When operating effectively, Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) is a solid cybersecurity foundation to build upon. It can help reduce the opportunity for data breaches, ensures you meet audit and compliance requirements, and enables your IT and IS teams to do powerful work. But when IGA gets out of control, your application landscape transforms into an environment ripe for malicious actors.

Whether you’re new to IGA or are looking for a different way to present the benefits to non-technical stakeholders, this article has everything you need to learn about the wide-reaching impact of Identity Governance and Administration.

What is Identity Governance and Administration (IGA)?

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) is a framework that encapsulates the policies, systems, and technologies organizations use to manage and secure resources and the identities that can access them. This includes: 

  • Identity lifecycle management 
  • Creating and managing identities 
  • Granting and revoking access rights, also known as provisioning and deprovisioning
  • Monitoring identity access to data and resources 
  • All policies related to identity and access management. 

Many organizations leverage homegrown or third-party Identity Governance tools to make IGA initiatives easier to implement and maintain. These solutions often include a centralized system for managing identities, access rights, and entitlements across the enterprise. They typically offer workflows and automation tools for approval processes for managing access requests, changes, and revocations. More robust tools will also have capabilities such as automated provisioning and de-provisioning, role-based access control (RBAC), and access certification. These features work in harmony to help information and cybersecurity professionals ensure that users have the appropriate level of access to resources at all times. 

Identity Governance tools make it easier to manage large numbers of identities; especially those that must adhere to regulatory requirements. IGA enables organizations to enforce cybersecurity policies, reduce risk, and improve the efficiency of access management processes. 

What about IAM, aren’t IGA and IAM the same thing? 

Not exactly. Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Identity Access Management (IAM) are distinct concepts that are often used together for a more comprehensive identity management strategy. While this is still a point of contention within the cybersecurity community, at Clarity we view IAM as a facet of your larger IGA framework. 

What are the key differences between Identity Governance and Access Management solutions? 

There are a few major differences between an Identity Governance and Administration tool and an Identity Access Management tool.  

  1. Scope
    • IAM helps to manage and control access to resources, such as applications, systems, and data. IGA manages the entire lifecycle of digital identities, from creation and provisioning to revocation and de-provisioning. If you’re new to this area of cybersecurity, it might help to think of IAM as the key used to unlock your house while IGA is your entire home security system. 
  2. Governance
    • An IAM tool is primarily concerned with enforcing access policies and managing access to resources. An Identity Governance tool is focused on governance and compliance. This includes managing regulatory compliance, ensuring access policies are enforced consistently, and auditing access to resources to detect and mitigate risks. While this is still a point of contention within the cybersecurity community, this key difference is why IAM is often categorized as a facet of a larger IGA framework. Because the majority of organizations are required to complete audits and adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements, this is why IGA tools are quickly replacing IAM solutions.
  3. Identity Lifecycle Management
    • Like governance, this is another area where we really start to see a contrast between IAM solutions and IGA solutions. IAM manages access to resources at a specific point in time. IGA manages all aspects of identity management, ensuring access policies are always enforced consistently and in compliance with regulations. 

While there is an overlap between the two concepts, they are distinct and often used together as part of a comprehensive identity management strategy. The unique challenges modern organizations are currently facing make some type of access management tool a necessary addition to your Tech stack. 

Why Should You Implement an Identity Governance Tool over an Access Management Tool? 

The introduction of SaaS offerings has significantly increased the size of the modern organization’s application landscape. This growth in attack surface introduces risk and vulnerabilities. As more organizations transition to a remote workforce, a strong case can be made for choosing an IGA tool, specifically. 

Here are just a few specific reasons why Enterprise organizations should implement an IGA tool instead of an IAM tool:

  • Improved security: IGA’s keen attention to identity lifecycle management and role-based access control (RBAC) help to reduce the risk of security incidents. IGA solutions ensure that access is granted, reviewed, and revoked in a timely manner which reduces the risk of insider threats (think malicious terminations). IGA solutions and platforms also provide greater visibility into who has access to what resources, which is very important during an audit.
  • Compliance: Many organizations are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate they implement strong identity and access management policies. IGA solutions help organizations achieve and maintain regulatory compliance (PCI, HIPAA, etc.) by ensuring that access policies are enforced consistently. A robust IGA tool should include built-in functionality for User Access Reviews or other forms of access certification. It should also provide some form of evidence collection that makes it easy to prove completeness and accuracy during audits.
  • Efficiency: Anyone who has provisioned or deprovisioned employee access manually will tell you what a nightmarish time suck it is. IGA solutions can help organizations streamline identity and access management processes by automating access requests, just-in-time provisioning, and deprovisioning. Implementing the right IGA tool can significantly decrease the workload for IT staff, enabling them to focus on higher-value tasks. It’s important to also remember that RBAC and Identity Lifecycle Management are practically impossible efforts without some type of automation or centralized tool in place. Your finely tuned role structure is ineffective the moment a joiner-mover-leaver event occurs that you’re unaware of.
  • Visibility: IGA solutions help you better manage access policies by providing a centralized view of every identity and entitlement across your enterprise. This includes managing roles and entitlements across different systems and applications, enforcing consistent access policies, and providing greater visibility into access requests and approvals. Some IGA solutions even allow you to identify multiple sources of truth or manage licenses and orphaned accounts.

If your organization wants to improve identity and access management policies then consider exploring several options. There are some robust IAM tools available, but they won’t have the all-encompassing impact of an IGA platform. Whether you build your own tool or purchase an off-the-shelf solution, the benefits of an IGA solution are endless. 

Does IGA Help An Organizations Bottom Line? 

The benefits of IGA are clear. You get them. We get them. The entire cybersecurity community gets them. However, it’s difficult to explain the benefits of robust cybersecurity policies to individuals, even C-Suite executives, who aren’t cybersecurity professionals themselves. Maybe it’s due to the fact that many people who aren’t technically inclined are easily overwhelmed by the jargon. Or maybe the mind of a cybersecurity professional is simply superior. Regardless, there’s one thing that resonates with any organization’s executive leadership team. 


Power BI Licenses are expensive. But do you know what’s even more expensive? 

  • Multi-million (or even billion) dollar fines due to data breaches or lack of compliance from poor access management hygiene
  • Being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange because of a material weakness discovered during an audit
  • Bleeding revenue due to loss of customers because of a data breach caused by a terminated employee who wasn’t deprovisioned immediately.

If that’s not enough to make ears perk up at your next board meeting, consider the fact that implementing an IGA solution can help to streamline identity and access management processes, which can result in cost savings from reduced IT staffing needs and increased employee productivity company-wide. Implementing an IGA solution can also provide greater visibility into access policies and entitlements across the enterprise, resulting in cost savings from reduced time and effort required for auditing and reporting. 

How Your Enterprise IGA Benefits Your Customers

We’ve covered the benefits IGA offers your IT and IS teams. We’ve also discussed the monetary and employee benefits of IGA. But have you also considered the benefit that your IGA tool provides your customers? 

  • Build Trust
    • Enterprise customers are becoming more and more aware of the security implications of working with a vendor. By implementing an IGA solution, you can help to ensure that access to customer data is granted, reviewed, and revoked in a timely and consistent manner, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. 
  • Serve Their Compliance Needs
    • Your customers may also be subject to regulatory requirements related to protecting their data. Because implementing an IGA solution can help your organization achieve and maintain compliance with these regulations, providing assurance to enterprise customers that their data is being handled in a secure and compliant manner. 
  • Customers Value Transparency
    • Modern enterprise customers want greater visibility into how their data is being accessed and used by the organization. Implementing an IGA solution can provide greater transparency and accountability, allowing you to better communicate how customer data is accessed and used.  
  • Assuage Their Concerns
    • As a cybersecurity professional, you more than most other professionals are acutely aware of the inherent risk of providing confidential data to a third-party organization. Your customers are also concerned with the risk of partnering with your organization (or at least their legal and cybersecurity teams are). An IGA solution can help to reduce this risk by ensuring that access to customer data is granted on a need-to-know basis and reviewed regularly. 
  • Better Serve Your Customers
    • Implementing an IGA solution can help improve service and product delivery, meaning happy, loyal customers who are willing to renew or increase their contracts. Because IGA tools improve the productivity of your organization’s employees this in turn results in better services, better products, and better customer relationships. 

IGA might not seem like a customer service tool on the surface, but the positive, widespread ripple effect that an IGA tool has on your organization results in a multitude of benefits for your customers. 

The Risks of Identity Governance Tools

We’ve waxed poetic about the benefits of IGA, from security outcomes to customer success. However, we should also take a moment to discuss the inherent risks associated with it as well. Whether you build an in-house solution or outsource this effort to a trusted vendor partner, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of IGA tools. 

  • IGA tools can quickly become overly complex 
    • Although these solutions are meant to simplify your IGA policies, not all tools are created equal. Certain IGA solutions are notorious for their complexity. While highly configurable solutions may be a win for large (think 10,000+ employee) organizations, these solutions can also be overly difficult to implement and manage. They may even require specific resources and expertise, such as an individual or team specifically hired to manage your IGA tool. This can result in delays, skyrocketing costs, and implementation challenges if not managed properly. 
  • There is such a thing as too much automation 
    • Automate. Automate. Automate. Everyone wants to automate everything. But reader beware; while automation can help to streamline identity and access management processes, over-reliance on automation can result in errors or gaps in said access management. It’s important to ensure that human oversight and review are still included in IGA processes to ensure that access is being managed correctly. 
  • Poor user adoption 
    • IGA solutions can be disruptive to end-users if not implemented properly, particularly if there are changes to access policies or entitlements. To avoid this pitfall, be sure to communicate with your end-users throughout the implementation process to ensure that they understand the changes and are prepared to work with the new system. Consider hosting an internal webinar or training or working with your IGA platform provider to provide training or documentation designed specifically for your organization’s unique end-user needs. 
  • Risks related to data privacy 
    • Because IGA tools need to connect to material applications like Active Directory and HR tools, they pose a high risk regarding employee and customer data privacy. If you’re looking into working with a vendor partner, ask if their tool ingests or retains any sensitive data such as employee social security numbers or bank information. We also recommend asking about specific security measures in place to reduce risk as a third-party vendor. 
  • Maintenance Overhead 
    • Remember, IGA solutions at their best are meant to simplify your processes and policies. But because these tools require ongoing maintenance to ensure that policies and entitlements remain up-to-date and consistent across the enterprise, this can require ongoing resources and expertise to manage effectively. If you do not have the resources available to dedicate significant time or personnel to maintenance, make sure that the tools you’re exploring are intuitive, easy to use, and don’t require specific subject matter expertise. 

Wrapping Things Up

We’ve covered a lot in this article. From the unique differences and benefits of IAM and IGA to the inherent risks and rewards of implementing an IGA platform for your organization. Here’s a quick roundup of everything you just read. 

  • IAM and IGA, although similar are not the same thing. IAM is commonly considered a facet of IGA. 
  • Because IGA focuses on larger policies and governance, it’s the better option for organizations that must adhere to regulatory requirements. 
  • An IGA solution can bring a range of benefits to an organization that can result in both direct and indirect cost savings over time. 
  • It’s important to be aware of the potential risks and to manage these risks effectively through proper planning, implementation, and ongoing management. 

Clarity Security is an easy-to-use identity governance platform that helps organizations reduce risk in real-time while saving time, money, and effort. 

  • Streamline app access requests by managing licenses, entitlements, and more all in one place.
  • Keep your organization safe by automatically removing access for high-risk or recently terminated employees.
  • Make sure users have the right level of access with an intelligent system that manages role-based access controls for you.
  • Easily create and share user access reports, fix access issues based on manager feedback, and much more.

Find out how Clarity Security helps teams eliminate confusion around Zero Trust by taking simple steps toward eliminating threats and non-compliance.