Accelerated change is the new normal, and for businesses, the rate and scope is staggering, says Phil Allen, at Ping Identity. Not only are organisations dealing with quickly evolving technologies, they’re racing to keep up with shifting customer behaviours and the lightening-fast pace of industry disruptors.

To thrive in this environment, many industries are looking at innovative ways to invigorate their business models. Software companies are employing subscriptions, financial services companies are offering mobile payment options, healthcare organisations are building interactive customer portals, and retailers are placing more and more emphasis on ecommerce, all to drive digital customer engagement.

However, as varied as these business sectors and models may seem, there’s one thing that they all have in common. Driving digital engagement requires an architecture that puts customer identities at the center. While apps, web assets and connected devices are continuously evolving, along with privacy regulations and security practices, digital identity profiles are the one constant factor that enables every aspect of digital business.

For most organisations, this reality is creating a new wave of challenges and is forcing businesses to resolve the various data issues they’ve likely been wrestling with for a while.

Know your customer

Customer identity data trapped in disconnected systems across apps, geographic locations, departments and business segments creates internal inefficiencies and disjointed customer experiences. When it comes to moving forward with new business models, these problems are amplified. Data silos make it impossible to gain a single view of the customer, something that is key to understanding not only who your customer base are, but how best to connect with them. A unified customer identity is crucial to delivering a personalised, consistent experience across all channels and devices.

Data security

Securing the perimeter of a data center with a firewall used to be acceptable, but as many organisations are discovering, this is no longer enough, particularly to protect data in the context of these new digital business models. Data is now generated and used across a wide range of access points outside of the firewall. End-to-end security is a requirement to secure customer identities in this type of environment. Security must exist at the authentication layer, through features like contextual multi-factor authentication (MFA), password policies and other best practices. It must control customer access to applications and provide centralised session management and single logout at the application/API layer, and encrypt data in every state at the data layer. These capabilities are necessary to safeguard customers’ sensitive information.

Privacy compliance

Customers also expect organisations to be good stewards of their data. That means implementing centralised policies to comply with regional, industry, and corporate data regulations that enforce customer data-sharing consent preferences. Companies that are unable to do this may not only incur fines from privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), but also risk losing trust that can result in less engagement, and potentially, losing customers to competitors.

Access, authentication and authorisation

Each of these business models requires fail-proof ways to ensure that the right people have access to the right data, apps, systems and services. It’s also essential that this access is completely effortless for the customer, and of course, highly secure. Companies that can’t provide a convenient login experience that is consistent across all applications, and lack features like social login that boost conversion rates, are finding that their ability to launch and successfully maintain today’s business models is impeded.

According to Forrester, poor digital customer experiences are often due to poor customer identity and access management (CIAM) experiences. The good news is there are CIAM solutions that are purpose-built, to address the challenges that companies face as they adapt to digital business. They can offer a powerful combination of centralised data management, comprehensive data protection, single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, and secured web and mobile access.

Addressing these challenges head-on is the price of innovation, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Resolving customer data management and access issues enables organisations to pursue business models that will allow them to grow faster, offer better services, and increase the scale and magnitude of reach, often surpassing what you ever thought was possible.

Phil Allen, is the VP of EMEA, Ping Identity