From chocolates to Chihuahuas: Okta helps Mars securely expand their universe of brands
of users onboarded post M&A vs piecemeal integration of selected users pre-Okta
to integrate 60K Mars Veterinary Health users after M&A
apps available on day one for new joiners
reduction in time to onboard new applications with OIN
“Okta makes integrating newly acquired companies simple. Instead of a forever process, it takes hours or, at most, days to onboard employees and provide access to our services and the apps they need. These rapid deployment capabilities are one of the biggest benefits for Mars.”
Sasa Jankovic, Global Identity Director
You might only think of Mars as the company behind your favourite candy, but the business extends far beyond chocolates. From tasty candy to healthy snacks and premium pet care products and services, Mars has a universe of brands that spark moments of joy for us and our pets. This diverse, global portfolio includes household names like M&M's, Twix, Whiskas, and Pedigree, complemented by a vast network of more than 2,500 veterinary hospitals globally, including Banfield, Blue Pearl, and VCA.
Driven by their commitment to people and pets, Mars is ever-evolving, constantly introducing new flavours to their mix. But with this growth, often propelled by mergers and acquisitions (M&A), comes an intricate task: securely blending distinct cultures, values, and technologies while ensuring every acquisition feels like a natural extension of the Mars family. That’s where Okta comes in.
Using M&A as an opportunity to elevate brand identities
For the Mars team, integrating new brands isn’t just about merging assets, but harmonising distinct brand identities. Each brand, with their individual strengths, needs seamless and secure integration into the larger Mars network. “Our acquisitions are about balancing the power of our organisation's scale with preserving the 'secret sauce' that makes each brand unique,” Deputy Chief Information Security Officer Matt Pecorelli explains.
This “secret sauce“ includes each company’s Associates, who must be securely integrated into the Mars ecosystem without disrupting their existing day-to-day operations. "It’s our job to enable all Mars Associates to work in a digital world free of physical boundaries,” Identity Director Sasa Jankovic says. “But until Okta, we had no way of delivering collaboration between the companies Mars acquired. We lacked the ability to deliver services to the businesses at speed and with the flexibility we needed."
Turning integration obstacles into opportunities with Okta
Mars’ existing Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution wasn’t equipped for enterprise-wide, cross-tenant collaboration, creating barriers between the new additions and existing Mars business units. This setup made day-to-day operations resource-intensive, requiring manual account provisioning, and resulted in account duplications and poor user experience. “Pre-Okta, we wouldn't even consider integrating an entire organisation,” Jankovic says. “Instead, we would pinpoint key users and grant them access to vital applications. This method was manual, time-consuming, and confusing to end users.” As Pecorelli puts it: "We were never really done with an acquisition. Everything was piecemeal."
Enabling collaboration from day one
With Okta Workforce Identity Cloud, Mars transformed their approach to M&A.
For Pecorelli, who’s used to managing security solutions that operate in the background, only surfacing when there are problems, Okta stands out as an active enabler. "Okta makes things easier for everyone, actively shortening integration timelines by providing quick access without the need to manually navigate myriad policies across various directories.”
As the single Identity provider for Mars, Incorporated, Okta delivers a centralised identity for the group’s +150,000 Associates. It does this while permitting newly acquired entities to maintain their pre-existing technology setups. Meanwhile, the Okta Integration Network enables easy integration with critical applications, regardless of vendor.
Instead of wrestling with policies and complexities from various directories, teams on both sides of the acquisition can quickly start enabling each other and benefit from the resources, skills, and technology of each organisation. Mars can now offer immediate access to new joiners, reinforcing trust and collaboration from day one. “While acquisitions remain complex and the boundaries of integration can sometimes seem blurry, Okta ensures technological and procedural consistency throughout this journey,” Pecorelli adds.
Today, more than 1,200 applications are connected to single sign-on (SSO), the new standard platform for all Mars business units. With the help of Okta and the Okta Integration Network, Mars can onboard new applications 50% faster and empower other teams to self-service the onboarding of applications. Access is safeguarded with adaptive MFA, which enables risk-based authentication policies, including passwordless authentication with Okta FastPass. With Okta Access Gateway, Mars removes complexity and cost by providing passwordless cross-business access to key financial services during acquisitions and removing manual processes and account duplication.
Mars also uses Okta Workflows to drive process automation, streamlining the management of users across their organisational directories. This ensures the seamless integration of new and existing team members, bolstered by the deployment of passwordless authentication. By replacing their standard sign-in policy with context-based authentication, Mars is enhancing security and elevating the user experience. Plus, with embedded auditing and monitoring capabilities, Mars maintains a meticulous overview of operations, striking a balance between compliance and efficiency.
From ongoing, piecemeal acquisitions to bite-sized integrations
Okta has empowered Mars to completely integrate new companies. “Okta makes integrating newly acquired companies simple,” Jankovic says. “Instead of a forever process, it takes hours or, at most, days to onboard employees and provide access to our services and the apps they need. These rapid deployment capabilities are one of the biggest benefits for Mars.”
Even complex acquisitions saw newfound momentum with Okta's involvement. “Integrating our Mars Veterinary Health users was something we had struggled with for years,” Jankovic says. “With Okta, we were able to integrate an estimated 60,000 users within just six months.”
Enhancing visibility in a diverse digital landscape
As Mars’ portfolio grows, so does their attack surface. Embracing a Zero Trust Security framework, visibility is key to protecting this diverse enterprise. Okta helps the company’s security teams gain a holistic view of incidents or anomalies. This has caused a 30% increase in the number of security use cases monitored and strengthened corporate’s ability to implement security best practices and enforce policy.
“Our focus isn’t about consolidating all data onto a single pane of glass, but about synthesising high-quality insights from platforms like Okta,” Pecorelli says . “With the depth of data we get from Okta, incident responders at Mars can connect disparate logs, creating intricate use cases that, when triggered, have a high degree of certainty to be true positives.”
In response to the constant threat of credential phishing, Mars bolstered their defences with phishing-resistant MFA. “Through MFA, we've been able to reduce vulnerabilities, ensuring key services are protected by phishing-resistant authenticators,” Jankovic says.
Meanwhile, with support from Material Security, Mars strengthened their security posture by leveraging Identity-based protections for sensitive email content and providing robust data loss prevention.
Shaping the industry together
For a company that began with confectionery and is now running a diverse portfolio of brands worldwide, standing still isn't on the menu. Throughout this journey, the Mars team has built a close working relationship with Okta’s Customer First team. “Our Customer Success Manager really understands our business requirements and objectives,” Pecorelli says. “Along with the rest of the team, they’ve been instrumental in helping us realise the value of our investment."
Static solutions don’t cut it for Mars, and the same is true for the company’s partnerships. “We’re interested in active collaboration,” Pecorelli says. “We need a partner we can evolve and shape the industry with. And that’s exactly what we found in Okta.”
For more than five generations, Mars has evolved to create products and services that people (and their pets) love. A family-owned business, it has a diverse global portfolio of confectionery, pet food, and veterinary services. Mars is powered by their Associates and the desire to be bold to create a better world for us all, today. The company is committed to being a leader who discovers and drives solutions to challenges that impact the world.