It all started innocently enough. I’d had an enormously productive few weeks, checked everything off the urgent work list (don’t worry, there’s always more), and I thought to myself, “Self, you know you can get a jump on tomorrow’s to-do list. Why not start a blog post?” And then I stared at the screen. And stared. And stared some more.
So, as anyone does, I went to Facebook to search for inspiration (yes, I’m still on Facebook. It keeps my mother happy.) Of course, inspiration, in this case, means “to search for validation for ending the day a little early and pouring a glass of wine.” Within moments, however, a good friend said, “I dare you to write a post titled ‘This is your brain on identity.’
As with anyone of a certain age, the phrase “This is your brain on” autocompletes to “drugs” and brings to mind eggs in a frying pan. Given the last two years, as work-from-home mandates threw the importance of identity and access management into the limelight, this does not seem as wacky an analogy as it could be. The identity industry exploded, and our heads went with it.
According to Fortune Business Insights, “the identity and access management market is projected to grow from USD 13.41 billion in 2021 to USD 34.52 billion in 2028.” Why? Because almost every modern convenience in today’s world requires being online and logging into things. And logging into things means there has to be infrastructure to support everything from cryptographic security to account validation, privacy requirements, and so much more.
If you’re unfamiliar with digital identity, this probably sounds AWESOME! Talk about job security! It’s a growth market, even in a recession! What could possibly go wrong? Here’s where the analogy of the brain being like an egg in a hot frying pan comes in.
Another business analyst firm, Markets and Markets, has its own research on the identity and access market. One of the key points it calls out is that the industry “lacks identity standards and insufficient resources in terms of budget.” My translation of that statement is: “identity management practitioners are expected to do magic with wishes and pixie dust.” IDPro, a professional organization for identity practitioners, has run a skills survey every year since 2018. One of the findings that has always jumped out at me is just how long it takes an identity professional to feel proficient at what they do. Not expert, just proficient. The answer is 2-5 years. So, the industry as a whole has an insufficient level of standardization, is underfunded, and takes years to figure out. Ouch.
I’ve had this conversation before, and this is usually the point where people start to wail and gnash their teeth, crying, “we must make digital identity easier to manage for everyone!!!” I hear that, I really do. But let me ask you something: to get to the world of “easier,” what are you willing to give up? You can’t have a service or even an idea be everything to everyone and not have it be as complicated as the whole of humanity. You have to give up something. Maybe you’re willing to give up convenience to the individual to ensure they have all the privacy controls they could ever want. Or, conversely, maybe you’re willing to let privacy go in favor of just getting access to stuff. There are always trade-offs, and when talking about people’s online lives, those trade-offs keep identity professionals up at night.
Your brain is beautiful. Your brain on identity might need a bit of therapy.
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