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Why Combining IAM and PIAM for Zero Trust is Critical Now?

Security breaches pose a wide range of threats and risks, resulting in a range of damaging outcomes. Therefore, all organizations must maintain strict control over who has access to their physical and cyber resources. It is more critical than ever for organizations to prioritize identity management and access control for logical as well as physical security operations to ensure the highest level of security for your most critical physical and logical assets.

Strong security starts with a sound identity management and governance policy framework. It validates the authenticity of the identification used to access highly privileged assets and helps prevent unauthorized access. It is a necessity for organizations to follow processes and practices that ensure the security of their physical and logical assets in order to minimize security breaches. However, as simple as it may sound, implementing these processes and practices manually can present several challenges.

Understanding the challenge

The major challenge in implementing the processes and practices that support your governance policies is caused by information and process silos. Physical and logical security as well as human resources systems are traditionally handled by separate teams. Physical security personnel are primarily responsible for controlling access to buildings and sensitive areas. IT security is exclusively responsible for managing access to the company's network, software resources, and confidential data. Further, HR is responsible for onboarding, verifying and authenticating identities, and independently conducting background checks. HR is also responsible for firing. Due to the lack of real-time collaboration with their Human Resources department, both the physical security and the logical security teams might not be able to perform their functions effectively and efficiently. The lack of integration of HR with IT and Physical Security at this level requires added manual processes that are prone to errors and fail to grant or revoke access privileges in a timely manner, effectively exposing the organization to the very types of risks and security breaches that identity management is expected to prevent.

Another key responsibility of physical security teams is to mitigate internal and external threats originating from inside or outside the enterprise. Similarly, on the logical, network, and cyber security fronts, IT departments have the added challenge of depending on HR to authenticate and verify user identities before providing access to networks and systems. Consequently, physical and IT security teams often repeat similar tasks and processes; contributing to an extremely inefficient operation, resulting in a greater risk of errors and exploitation of liability.

Additionally, organizations also must abide by corporate, industry, and government regulations and requirements, which are challenging to track and to comply with manually. In addition to investing time and resources, both your physical security and your logical security teams need to adhere to complex regulations to avoid financial penalties and negative effects on productivity. Compliance processes take time away from staff's primary responsibilities, which are to maintain the highest levels of security at the facility and across your IT infrastructures.

Finally, hybrid work has profoundly changed our office environment and security posture. People may work full-time but aren't needed at work every day. An employee may just show up at work 3 days a week or take a week off every few weeks. Due to this, 24x7 access to corporate offices, restricted areas, and assets and information they hold can pose a huge compliance and security risk. This calls for the implementation of least privilege physical access to reserved spaces with the help of a modern PIAM solution.

Today, many organizations deploy both identity and access management (IAM) and physical identity and access management (PIAM) solutions independently or in combination to manage and control employees, visitors, and other identities.

Difference between IAM and PIAM solutions

IAM solutions perform several functions related to logical identities, including: creating, managing and deleting identities independent of access and entitlements; authenticating users; provisioning role-based, online, on-demand, presence and location based services to users and devices; and conducting security compliance audits.

In contrast, the goal of a PIAM solution is to assure that the correct physical access is granted to the right person, at the designated time, and only for the authorized duration. It provides synchronized, policy-based, contextual access control to areas, systems, and processes by integrating with other operational systems.

Zero-Trust for Physical Security

Increasing numbers of organizations are adopting Zero-Trust strategies for logical access as it has proven to be the best security approach, and it is apparent that the same is true for physical access control.

In a Zero-Trust Physical Security approach, all users are assumed to have zero access to facilities, and all physical access events (card swipes) must be verified according to the person's role, risk score, security policies, safety procedures. In order to be truly effective, this approach must be applied to every type of identity, regardless of whether it is an employee, contractor, vendor or visitor.

For Zero-Trust Physical Security, a worker must be granted access to appropriate physical resources to accomplish their job during only the time they are approved to be in the workplace. Thus, physical access to those workers should be revoked when they are not in the office to maintain safety and security.

What is an advanced PIAM solution?

An advanced PIAM solution offers much more than just identity management. Beyond Zero-Trust Physical Security, it also facilitates self-service access requests and approvals, access control attestation and audits, visitor, contractor, and vendor identity and access management, asset management, and work-order management functions. In addition, it offers interactive maps, way-finding, booking of assets, meeting rooms, desks, and parking spaces, as well as mass notification and emergency mustering, all seamlessly integrated within a single workflow automation engine. An effective PIAM solution today will also be mobile-first and centered on an Employee Experience app - a mobile experience that enables employees to engage in all aspects of the evolving post-covid hybrid workplace with ease.

Why combine IAM and PIAM solutions?

Primarily PIAM and IAM solutions are both designed to accomplish very specific objectives related to very different areas of security, and they historically operate independently of one another with very limited interaction. In this sense, addressing the challenges discussed above will have to be done twice – separately for each system.

The two systems may share common terminology and functions such as allowing users to request access, conducting audits of access, and producing compliance reports, but each has only limited domain expertise beyond its core competencies. For instance, an IAM is capable of managing logins to logical and cyber systems, but it lacks domain knowledge of the badging process and access levels.

A single, boxed system approach to identity management is not only super expensive, it fails to achieve all security objectives, and on top results in an unsatisfactory end-user experience.

The convergence of these systems provides enormous benefits for IT and physical security managers, as well as the whole organization in general. PIAM adds valuable employee, visitor and contractor data. IAM enables logical access. By combining these two technologies, risk analysis, threat detection, and fraud prevention can be improved for all types of identities in the organization (i.e. employees, contractors, vendors, partners, users and visitors).

Integrating IAM and PIAM system also leads to significant cost savings. Converged security solutions reduce manual work by eliminating duplication of effort. This is evident in the use of background check information. This costly but necessary process verifies a person's identity and assesses whether they can be trusted with the necessary level of access to data and facilities. By gaining access to this essential information from an integrated HR system, an organization can reduce costs by more than half.

An integrated system not only makes it easy to correlate disparate sources of information for more efficient operations and risk mitigation, but it also makes it simpler to manage identity data centralized and authoritative for all employees, contractors and visitors. As a result of this convergence, various data sources can be combined to produce easy and uniform compliance reports.

Furthermore, the combination minimizes user training requirements and increases satisfaction because users can continue to use the systems they are already familiar with without learning new bespoke solutions.


In conclusion, the IAM and PIAM integration results in a quicker return on investment due to its cost-effectiveness, safety, and flexibility. A customized system is an expensive, time-consuming process that does not provide the same advanced capabilities as an integrated security workflow automation solution like CloudGate.

CloudGate is a security workflow automation platform that helps organizations implement Zero-Trust through its extensible Policy Automation and Enforcement engine integrating HR, IAM, PIAM, EH&S, Facility Management, LMS, ERP and other workflows within an organization. CloudGate allows organizations to eliminate redundancies, prevent errors, improve communication and collaboration across departments, gather and analyze data to accelerate audits, and strengthen physical, logical, and cyber security postures.

Book a 30-minute demo with our expert and discuss the use cases for your organization.

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