17 Jun, 2022 | 3 min read


  • Nishath Kareem
  • Senior Marketing Officer - Content - WSO2

Photo by Christina Morillo

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. 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 Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) system or an Enterprise Identity and Access Management (EIAM) system.

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)

As the name depicts, CIAM systems are designed to manage 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 your customer base as well as retain existing customers. A great user experience and protection from fraud, breaches, and other privacy violations are prerequisites in any CIAM platform.

Enterprise Identity and Access Management (EIAM)

EIAM systems are designed to manage internal identities such as employees. This goes broader than traditional IAM since it focuses on an employee’s 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 legal requirements and ensure trust and availability of data.

Features in IAM systems 

The major differences between these two platforms are due to the demand for different use cases by external and internal users. We will now go over how the following features are demanded by CIAM and EIAM systems. 

User experience

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

However, in CIAM systems, a good user experience (UX) is required in order to be successful. The UX should be intuitive so that the customer is happy and stays with the service provider. If the UX is not good, customers will move to another service provider, which impacts revenue.


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

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


There is a huge difference between the scalability needs for CIAM and EIAM systems. A customer base is always larger and has a faster growth rate compared to an employee base. Customer solutions can have millions of users, but the number of employees will be nowhere near that number, even if it’s for large-scale companies. Therefore, CIAM systems should be more scalable than EIAM systems.

Ability to generate revenue

EIAM systems are not intended to generate revenue, but they do help to reduce operational costs.

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 customers to their services.

Identity verification

Usually, in EIAM systems, employees are onboarded to the system through company registration, facilitated by their HR teams. However, in most cases, customers access these systems via self-registration. Therefore, registration is a crucial aspect of CIAM systems. They should support social login, provide customizable registration forms and ensure consistency. This helps to attract more customers, and as a result, increases revenue.

Identity management

In EIAM systems, the number of users is less, and there is very little fluctuation in the number of users. Therefore, managing employee identities in organizations is usually done by the HR team and takes up considerably less time.

However, the number of customers in a system can rapidly grow, making it difficult to handle their 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 their company, including their access management and privileges. Employees trust the possession of their data with their HR team. However, EIAM systems should be secure enough to prevent access by external users to their internal systems.

In CIAM, the users should be able to manage, delete and export their personal data, ensuring trust with the service provider. Further, CIAM systems help to comply with regulations such as GDPR to protect from fraud, breaches, and privacy violations.


In summary, the technology behind CIAM and EIAM is similar, but the functionality and the use cases of these two are very different. This comparison table summarizes the differences between CIAM and EIAM systems.

If this sounds interesting, we encourage you to try out the early adopter version of Asgardeo, an identity as a service (IDaaS) solution that enables developers without security expertise to easily embed customer identity and access management (CIAM) features into their apps within minutes.

You can also follow us on Twitter or join the IAM4Devs community. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an enterprise-grade, API-driven, open source solution that can manage millions of user identities without spiraling costs, please check out WSO2 Identity Server.