Identity Governance
Erin Geiger, Director of Content at Lumos

Identity Governance vs Identity Management

Join us as we untangle the jargon of IAM and IGA and learn about these important cybersecurity concepts.

Identity Governance and Identity Management—is there really a difference? Turns out, yes, there is. However, you won’t often find one without the other. This dynamic duo is essential for keeping your digital ecosystem safe and secure. One plots the strategy (IAM) and the other leaps into action (IGA).

Understanding how these two powerhouses work, both separately and together, is key to safeguarding your data and making sure you stay compliant with regulation. Grab your coffee, and let’s unravel this quagmire of acronyms—we’ll take a look at how each of these frameworks plays a pivotal role in the fight against cyber threats.

What Is IAM and IGA?

IAM and IGA stand for identity and access management and identity governance and administration, respectively. Both of these concepts are critical components of cybersecurity strategies, particularly for large organizations tasked with managing user access to resources and sensitive information.

Without implementing IAM and IGA frameworks, significant risks and challenges arise. To name just a few, by neglecting these standards, you could be faced with:

  • Increased security risks from unauthorized access, data breaches, or insider threats.
  • Potential compliance violations of regulations like GDPR or HIPAA, leading to hefty fines and legal consequences
  • Lack of visibility and audit trails with no way to know who accessed what data or when it happened.
  • Reduced user experience for both IT teams and employees as access processes become cumbersome, repetitive, and highly manual.

Identity and Access Management: A Brief Overview

What are the concepts of identity management? The core concept of identity and access management (IAM) is simple: allowing the right person the right level of access at the right time. This overarching concept involves the processes, technologies, and policies used to control access to systems, applications, and data within an organization. Identity management solutions help ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the appropriate resources, reducing the risk of data breaches and malicious activity.

Identity Governance and Administration: A Brief Overview

Identity governance and administration (IGA) builds upon the IAM concepts by adding governance capabilities to the management of identities and access rights. IGA solutions help organizations enforce policies, ensure compliance with regulations, and manage the lifecycle of user accounts and entitlements.

A common question is: what is an identity governance and administration strategy? An IGA strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how your organization will govern, manage, and administer identities and access rights effectively. Key components of an IGA strategy include:

  • Policy definition where the principles, rules, and standards for how you will grant/modify/revoke access is clearly laid out.
  • Role-based access control (RBAC) where each role is based on job responsibility, simplifying access management.
  • Identity lifecycle management with clear workflows and automations for user provisioning, deprovisioning, role changes, and access requests.
  • Technology implementation, including the selection and implementation of the appropriate system to support IGA processes.
  • Training and awareness to educate employees, administrators, and stakeholders about the importance of IGA (and IAM) and make sure users understand access policies, follow best practices, and report any access-related issues or concerns.

What Is the Difference: Identity Governance and Administration vs Identity and Access Management

When looking at IAM and IGA, it’s easy to get confused. However, there are differences in the function, extent, and purpose of Identity and Access Management and Identity Governance and Administration. Gartner states that “IGA differs from IAM in that it allows organizations to not only define and enforce IAM policy, but also connect IAM functions to meet audit and compliance requirements.” Essentially, IAM is focused on controlling user access, while IGA is focused on carrying out and enforcing policies and procedures.

To help understand the difference between these two frameworks better, let’s take a quick look at a few identity governance vs identity management examples.

What Is an Example of Identity Management?

Imagine a large SaaS company with around 200 employees. Their tech stack sits around 85-100 different apps, with employees using some or all of them to perform their job duties effectively. When a new employee, Emily, joins the marketing team as a project manager, the identity management process begins. Emily is given a unique user ID and access privileges are assigned to her. She is granted access to the email system, marketing database, CRM, and the project management software.
As Emily continues with the company, she’ll inevitably have changes to her role. As she moves up through the ranks to become a Senior Project Manager, her access needs will shift—and her permissions will have to be adjusted accordingly. When she leaves the company, all access needs to be promptly revoked to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.

All of this falls within the realm of Identity and Access Management—ensuring that Emily has the right access to the right resources at the right time through her entire employment lifecycle, from onboarding to offboarding.

What Is an Example of Identity Governance?

Revisiting the same example, let’s look at how Identity Governance and Administration would affect Emily. This framework is all about oversight mechanisms to govern the management of identities and access rights effectively.
When Emily goes through onboarding, IGA policies kick in. Because the company is using a comprehensive IGA solution like Lumos, the IT team simply has to assign her login credentials the right role—instead of having to manually select each applicable app and what level of access is applicable. There is already a defined set of permissions for a marketing team project manager, making it simple to get her onboarded. And, because the SaaS company has effective IGA procedures, every role is well-defined, regularly reviewed, and aligned with business needs and compliance requirements.

After a year of dedicated hard work, Emily is promoted to cross functional team Senior Project Manager. However, this position didn’t exist before, since previously project managers worked within a specific team. Since she’ll be working with several different departments, she’ll need access to a wide range of systems and data. However, granting unrestricted access to all resources could pose significant security and compliance risks!

The solution? Go back to the IGA framework, that says each role needs a predefined set of access permissions tailored to the responsibilities and authority level of the individuals in that role. The IT team quickly creates a new role with the right permission level. Once set, this role can be assigned to Emily and in the future, any other cross functional project managers. At each regular access review, the IT team checks to make sure that Emily’s access is at the correct level and that she is staying in compliance with established policies.

Eventually, Emily gets poached by a rival company. She notifies everyone of her departure, and the IGA offboarding workflow kicks into motion. On her last day, access is revoked and her login credentials are deleted. While it’s unlikely that Emily would steal information, the possibility is there—IGA best practices are carried out to mitigate any and all risk of malicious (or accidentally harmful) action.

As you can see, Identity Governance and Administration extends beyond technical controls to broader governance principles. By implementing a strong IGA framework, the SaaS company empowers employees like Emily to fulfill her role effectively (and exit gracefully) while safeguarding sensitive information and upholding regulatory compliance standards.

What Is the Difference…?

It’s easy to get confused with all the “alphabet soup” acronyms. We’ve put together this short glossary and FAQ (sorry for another acronym!) section to help!


  • CIEM - Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management. This framework is specifically for managing access in cloud-based environments.

  • IAG - Identity and Access Governance. Sometimes used interchangeably with “IGA,” although some organizations recognize this as the umbrella term that IGA fits underneath.

  • IAM - Identity and Access Management. A term that encompasses strategies, policies, and processes for managing digital identities and controlling user access to systems.

  • IdM - Identity Management. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with IAM. Other times, it may refer to the administration of individual identities within a specific system.
  • IGA - Identity Governance and Administration. A framework that includes specific tools and processes to carry out IAM policies through oversight and control of user roles and privileges.

  • PAM - Privileged Access Management. This is a security solution that controls, monitors, and manages higher levels of access and permissions for users.
  • NAC - Network Access Control. While related to IAM, the scope of NAC is limited to controlling access to network resources, allowing only authorized and compliant devices to access a specific network and data.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: What is the difference between IGA and IAG?

A: Both terms cover managing and governing identities and access, and are sometimes used interchangeably. However, a small nuance may exist where IGA places more emphasis on the administrative and operational aspects while IAG focuses on the governance and policy side of things.

  • Q: What is the difference between IAM and IAG?

A: IAM is generally thought of as a framework that covers all of the aspects for managing digital identities and controlling user access to resources. IAG has a specific focus on governance and compliance, making sure that IAM processes are meeting regulatory standards and organizational best practices.

  • Q: What is the difference between IAM and IdM?

A: Great news! Sometimes they mean the same thing! Not-so-great-news: sometimes IAM is seen as a comprehensive framework while IdM is seen as only pertaining to the management of individual identities.

  • Q: What is the difference between IAM and privileged access management (PAM)?

A: PAM vs IAM is fairly straightforward (for once!): IAM addresses the entire spectrum of user access within an organization while PAM zeroes-in on securing and managing access for those with the highest level of privilege (due to their potential impact on IT security and compliance).

  • Q: What is the difference between IAM and access management?

A: Another easy one! AM is simply a subset of IAM—it’s in the name after all. AM is simply about controlling access to resources with things like multi-factor authentication.

  • Q: What is the difference between NAC and IAM?

A: IAM is all about managing user access to any and every system. NAC is specifically designed for controlling device access to network resources.

  • Q: What is the difference between IGA and CIEM?

A: IGA provides a wide range of tools and strategies for governing identities and access across the entire organization, which includes both on-premises and cloud resources. CIEM is solely focused on securing cloud environments by managing and optimizing cloud access entitlements.

  • What is the difference between IAM, PAM, and IGA?

A: We’re almost there—IGA vs IAM vs PAM: it’s all about the scope. IAM and IGA focus on the bigger picture while PAM is only focused on users who have high levels of authority and can access a lot of sensitive information.

We did it! Thanks for hanging in through all the jargon—hopefully you learned something useful.

Putting It All Together: Lumos.

Are you ready to put those downsides to bed? With Lumos by your side, you can easily implement and enforce IAM and IGA policies and procedures with one comprehensive platform.

You’ll have the tools you need to:

  • Enhance your security posture by managing and securing digital identities and access rights, keeping unauthorized users at bay.
  • Improve regulatory compliance and audit processes with deep analysis capabilities and one-click audit reporting.
  • Create operational efficiency through automating routine provisioning tasks, saving time and reducing errors.
  • Gain better visibility and control over who has access to what within your organization (not to mention, the ability to uncover shadow IT!).
  • Reduce your IT costs by cutting down on manual, repetitive tasks, freeing your IT team to focus on more strategic initiatives.
  • Improve productivity and satisfaction with features like a self-service catalog, minimizing downtime and frustration for your team.
  • Easily scale with a flexible solution as your organization grows and your identity management needs evolve.  

With Lumos, you can leverage the strengths of the frameworks you use to build a more secure, efficient, and compliant organization. Our platform is designed to adapt to your unique challenges, offering a tailored approach to identity and access management that grows with you. Remember: to secure your digital ecosystem, you need superheroes like IGA and IAM—and, as demonstrated, the right partnerships make all the difference. Lumos is the perfect sidekick for your security posture, helping you light the way to a brighter, more secure future. To see Lumos in action, book a demo today. Or, if you’d like to dive even deeper into the nuances of IGA (doesn’t everyone?), download our free IGA guide.