What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?

Sheena Shrivastava
November 10, 2023


Identity and Access Management (IAM) is fundamental to enable the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons. The framework of policies, technologies, and processes within IAM systems manages the authentication, authorisation, and management of users' identities and their permissions to access various systems and data within an organisation. Moreover, by providing full access control, IAM ensures that organisations can demonstrate to auditors or governing bodies that corporate information isn’t being misused and that data can be made available on demand.


IAM is a comprehensive framework designed to manage and secure digital identities and their access to resources within an organisation's IT infrastructure. IAM encompasses strategies, policies, technologies, and processes to ensure that only authorised individuals can access specific systems, applications, and data, while also governing the permissions they have once inside.

IAM systems enhance security by reducing the risk of unauthorised access and data breaches. They streamline user management, allowing administrators to grant, modify, or revoke access efficiently, minimising human error. Additionally, IAM supports compliance efforts by enforcing data protection regulations and ensuring proper auditing and reporting of access activities.


By centralising identity management and access control, IAM systems enhance security, streamline user administration, reduce the risk of unauthorised access, and facilitate compliance with regulatory standards. IAM does this by implementing a series of processes for three key components:

  • Identification - establishing a unique digital identity for each user or entity and storing this information in an identity management database.
  • Authentication - validating the identity through methods like passwords, biometrics, or multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Authorisation - determining what resources and actions a validated user can access based on predefined roles, rules, or attributes.

Access management involves verifying that a user attempting to access a resource matches their identity and keeping track of which resources the user has permission to access. Authorisation is the process of granting the correct level of access once a user’s identity has been authenticated. Ultimately, the aim of an IAM system is to ensure that identification, authentication, and authorisation happen correctly and securely at every access attempt.


IAM plays a critical role in safeguarding sensitive data, mitigating security risks, and ensuring efficient operations. Firstly, IAM strengthens cybersecurity by enforcing strict control over who can access corporate resources on-premises and in the cloud. It prevents unauthorised users from infiltrating systems, reducing the risk of data breaches, intellectual property theft, and other cyberattacks. Secondly, IAM supports compliance with industry regulations by maintaining proper data access controls and generating audit trails. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties and damage to an organisation's reputation. IAM also simplifies user administration, allowing organisations to efficiently manage access rights, roles, and permissions across diverse systems. This reduces administrative overhead, ensures consistent access policies, and facilitates user provisioning and deprovisioning.


Identity and Access Management (IAM) offers a range of business benefits that contribute to enhanced security, streamlined operations, and improved user experiences:

  • Secure Access - by creating and enforcing centralised rules and access privileges via role-based access control (RBAC), IAM ensures the right users have access to the right resources.
  • Improved Productivity - by using single sign-on tools and creating unified user profiles, IAM enables users to easily and securely access resources across multiple channels without multiple logins. What’s more, IT teams spend less time helping users with passwords, unlocking accounts and monitoring access logs.
  • Greater Security - IAM technology reduces the risk of data breaches by adding extra layers of security to the login process that can’t be hacked or shared as easily as standard usernames or passwords. In addition, encryption tools help protect sensitive information when it's transmitted.
  • Streamlined Compliance - IAM solutions often come with built-in compliance features, helping organizations adhere to industry-specific regulations and data protection laws. This can save your business from legal hassles and potential fines.
  • Cost Efficiency - IAM automation reduces IT support and administrative overhead, enhancing operational efficiency and lowering long-term costs. It also prevents costly security incidents, safeguarding finances and reputation, making IAM a cost-effective solution.

By controlling user access to sensitive information, IAM safeguards proprietary data, customer information, and intellectual property while ensuring seamless collaboration between employees, vendors, contractors and suppliers.


Most businesses have several types of users with varying needs, such as employees, business partners and customers. When it comes to IAM, even if the same platform is used, each user group requires a different approach:

  • Workforce Identity - solutions facilitate user onboarding, access provisioning, authentication, and access control across a wide variety of applications. IAM streamlines employee management processes, enhances security by enforcing strong authentication, and supports efficient user lifecycle management.
  • Customer Identity - this type of IAM is used to control access to external applications and systems, often including features such as registration, social login, single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, and consent management. These systems enable businesses to offer seamless user experiences, gather insights about customer behaviour, and ensure compliance with data protection regulations by providing users control over their personal data.
  • Business-to-Business (B2B) Identity - these solutions are the most complex, aiming to streamline the process of granting secure access to external stakeholders and establishing trust between organisations' identity systems.

Each of these IAM categories addresses specific user groups and scenarios, ensuring the right balance between security, convenience, and efficient access management within the corresponding context.


IAM controls play a pivotal role in achieving regulatory compliance. The combination of pre-determined and real-time access control ensures that only authorised individuals can access sensitive data and resources while maintaining a comprehensive record of access activities. Measures such as RBAC, MFA, regular access reviews and audit trails, and robust password policies all work to support compliance. In this way, IAM controls not only fortify security but also provide the necessary documentation and transparency to meet compliance requirements, including HIPAA, NIST and more.

This proactive approach to identity and access management not only safeguards critical information but also helps organisations build trust with stakeholders by demonstrating their commitment to maintaining a secure and compliant digital environment. Ultimately, by enforcing strict access management, IAM controls foster a secure and compliant digital environment and ensure businesses can meet their regulatory, risk management and compliance mandates.


IAM plays a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information, maintaining regulatory compliance, and promoting efficient access control across an organisation's digital ecosystem.

To find out how IAM systems can help your organisation better comply with government regulations, contact the experts at Infotrust today.