• December 1, 2013
  • By R "Ray" Wang, founder, chairman, and principal analyst, Constellation Research

Why the Battle for Identity Will Affect Customer Experience

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Identity can mean many things. Traditional definitions for the identity and access management professional have revolved around standards for authentication, access, authorization, and management. While there are certain standards that address the technical side, the rise of consumer and enterprise social networks has spawned a consumer identity that reflects a digital ubiquity of the individual. Facebook, Google, and Twitter dominate most social log-ins. Users expect their identity to be transportable from personal to work environments. These implications carry over to customer experience.

A limitation exists between personal and work worlds. The facets of identity remain isolated not only by our digital and analog presence, but also by our inability to deliver context across our worlds. This separates our personal life from our work life and creates artificial barriers by role, relationship, and other factors. For example, corporate security standards rarely mesh with personal identity standards. In fact, few standards exist.

Identity plays a multifaceted role. The customer experience implications of identity touch on commerce, work lives, personal lives, and engagement with each other. Without a more comprehensive view of identity, organizations and individuals will continue to undermine its role in the context of customer experience.

Constellation sees seven points in the future of identity. We call it the identity manifesto.

1. B2B and B2C are dead. In a connected enterprise and networked consumer world, B2B and B2C go away. The difference between B2B and B2C is just the context surrounding one's identity. People-to-people networks will shift how individuals interact, engage, and participate. These networks allow a person's identity to carry over between business, consumer, and personal worlds. Add massive endpoint proliferation with devices, networks, and people, and a new world of machine-to-machine and Internet of Things interactions emerges.

2. Customers want identity the way they want it. Traditional identity and access management objectives assume a level of structure in how identity is provisioned to an individual. Yet users are random, their use cases even more so. Most people don't care about identity until they have been denied it. Most hope to use one identity out of convenience. Astute experts hope to keep their identities separate for privacy's sake. The challenge is making identity seamless across contexts, yet user-controlled.

3. Businesses want identity to be seamless, situational, and self-governed. Technologists want identity to be secure, standards-based, and scalable. An organization's success requires that the identerati shift the balance from geek to chic. Why? If the security and IT side wins, there will be no business. Should the business side win, IT and security will become unmanageable.

4. Context will drive future use cases. Today's classic identity use cases focus on interoperability, integration, and standardization. New use cases require a multidisciplinary approach. Key is the ability to deliver context by role, relationships, topics, location, time, sentiment, and intent. These drive relevancy of information and enable mass personalization.

5. Disruptive business depends on identity. New business models emerge. The loyalty card becomes the ID. A social log-in opens up buildings. New customer experience models are created.

6. Privacy isn't dead. A world of seamless identity should not equate to a world without privacy. Where does the world of privacy begin and end? How much information are individuals willing to share in exchange for convenient services? While merchants promise not to do anything creepy, individuals don't want to trust their identity to a stranger and hope they do the right thing. Privacy is up to society to shape and define, not social networking companies.

7. New players are battling to orchestrate, manage, and own your identity. There's a battle for identity. Organizations from all industries, business models, and geographies seek to serve as individuals' trust agents and brokers. Financial services, governments, hardware companies, social networks, software vendors, commerce vendors, and telecom companies will rush to battle for your identity.

As individuals and organizations face a convergence of identity, trust is the currency. Transparency is the requirement. The reputation economy foreshadows a world of authentic commerce or business for the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and peer-to-peer exchanges. However, this world will require a trust-but-verify approach, because perfect transparency is impossible.

Ray Wang is the principal analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, a research and advisory firm focused on disruptive technologies.

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