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Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a framework of processes, policies and tools which defines and manages digital identities and their access privileges to applications and services. It should be capable of storing identity data securely, and should share only necessary and relevant data. These IAM systems can be deployed on premises, provided as a cloud based subscription model or as a hybrid model.

Depending on the type of digital identities that are managed, the system can be either a CIAM system or an EIAM system.

CIAM (Customer identity and Access Management)

As the name depicts, CIAM systems are designed to manage the external users such as customers and partners. These systems should be capable of continuously improving the user journey through each digital channel. It should provide fast, secure and flexible authentication, so that it will gradually increase the customer base while retaining the existing customers. A great user experience and protection from fraud, breaches and privacy violations are prerequisites in a CIAM platform.

EIAM (Enterprise Identity and Access Management)

EIAM systems are designed to manage the internal identities like employees. This is broader than traditional IAM since it focuses on employees’ entire period of work with the organization. These systems should be able to control what an employee can perform within a corporate network. It should ensure that external users cannot access internal resources and services. Moreover, access should only be provided to the users with required privileges. EIAM systems should comply with the legal requirements and ensure trust and availability of data.

The major differences between these two platforms are due to the demand of different use cases by external and internal users. The following facts will describe how each aspect is demanded by CIAM and EIAM systems.

User Experience

In EIAM systems, we need a certain level of user experience, but it’s not critical as in CIAM systems. This is because employees receive a training on how to use applications which are usually provided by their employers.

However, in CIAM systems, user experience is one of the critical factors that should be considered in order to be successful. The UX should be intuitive so that the customer feels happy and stays with the service provider. If the UX is not good, customers will move to another service provider which takes away revenue.


CIAM systems should have enough flexibility to keep up-to-date with latest customer trends. The systems should be capable of doing quick changes through configurations instead of full code changes. This will keep the services competitive among the other vendors.

In contrast, EIAM systems do not require frequent updates, they can be made over long time periods. It’s not necessary to keep them updated with latest trends and technologies.


There is a huge difference between the scalability needs for CIAM and EIAM systems. Customer base is always larger and growing faster compared to employee base. The customer solutions can have millions of users. But usually the number of employees will not be near to that number even for large scale companies. Therefore, CIAM systems should be more scalable than EIAM systems.

Generate revenue

EIAM systems are not intended to generate revenue, but it will help to reduce operational cost.

In contrast, CIAM systems are intended to generate revenue by providing digital services and reducing support and administration costs. A good CIAM system can even create new revenue opportunities and attract more and more customers to their services.

Identity Verification

Usually in EIAM systems, employees are onboarded to the system through company registration, which is done by the HR. However, in most of the times, customers access the systems via self-registration. Therefore, registration is a pivotal point in CIAM systems. They should support social login, provide customized registration forms which align with the brand and ensure the consistency across all the apps. This helps to attract more customers which increases the revenue.

Identity Management

In EIAM systems, there is a lower number of users and the fluctuation of the number of users is very less. Therefore, managing employee identities in organizations is usually done by the HR team and it will take considerably less time.

However, the number of customers in a system is rapidly growing and the number can be even millions. Therefore, it will not be easy to handle the identities effectively in CIAM systems. Hence, it’s vital to provide the capability for the CIAM users to manage their own identities and credentials.

Privacy, Security and Trust

Generally, employee identities are owned by the HR team of the company including access management and privileges, and employees have trust on their data with the HR team. However, EIAM systems should be secure enough to prevent access by external users to the internal systems.

In CIAM, the users should have the ability to manage, delete and export their personal data which ensures trust on the service provider. Further, CIAM systems help to maintain regulations such as GDPR to protect from fraud, breaches and privacy violations.


In summary, the technology behind the CIAM and EIAM is similar, but the functionality and the use cases of these two are different. Following comparison table summarizes the facts on CIAM and EIAM.

Hope this blog helped to get an understanding on CIAM and EIAM, and their use cases. Let’s meet again with another article. Happy reading!



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Rashmini Naranpanawa

Rashmini Naranpanawa

Software Engineer @WSO2 | Graduate @Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Moratuwa