In a recent customer meeting, one of our customers brought hard data to the table on benefits of federation - lowered costs in password resets among other benefits.
Federation is a technology term for transferring a user identity from one domain to another transparently. For the end user, it typically means that they can access online services of other companies or providers seamlessly from their own network, or using an existing or valid session with Facebook for example. Federation therefore increases convenience for the end user.
Companies implementing federated networks and allowing their employees to sign in to external services using their corporate identity can have calculable benefits from this approach. One of them is the decrease in password reset requests. In this recent meeting, one of our customers brought in hard data about the decrease on password resets. Thanks to the federation links to external services they were able to decrease their password resets by 50%. The organization does not utilize single sign-on capabilities from their own network. Instead, they require their employees to sign in using the same login credentials as their corporate logins when they access the first external service. The reason for this is that the user can be better informed where they are going or what service they are accessing through the login screen. After the first login, they can single sign-on to other external services.
The turnaround time for the password reset was calculated at 15 minutes, which is quite fast. Depending on sources you can google, a password reset can be as costly as much as $100. Our customer estimated the cost at around $15 per password reset. These are hard, tangible numbers, which you can use to calculate the monetary benefits of federation. Less tangible costs (without federation) are inconvenience and frustration, loss of productivity, security risks due to weak passwords as users are inclined to cut corners if they have to maintain or remember multiple passwords, ghost accounts in external online services after employees leave, etc. Federation can eliminate some of these costs and risks and minimize others.