Before System for Cross-domain Identity Management (SCIM) started gaining wider adoption, there were many more vastly complex means of managing user identities. Many of these regulations, often custom-APIs, still exist and have difficulty operating with existing protocols and systems—all at the literal expense of an organization.  

Developers created SCIM to simplify this process, making it an open standard for identity provider cloud-based integration. In essence, SCIM provisioning allows companies to manage user identities in the cloud efficiently and easily add or remove users within their enterprise—benefitting budgets, reducing risk, and streamlining workflows. It also facilitates communication between cloud-based applications, standardizing the connection between the identity provider (user data platform/directory) and service providers (the application to access, e.g., SaaS vendor). 

How Does it Work?  

SCIM provisioning works with existing web model standards making it easy to implement. As a REST API, the SCIM provisioning specification operates using HTTP request methods (e.g., GET, POST, DELETE, etc.) within a given programming language to manage user data throughout the identity lifecycle.  

After building out your company’s SCIM endpoints (core identity resources, i.e., /Users and /Groups), administrators will encode user identity data items (e.g., username, address, etc.). These are SCIM objects that operate within a common core schema to exchange with cloud applications and domains. In this SCIM environment, identity providers and service providers can constantly communicate despite barriers such as organization-imposed firewalls, making SCIM provisioning the ideal protocol for seamless integration.  

Benefits of SCIM Provisioning 

As an open standards-based solution, one of the foremost benefits of SCIM provisioning is standardization. With accessibility and interoperability built-in, SCIM solves identity maintenance challenges—like record tracking, manual onboarding and offboarding, or poor partner-partner communication—and facilitate secure identity data exchange. 

SCIM also effectively centralizes identity, keeping data in sync between the identity provider and service providers. And, when it comes to operational costs, this synchronization alone is a huge benefit. With SCIM provisioning, administrators can create process automation for provisioning and deprovisioning users. Doing so allows for efficient onboarding processes as well as for updating user-profiles and permissions during their employment. As all partner apps are synchronized, when administrators remove users from the directory, they are simultaneously deleted from all SCIM-based applications—creating offboarding consistency and significantly reducing the risk of corporate data breaches post-user departure.  

In terms of individual user benefit, SCIM provisioning supports Single-Sign On (SSO), allowing users to access their permitted suite of applications by logging in once during a session, using one set of credentials. It makes everyday tasks more user-friendly while reducing vulnerabilities like forgotten or repeated passwords. When considering the combination of these benefits, SCIM provisioning is particularly attractive for growing organizations—especially when considering scalability. 

Final Thoughts 

SCIM provisioning is an invaluable asset for every organization seeking efficiency and security—and is the direction in which our industry is moving. Find out how implementing SCIM provisioning in your Identity and Access Management solution can specifically benefit your organization.  

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