Friday, 31 October 2014

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