The Oktane21 Customer Awards: Recognizing Eight Leaders Who Rose to the Challenge in 2020

Okta’s annual conference is an opportunity to celebrate all our customers, but the winners of the Oktane Customer Awards stand out for the sophistication and originality of their deployments in the face of major challenges in 2020. This includes scaling service delivery for thousands of online customers, or providing secure access to newly distributed workforces. They’re not only moving themselves forward; they’re setting the pace to advance their industries as a whole.

There were several strong contenders this year, and we were spoiled for choice when selecting our pool of finalists across the eight categories: The Cloud Conqueror, The Evangelist, The Protector, The Lightning Deployment, The Customer Experience Expert, The Change Maker, The Business Value Driver, and Okta for Good. Here are the recipients of this year’s awards.

The Cloud Conqueror

Moving to the cloud is one of the most necessary steps an organization can take on the journey of Digital Transformation and modernization—but it can also be one of the most painful and complicated tasks. The Cloud Conqueror award is given to a leader who revolutionized their team’s digital environment when they realized that the existing legacy systems were limiting the potential for agility and growth.

Manu Verma, General Manager of Technology & Integration Delivery at JetBlue, is an example of such a leader. Even when 2020 threw the airline industry into turmoil, the JetBlue team moved forward with an ambitious cloud platform that empowers data and application stakeholders across the business to operate more efficiently. It also ensures that JetBlue’s 27 million TrueBlue account members have seamless access to their apps and services. With 150,000 unique users visiting the TrueBlue site on a daily basis, Manu understood the value of a cloud stack built on identity. The team delivered the Okta IAM solution to digital product applications and customers within a very tight deadline and have been using cloud-oriented solutions across the customer journey. 

The Evangelist

A best-in-class identity and access management (IAM) solution can be a game changer for companies and customers alike. It's important to raise awareness about the benefits IAM can bring, and the Evangelist award goes to a visionary who has made that a part of their personal mission.

This past year, the advocacy of Deanna Shannon, Enterprise Architect for Modern Workplace at Wabtec, has been especially commendable. Not only was she a champion of Okta solutions for her business, she has since supported Okta University and Learning initiatives and presented in last year’s M&A Webinar. She was also a key part of our Executive Roundtable last August. 

The Protector

Security has grown from being a business liability to being a business enabler. Leading organizations have started differentiating themselves by creating best defense to empower their employees, partners, and customers to create maximum value. The Protector award recognizes an innovator who has built a modern Zero Trust security model with identity as the foundation.

No one understands this better than Harpreet Singh, Principal Architect at T-Mobile. He led the charge in leveling up his organization’s security posture by not only using Okta to centralize authentication and authorization controls with a standards-based approach, but also leveraging Okta to enhance user experience and efficiency in security operations using Okta’s features such as workflows and self services. With over 70 million weekly transactions secured—and more than 300 apps—T-Mobile has laid a strong foundation for Zero Trust.

The Lightning Deployment

It’s often said that we live in a fast-paced world—but that’s an understatement. Many organizations have to scale their operations or customer support quickly, or implement urgent security or compliance measures. The Lightning Deployment award is reserved for those who have taken swift, decisive action to help their organizations thrive

With the onset of the pandemic, Zoom was the video conferencing service on everyone’s lips. That’s why Raphael Villa, Senior System Administrator at Zoom Video Communications, is this year’s winner. To meet the necessary security and compliance mandates for the company’s servers, Villa deployed Advanced Server Access and collaborated with Okta specialists to ensure seamless access for all employees within a few weeks.

The Customer Experience Expert

Organizations that want to win need to meet their customers where they are—and today, that means embracing the digital landscape. The Customer Experience Expert award celebrates forward-thinking decision makers who put their customers’ demands, desires, and expectations first as they push the limit of what they can build with cloud technology. 

Customers appreciate a frictionless digital experience when engaging with their favorite brands; but when it comes to their healthcare providers, patients depend on it. This is something Patrick Hursen, Director of Engineering at athenahealth, took to heart. In order to help 24 million patients access medical information across 160,000 providers—while ensuring compliance with privacy regulations—he and his team chose Okta. They created a new “login with athena” service with the Okta sign-in widget and APIs, embedding seamless registration experiences and powerful security across more than 8,000 patient portals.

The Change Maker

One-click access, unified directories, automated provisioning—these types of initiatives can make a world of difference for organizations. The recipient of the Change Maker award is someone who has leveraged technology intelligently and industriously to solve their most complex business challenges, and take their organization from past to future.

That’s been the journey for Ross Kivowitz, Senior IT Engineer at Namely. In a short time, he’s helped his IT teams move from processing access requests manually to provisioning them automatically through a range of smart mappings and workflows run on Okta. At the same time, he helped streamline the ticketing system through Okta by integrating it with Slack. As a result, productivity has skyrocketed, with an 85% decrease in the time IT spends offboarding accounts.

The Business Value Driver

It’s common knowledge that IAM has become business critical for modern organizations, but to actually visualize it in numbers puts it in a whole new perspective. The Business Value Driver award is dedicated to an individual who meticulously quantifies the benefits of their identity implementation, not only making a strong case for continued investment, but modelling best practices that can lift their whole industry.

Marques Stewart, Vice President at Achievement First, has been a role model for tracking success. He and his team have reduced time provisioning and deprovisioning, saving $492,000, and reduced costs of unused business applications, saving $32,000. Another $385,000 of savings are directly attributable to the company’s increased security posture. Password-related issues have also fallen 80%, freeing up time for users and admins alike.

Okta for Good

Year over year, Okta for Good provides opportunities for nonprofits—among the world’s most crucial organizations—to modernize their operations at a price they can afford. This lets them continue to channel resources to the causes and communities they serve. The Okta for Good award is granted to a nonprofit customer that has utilized Okta’s technology in a unique way to affect meaningful change.

In 2020, many nonprofits found themselves in uncharted territory when their workforces and volunteers suddenly had to log on from personal devices. It was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation—and Mike Varney, Assistant Director, Information Systems, at Health Research, Inc., made the most of it. He worked with Okta to make the organization’s custom applications remotely accessible, with almost no new coding. This allowed the organization to continue addressing urgent public health needs at a truly critical time.

The past year has led to extraordinary challenges for organizations around the world, but the eight winners of the 2021 Customer Awards have truly risen to the occasion. The same can be said of so many Okta customers—check out their inspiring stories of innovation, perseverance, and evolution.