Skip to main content
IAM vs. CIAM CIAM Buyer's Guide Contact Us
Janrain respects your privacy and will treat the personal data you choose to share with us in accordance with our privacy policy.

Blog Series: The Limitations of Employee Identity and Access Management Solutions

By Jamie Beckland | Posted on September 01, 2016

Blog Banner

To create personalized engagements and gain loyal customers, businesses are looking to Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) platforms, which is a break from traditional Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions. IAM wasn’t designed to scale, flex, align with customer expectations, meet privacy concerns, nor comply with multiple third party privacy policies and government regulations.


While IAM platforms allow for the management of employee identities, access privileges, and the storage and maintenance of employee data, they lack the sophistication needed for customer data.

Customers have different behaviors and needs than employees and expect more control over their data. Today, customers believe they should not need to talk to anyone to provision, edit or manage their own account details. When it comes to your customers, IAM platforms just don’t cut it. Here’s why:


The sheer number of customers would crash an IAM platform. While you may have hundreds of thousands of employees, it’s likely you have tens or hundreds of millions of customers. Imagine if a substantial portion of a customer base attempted to log in at the same time to access a compelling offer. What’s more is several IAM solutions are on-premise, whereas a truly scalable CIAM solution will be in the cloud. A burst of one million visitors onto an IAM platform built to log in up to 10,000 employees at a time would likely crash the system, preventing employees from accessing business-critical systems and customers from accessing your site. Far from accommodating new business challenges, IAM platforms puts both business challenges at greater risk.


IAM can’t handle the changing landscape of customer data. Employee data lives in the employer’s IAM system and maybe a few partner databases. But customer data must be moved across databases in order to make the customer experience better.

Without proper security and certifications, this could pit you against company policy and even national regulations. Unlike IAM, CIAM platforms offer the ability to sync and integrate user data based on source, destination, provenance, rights and permissions.

Big Data

Big data is too rich for IAM because it wasn’t designed to unify a customer’s data that has been collected across multiple channels. Customers register through any number of channels and devices, multiplying the difficulty of keeping track of their data.

Customers also can have several different profiles with large brands and the data must be able to move between databases, demanding a much more structured and flexible architecture.


Customer Expectations

Privacy and Control

Customers expect that their personal data will remain private, even when they choose to share some of it with a brand. It’s beyond the capabilities of an IAM platform to ensure that each marketing campaign uses customer data according to their evolving preferences.

There are also national laws to consider. If United States laws on storing and managing customer data differ from the United Kingdom’s, your platform must comply with each region’s laws and keep up with changes. It’s important to recognize that companies have potential customers in every country.

Additional Features

Features such as single sign-on, social login and scoped access are not naturally built in to IAM platforms. Customers will engage more with a brand that gives them the best experience from account registration to customer support. IAM platforms do not create this seamless experience.



CIAM platforms are better equipped to handle data across varied laws and countries.

Managing customer identities and access, from a smooth registration process to valuable customer insights, requires a true CIAM solution.

IAM isn’t up to the task of managing and sharing user data with partners. Employee data is only shared with a handful of databases. But with customers, the situation becomes more complicated.
Go here to learn more about the limitations of IAM platforms and how to choose a CIAM platform that’s right for you.

Popular Posts

About the author

Jamie Beckland

Jamie Beckland

VP of Product

Jamie has been delivering custom web solutions for more than 10 years, and built his first social media community in 2004. Prior to Janrain, Jamie led the emerging media practice at White Horse, and has worked as a marketer and technologist with clients including Coca-Cola, Financial Times, Samsung, Wells Fargo, L’Occitane, The Brooking Institution, and many others. He frequently speaks about technology trends and writes for Mashable, Social Media Examiner, iMediaConnection, AdAge, and other publications.

View all posts by Jamie Beckland