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Industry voices on IAM: Richard Padley, Semantico

Jon BentleyBy Jon Bentley
Category - Blog

Wednesday 16th November 2016

In the latest of our series of interviews with publishers and vendors, we talk with Richard Padley, chairman of Semantico, about the key issues in identity and access management facing our industry.

Please note: opinions expressed are the individual’s own, and may not reflect those of Semantico or OpenAthens.

What has been your recent focus in terms of technological development, and where are your efforts focused for the near future?

We’re in the business of using technology to help our customers innovate. I’d say our areas of focus are developing content delivery services as SAAS (software as a service) for multiple customers, leveraging the strengths of cloud hosting / scalability; and providing identity and access management as a service that talks to the content delivery part of a system and also allows publishers to keep customer data in one place, powering many different sites off the back of this information.
Our third area of focus is analytics, to help publishers and institutions understand how content is being used, and by which user groups.

Where do you feel the current technological demands lie within the industry?

The analytics we use as an industry have some issues. They don’t provide reporting at the level of detail many libraries or publishers would like – the way that things are recorded can be pretty ambiguous. At the same time, publishers and institutions alike want something that’s more interoperable with the various systems they use.
Another opportunity exists around being able to scale up some of the business models that publishers want to experiment with. It’s expensive to build the software to handle a new type of licence for a product (for example, the ‘free clicks’ model that many newspaper websites work on), so naturally they want to use it across as many of their products as possible – but it may need to be redeveloped to work with all the various sites and back-end systems that a publisher uses. The way SAMS Sigma works, we can build in a new model and all our customers can make use of it.

And what do you feel are the biggest challenges around identity and access management for the future?

There are some identity providers in the business-to-consumer space that we’ve seen large publishers getting involved with. On the surface, these systems look good – but they don’t extend to our business well, as they lack the institutional and consortia relationship information that’s key to a research-based environment. Institutions play a critical role in terms of purchasing content, and modelling that complex relationship is something that those systems don’t do – one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

However, this is indicative of a growing understanding that publishers need to focus more strongly on the concept of individual ‘identities’ – the profile of unique identifiers such as ORCID have helped emphasise this. Our industry has the tendency to wrap content delivery and identity management up together as a publishing platform, which is an inflexible approach. In the same vein, there’s a confusion around Single Sign-On that needs clarification. A lot of vendors have confused the term by using it to refer to the act of using the same password in multiple places, whereas ‘true’ SSO is where an individual logs into one service and is then transparently recognised across a number of related services. That’s what we believe is a more faithful definition of SSO – but the publishing industry as a whole doesn’t use this.

The final big challenge is a lack of forums for discussion, and this is probably due to where we as an industry are on the technology maturity curve: lots of publishers struggle to have the technological development strength and knowledge in-house, perhaps due to a historical lack of strong CIO / CTO roles. This means publishers’ approach to technology is often piecemeal, and there’s little sharing of expertise across the industry – there’s an urgent need to fix this.

Check out the other interviews in the series here:

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