What's top of mind for IT leaders in 2023

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Australia, where I visited with our teams in Sydney and Melbourne, met with partners and customers, co-hosted an executive summit featuring Flight Centre, joined a Deloitte-hosted roundtable with TAL Australia, and spoke with members of the media. It was a fantastic, productive week filled with countless highlights, lots of great food, and more than a few revelations. 

Over the course of the week, I had candid conversations with more than 30 customers, from fast-growing startups to global enterprises, across a diverse range of industries and regions. I was eager to hear what was top of mind for our customers — their challenges, their successes, and their strategies for the future. And despite their differences, a surprising number of common themes kept surfacing throughout the week.

  1.  The “build vs. buy” debate is real 

Many early-stage startups decide to build their own Identity solutions, often because of a lack of familiarity with other options or a belief that it will save them money. But as companies grow, the limitations of these homegrown approaches quickly become hard to ignore, and the “build vs. buy” debate kicks in.

Nearly every customer I spoke with has now reached, or passed, this inflection point. They’re realising that building and maintaining their own Identity and governance solution — which is not their core differentiator as a business — is consuming more and more of their engineering resources as they grow. That’s why they’re now choosing to partner with companies like Okta for both their Customer and Workforce Identity needs. In doing so, they’re able to refocus their time and talent on their areas of expertise, letting them better serve customers and more efficiently pursue their missions.

  1.  Software rationalisation is a must

With the uncertainty of today’s global economy, many of our customers are now taking a hard look at their software budgets. Spending that seemed so urgent with the shift to remote work is now coming under scrutiny. Are all of those seats being used? Are we paying for redundant solutions? License reclamation and the reduction of duplicative technologies are huge areas of focus for our customers right now.

At Okta, we’ve baked this oversight capability into our own governance solution, giving our customers a single pane of glass for all the software that runs their business. With Okta Identity Governance, they can detect duplicative tech and reclaim unused software licenses, no matter which teams’ budgets those licenses might come from. That’s a particularly high priority for IT leaders like me, who are responsible for their entire company’s software landscape and need to optimise for both productivity and efficiency across the organisation.

  1.  The future is “boundaryless”

Many customers I spoke with told me they’re increasingly relying on third parties, like contractors, vendors, and partners, to get work done. In this new reality, their company’s security perimeter extends far beyond the office walls (if they even have an office), and managing access to company data and systems has become a real challenge. How can they keep their external stakeholders compliant with their own company’s policies, and keep sensitive data secure, when they may not control the devices or networks being used?

The answer is a “boundaryless” approach. To enable collaboration with anyone anywhere, companies are changing the way they handle authorisation and access covering every user on any device and operating system. With the ever-expanding number of cloud applications, especially now with new applications built with AI, neutrality is key.

  1.  More M&A, more challenges

Given the softening market valuations of many companies over the past year or two, and the slow deal activity last year, there’s a sense that mergers and acquisitions will start picking up soon. I fielded several questions about this from partners and the press while in Australia, particularly around its implications for Identity.

When two organisations with their own Identity approaches come together, there are inherent challenges: redundant technologies, duplicative Identity management systems, and multiple sources of truth. Bringing all of their users together under a combined Identity framework can be daunting. Companies that are already utilising neutral, independent Identity platforms will find it much easier to streamline the integration process and minimise disruption in the face of such transformative events.

  1.  Security and UX are not mutually exclusive 

Multiple customers told me they’ve recently strengthened their approaches to user authorisation and access and they were surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction from their workers. But to me, it comes as no surprise. 

Gone are the days of hardening your security posture at the expense of your users’ experience. Instead, adopting stronger, higher-assurance approaches — like requiring multi-factor authentication instead of more vulnerable single-factor logins — can actually improve the user experience. 

Phishing-resistant solutions like Okta FastPass, which can be combined with device-level biometrics, allow for faster, more reliable logins. They also can help create a consistent user experience across platforms and devices, which users truly appreciate. 

  1.  “How does Okta do it?”

Finally, many customers asked me specific questions around how we approach challenges at Okta. How have we established deep internal Identity expertise? How have we evolved IT into a strategic business technology organisation? What do enterprise product and enterprise engineering look like in a cloud-first organisation? How are we driving a data-first culture? How has Identity driven a stronger security and IT partnership? And of course, what does our Okta product roadmap look like?

I was more than happy to answer all of these questions and am proud to tout Okta on Okta, our internal program where we share best practices with customers based on how we use our own products here at Okta. Members of our Okta on Okta team act as internal consultants for our product and engineering teams, providing valuable feedback about current and pre-release features. But they also serve as advisors for our customers, helping them make informed decisions so they can get the most out of Okta. Watch this Oktane22 session to learn more about the Okta on Okta initiative.

Until next time…

Many thanks to our wonderful customers and partners for all the great conversations, and to our Australia teams for being such warm, welcoming hosts. Trips like these remind me of the incredible value in human connection and building meaningful relationships. I’ve returned home with a new appreciation for the many issues and opportunities our customers face and a renewed confidence in Okta’s ability to support them.