Archive for ‘Digital Identity’

May 11, 2023

Where Digital Identity meets Total Enterprise Reinvention

Accenture’s Tech Vision 2023 “When Atoms meet Bits” paints a future that fuses the physical and digital, moving away from isolated digital experiences to realize a digital society that seamlessly converges the physical lives we’ve been leading with the digital ones we’ve been rapidly expanding, allowing integrated and personalized experiences that will change how we live our lives. To quote directly, “it provides insights to enable leaders and their organizations to act now to embrace technology and use the foundations of this new reality as a path towards reinvention.” In this post I want to talk about how digital identity, specifically decentralized identity, can help leaders realize a Total Enterprise Reinvention strategy that is future-proofed and ready to embrace this new reality.

Companies adopting Total Enterprise Reinvention exhibit six characteristics:

  • Reinvention is the strategy.
  • The digital core becomes a primary source of competitive advantage.
  • Reinvention goes beyond benchmarks, embracing the art of the possible.
  • Talent strategy and people impact are central to the Reinvention, not an afterthought.
  • Reinvention is boundaryless and breaks down organizational silos.
  • Reinvention is continuous.

Let’s unpack these characteristics through the lens of a future society that is powered by digital identity that is trusted, safe, secure, privacy-preserving, globally scalable, jurisdictionally compliant, and above all puts the person at the center and empowers them to be active participants in their digital future.

Reinvention is the strategy.

Our digital world is changing faster than we can keep track of, so we need a strategy that builds on the basic assumption that everything is changing. This doesn’t mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing until it stops, but rather that we actively execute on two tracks; one tactical, to deliver short-term value while proving out these emerging technologies and use cases, and the second strategic, to ensure that we are future-proofed and that are tactical efforts don’t back us into a corner. This gives us the best of both worlds – immediate value with longer-term upside potential. One of my early mentors once told me that there are only 3 things to ask yourself when introducing emerging tech to businesses – can you help them a) reduce cost, b) increase revenue, or c) mitigate risk. This has never been more relevant in the current business environment, and if you’ve got a technology that can ultimately help them do all three, then you’ve got a winning combination. This pragmatic approach is particularly well suited to decentralized identity, as the global community has already done the hard work to future proof us through development of open standards and open-source implementations. And while we don’t have a magic bullet – a single protocol that everyone on the planet will use (if such a thing ever existed) – it does give us a common approach to digital identity that is gaining broad adoption (expected to grow at a CAGR 89.1% over next 7 years) with a handful of protocols that are being designed for good interoperability.

The digital core becomes a primary source of competitive advantage.

If there was ever a digital core its digital identity. We take identity for granted in the physical world, where we can use colocation to verify the identity of a person, organization, or thing. However, in a digital world we don’t have these cues and must rely on other techniques to verify the identity of the person or organization with which we are communicating. This is one of the key challenges that the self-sovereign identity movement has aimed to solve. The other is to ensure that our future digital society is built on a data ecosystem that puts the person at the center and allows data to be shared in a way that protects individual privacy and, even more importantly, ensures that we can move around our digital worlds safely, with minimal risk of data theft, identity fraud, and other forms of exploitation. Now this is not an easy ask but is a critical one that we must not compromise for all our digital futures.

Being able to trust digital interactions is foundational to everything that makes a digital society work, and for any company planning to participate in this digital world, they will need to ensure that digital identity is their #1 digital core. And, I would argue, they need to ensure that it embraces the self-sovereign identity philosophy, architecture, and protocols.

Reinvention goes beyond benchmarks, embracing the art of the possible.

When we think about digital identity, we need to reimagine what it means and the role it’s going to play in a digital society. Digital identity will be used for much more than authenticating a username/password for access to a digital service. Verifiable credentials will allow you to reliably prove, in real-time, who you are (people or organizations). It will also allow you to exchange a variety of verifiable and trustworthy information about yourself, critical for the successful digitization of many services – from opening a bank account to getting a job to selling your product.

Talent strategy and people impact are central to the Reinvention, not an afterthought.

As the future of work evolves, and the worker evolves to capitalize on these transformation, it will become increasingly important that they are impowered with data that will allow them to more effectively navigate their career, where jobs will be more dynamic and rapidly changing, requiring a more fluid workforce, where skills will be the new currency, and AI will be a tool that needs to be effectively wielded by all. Workers will want to maximize the value of their education, work history, and other life experiences. Being able to capture these data points as verifiable credentials, opens a treasure trove of insight that employee and employer can leverage to realize the greatest value for all parties.

This is an exciting topic that I will cover in much more detail in a subsequent blog post.

Reinvention is boundaryless and breaks down organizational silos.

Now this is THE true value of decentralized identity and credentialing and one of the reasons I believe it’s the only answer for a truly digital society, where data needs to be able to move between silos. Today’s digital identity systems are mainly limited to access control use cases and are nearly all centralized, or at most federated. This is problematic for the obvious reason; we don’t live in silos. Take the worker scenario as an example. As you move through life – education, extracurricular, work, retirement – you should have access to your data across these silos, at least for the key events in your journey. This limitation in the access to, and flow of, data is detrimental to employee and employers who may hire them or schools that may educate them. There are numerous examples where these data silos are at best inconvenient (such as proving employment, credit history, … to open a bank account) and at worst fatal (such as having an accident while on vacation and needing immediate access to key health-related data). Carrying credentials in your digital wallet that hold data, or pointers to data, that can be trusted, verified, and used when needed, is at the heart of a digital society.

Reinvention is continuous.

As I mentioned at the start of the blog post, everything is changing, and we don’t have the luxury to do nothing while it stabilizes. What we do need to do is recognize that change is inevitable and mitigate the risk of doing nothing by taking an approach which is both tactical (pragmatic) and strategic. Don’t try to answer every question and boil the ocean trying to imagine every eventuality, otherwise you will suffer a bad dose of decision anxiety. Instead, decide in broad brush strokes where you want to go (your destination) and then take an iterative approach to getting there. Doing your best to future proof but recognizing that you are going to get some things wrong. Your appetite for risk will be critical to this approach – where some organizations are happy to risk getting some things wrong in order to be first to market.

In a subsequent blog post, I’m going to talk in some more detail about this approach to reinvention, specifically as it relates to this digital identity challenge.

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