

By Simon Moffatt

[1] Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/854540