What is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM )?

MiniOrange Inc
4 min readJan 4, 2022


CIAM is a subset of IAM that focuses on managing user identities and controlling their access to apps and services. CIAM is a customer-facing use case of IAM and hence has some unique requirements in comparison to Typical (Internal) IAM.

In contrast to IAM, where user identities are often internal identities such as firm employees, in CIAM, user identities can be any external identity such as a customer, consumer, partner, or contractor. In other words, while IAM focuses on an inside solution (for employees), CIAM is a solution that focuses on the outside world (for external customers). Also, in a CIAM, users manage their own accounts and profiles. The CIAM Stores user data in a centralized cloud directory for maintaining customer profiles and data associated with it.

Misconception around CIAM

A widespread misconception about CIAM is that as the technology necessary for CIAM (Customers Identity and Access Management) is the same as that required for traditional IAM (Identity and Access Management), traditional IAM solutions can be extended to manage external customers too.

This approach underestimates the differences between employee and customer identity management, as well as the complexity of managing customer IDs for a company’s public-facing digital sites. Because CIAM has different — and considerably more difficult — criteria than workforce IAM, reusing workforce IAM solutions might be troublesome.


In terms of security, scalability, and high availability, CIAM and IAM are very similar. Both solutions match the above three objectives for a great user experience, however, CIAM goes above and beyond the typical IAM method in terms of user experience, personalization, and performance.

Why CIAM is important

Organizations have several classes of end-users like employees, customers, partners, etc. and each requires a different balance of security and user experience. For example, employees will be more tolerant towards poor user experience than the end-users.

When customers approach a brand, generally they expect two simple things:

  1. Great user experience — Users expect that brands will thrill by providing great user experience and functionalities.
  2. Protection from fraud — Users believe that the brand will protect them from fraud, breaches, and privacy violations on their platform (About 70% of users believe so).

High-volume brands often handle millions of customers' accounts simultaneously, and the customers expect zero friction. Hence an Identity solution deployed in such scenarios must be able to handle this load with little to no latency is needed.

If an identity management system gets sluggish or fails to handle the load, it hampers the user experience. Ironically, effective campaigns generally produce load peaks and increased consumer traffic, implying that a sluggish identity management system is actually working against purposeful and hard-won business efforts.

Dedicated CIAM solutions can help organizations overcome the limitation of typical IAM in the customer-facing applications and help an organization obtain maximum value from their customers and heavy in-coming volume by providing a means to enhance user experience and help organizations better understand their customers.

Key Features of CIAM

  • Cloud Hosting — Hosting of CIAM solutions on the cloud allows organizations to leverage it across different environments and devices. Also, loud hosted solutions are easier to upgrade and patch.
  • Platform-based functionalities — The platform combines multiple features and services into a single user experience that is simple to understand and use.
  • Strong authentication protocols like MFA, SSO, etc. enable the solution to detect identity theft and prevent dangerous bots from sending fake traffic to a website.
  • Scalability & Integration — Customer-facing apps see tens of thousands of users and the number keeps on growing as business scales, hence the solution should be able to adapt to new integrations and fast-growing user volume.
  • Support — Downtime in customer-facing applications can be disastrous for a company’s bottom line. As a result, features such as extensive documentation, well-organized FAQs, self-service, and 24-hour telephonic help are critical.
  • Interface customization allows for modifying and delivering a personalized and user-friendly experience to customers.

Benefits of CIAM

  • CIAMs are highly scalable and streamline the customer experience through simplified login.
  • It helps organizations understand their customers and their behavior to drive more revenue via online interaction.
  • Simplified user onboarding process allowing users to register by signing up or using social registration.
  • Cost reduction for the organization through centralized Identity management for customers
  • Allows organizations to deliver a personalized and conversion-friendly website experience to users.
  • Provides critical transparency and the ability for end-users to control, erase, and export/transport their own personal data, hence enforcing trust in the brand/organization.
  • Single sign-on and identity federation for users.
  • Enables users to manage their own identities


Although CIAM and IAM solutions share the same building blocks, the traditional IAM solutions cannot be extended to replace/act in place of a CIAM solution. The unique requirement of a client-facing application needs a flexible and scalable Identity and Access Management solution that requires a dedicated solution built on top of IAM features.

By exploiting identification data to gain and retain consumers, CIAM generates revenue growth. CIAM systems are intended to supply, authenticate, authorize, collect, and store consumer information from a variety of sources.



MiniOrange Inc

miniOrange Single Sign-On (SSO) & Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solution for more than 5000+ pre-integrated applications