Explore our platform and learn how it can help your application shine.
Learn about modern authentication techniques and best practices.
Understand multi-tenancy, a foundation of shared computing.
Learn to manage user accounts and access at scale.
Learn how to design and build successful SaaS applications.
Understand what is required to provide an enterprise-ready product.
Understand the uses and benefits of Attribute-Based Access Control.
Learn how Single Sign On (SSO) can improve security and UX.
Learn about OpenID Connect, an open authentication protocol.
Learn about SAML, a popular SSO protocol.
Learn about our history, our team, and our mission.
Let’s talk about user management. In simple terms, generic user management is a method to create, delete and manage users in your application. It contains the handling of accounts, permissions, and access within an organization or system as well as all the processes around it. It also includes the creating, modifying, deleting, and controlling access to user accounts, assigning user roles and managing user data and security.
In this article, I am going to discuss the history of user management, when it was started and how it changed over the years. I’ll focus on modern user management, which is mainly centered around business applications (B2B).
User management has been a well known practice since the early days of computer systems and networks. Back in the day, it was all about allowing users to login to on-prem installable apps, usually through OS user access controls, like LDAP and AD.
As more and more systems were developed to support organizational operations and transactions, the need to manage both the access to these systems and the user accounts became increasingly important. Therefore, the exact start of user management is difficult to determine, but it has been a fundamental aspect of information technology for several decades.
In the early 2000s, during the mobile boom, user management morphed to be all around allowing users to login to mobile applications and other types of consumer products. This period is characterized by the rapid growth and widespread adoption of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This boom continued to shape the technology landscape, as well as the way people communicate, access information, and conduct business, for the following years. The mobile boom has led to the development of new industries, such as mobile app development and mobile commerce, and has also impacted traditional industries, such as media, advertising, and retail.
The mobile boom was accompanied by another revolution: the rise of social media. Together, these revolutionary developments had a major impact on user management, when the main buzzword was social logins, which means the ability to login into any kind of an app using a social account.
Still, most of those changes occurred in B2C. How is B2B user management different?
As opposed to having independent users in a product, for B2B use cases users belong to organizations. Some of them will even belong to several organizations and will have different roles in each. Not just that, but B2B user management also places a greater emphasis on security, as access to sensitive business data is at stake.
Now let’s imagine your clients are different organizations that provide multiple services to their clients. For example, a cyber security company called IBN. Each one of IBN’s customers are organizations and will have their own settings ranging from basic account details to custom roles. Adding to this complexity, some of your customers like IBN Will then ask to perform actions independently which will require you to add self-service capabilities, and managed from within your product’s admin panel. Sounds like a lot, right? that’s not all.
Handling B2B user management also involves supporting advanced enterprise features, such as SSO, audit logs, roles and permissions control, and more. Each one of the above can fill in a 2000-word article of its own, but that’s a lot of words so let’s briefly discuss each of them.
From a developer’s point of view, SSO is when an application (a service provider) relies on a third-party trusted application, known as an identity provider, to authenticate users. It works on the basis of a relationship of trust between the two parties in which the identity provider takes care of all authentication for the service provider and only passes on information the service provider needs. From a user’s point of view, SSO allows a user to log into a single application, and then automatically log in to any other app that uses the same identity provider for authentication – hence the name “SSO or “Single Sign On”.
SSO plays a main role in today’s B2B user management, since logging in with SSO is much more secure as companies only need to maintain a single identity base. Thus, many companies request SSO capabilities as the main, and sometimes the only way to allow their users to log in.
B2B companies use audit logs to track everything happening within their organization. An audit log, also known as an “audit trail”, is defined as a security-relevant chronological record. It provides documented evidence of the sequence of activities that have occurred in an app – be it a specific operation, procedure, or event. The concept is simple: when a change is applied to a system that correlates with a change in the system’s behavior, that change should be documented in an audit log.
This is a highly important capability to any B2B SaaS company since many stakeholders use activity tracking internally to gain critical insights. With Audit logs, you can gain visibility to ensure adherence to the system, access procedures, and improve the product.
A major security and control concept relates to the fact that we shouldn’t allow users to do anything more (or less) than is required in order to perform their jobs. Too many permissions can leave room for a big security vulnerability should a user get hacked. Too few permissions means users can’t do their jobs in the way they need to. The solution is to provide roles and permissions with granularity – create the specific permissions you need a user to have instead of broad general roles. As an example, think of the “Grant Access” request on a Google Drive document. If Google can do it, so can you with your user management platform.
With that, we have to remember that user management in B2B has many things to learn from the B2C space. B2C user management is traditionally focused on providing a seamless and personalized user experience, while B2B user management is more focused on providing secure access to business-critical data and resources. The fact of the matter is that even in B2B, there are end users who require a personal experience as well – it can’t just be about the admins and the security. Users should have a smooth and seamless B2B user management experience as well.
Frontegg enables powerful B2B user management with all the capabilities your customers will need, right from your products. We help B2B SaaS companies around the globe to grow faster and more efficiently by providing them with the most advanced user management infrastructure.
Frontegg’s platform is multi-tenant by design, supporting every use case: starting with modern authentication flows going all the way to the most advanced user and account management capabilities, such as granular access control, custom security policies, and more. Try us for free now.