6 Bold Predictions for IT Leaders: How Companies Will Work in 2023

“Holistic.” “Strategic.” “Ruthless.” 

According to experts at Okta, those are the kinds of mindsets business leaders will need to adopt in 2023. Because as the new year dawns, companies are facing a dizzying mix of headwinds: high inflation, surging interest rates, a global threat of recession, and the ongoing pandemic, to name just a few. With all of these challenges — and with plenty of opportunities emerging too — workforces will need to transform if they want to stay aligned and productive in 2023 and beyond.

We asked a handful of our visionary Okta colleagues for insights about how teams will collaborate and compete in the new year. Here are some of their most tantalizing predictions.

1. ROI will become the new MVP

Many of our experts expect companies to watch their budgets more carefully in 2023. That means paying closer attention to spending on software and services, and being able to measure the impact of the tools their workers use.

“As organizations grew really fast over the past couple of years, they spent and invested heavily to support that growth,” says Kelsey Nelson, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Okta. “I think we’re going to see more rationalization” of that spending in 2023, she says.

Nelson’s prediction reflects just how dramatically the global economy has shifted. It may seem like a distant memory, but as recently as 2021, many companies found themselves flush with cash. Fueled by historically low borrowing costs and record VC funding, they stockpiled talent in anticipation of post-Covid growth. Then came 2022. Russia invaded Ukraine. The price of gas—and just about everything else—skyrocketed. Central banks rapidly boosted interest rates to try to tame inflation. Suddenly, all that easy money wasn’t so easy anymore. Many businesses began tightening their budgets, announcing major layoffs and hiring freezes. And now they’re warily entering 2023, unsure whether all that economic uncertainty is tapering off or just beginning. 

As a result, Nelson believes companies will need to rigorously monitor exactly how much they’re paying for what, down to the individual software download or cloud-based subscription. “We’re seeing a shift around people getting really strategic about the dollars they’re spending on tools.” Nelson says that companies are paying particular attention to license costs, making adjustments on the fly to ensure that every seat they’ve bought is actually getting used. 

Companies will get more diligent about their spending in other areas too, Nelson says. How often are people coming into the office? Could we reduce our real estate footprint? What about those offsites and conferences — are they really delivering enough value to justify their costs? Questions like these will become the norm in 2023, as more companies recognize that maximizing workforce ROI is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity.

2. Companies will find innovative ways to boost productivity

With all of the aforementioned challenges, many companies are heading into 2023 with smaller workforces and constrained budgets. They’ll have to figure out innovative ways to do more with less. 

Productivity is ever more important during economic uncertainties and will become top of mind for every C-suite in 2023,” says Fei Liu, Emerging Technology Researcher at Okta. 

But Liu insists that growth doesn’t have to come at the expense of workers’ well-being. “There is a common misperception that productivity improvement equals workforce reduction and working longer hours. In reality, organizational productivity improvement requires a holistic view.” 

That means improving processes and systems to help employees use existing resources more efficiently. It could be as simple as automating routine tasks like software provisioning or incident responses, Liu says. Small tweaks like these can have a big impact — not just on productivity, but satisfaction as well. “Improving organizational productivity can improve employee engagement, allowing employees to focus on things that matter to their interests and growth.” 

Okta’s CIO, Alvina Antar, agrees. “Now more than ever, our focus has to be on our employee experience — ensuring that from day one an employee has access to everything that they need to be successful in a secure and seamless way.”

3. Successful mergers and acquisitions will require transformation

Not all companies are entering 2023 with reduced headcounts. 2021 was a blockbuster year for mergers and acquisitions, with a record 40,700 deals totaling $4.3 trillion in overall value. While that activity cooled a bit in 2022, there are still thousands of companies worldwide now trying to combine two or more distinct organizations into a larger, unified workforce.

Blending those cultures and ensuring alignment across disparate teams needs to be a top priority in 2023, Antar says. When done right, a combined company can be greater than the sum of its parts. But it requires transformation — and the right technology.

“M&A has been a huge part of my career. I’ve seen inorganic growth of a company as transformative, in pivoting business models and evolving to a multi-product organization. It’s important to do it right. You really have to ensure that the acquisition is thoughtful, the integration is thoughtful, and the timing of integration is just right. Because most of the time you’re not just acquiring differentiated intellectual property — you're acquiring a company with incredible talent.”

Antar likens these growth milestones to a mountain ascent, requiring transformation at every turn.

“I think about a climb,” she says. “At every switchback of the climb is a revenue milestone. So from one to two to five to 10 billion, each of those is a switchback where your company and people need to transform.”

With so many companies hitting those “switchback” milestones as we head into 2023, Antar predicts an increased and urgent need for transformation. “Not just your business, not just digital transformation, but you need a people transformation to be able to scale and grow with your business,” she says. That could mean investing in new skill areas, adopting tools to support your new scale, or even transforming your entire business model.

A successful transformation can have secondary benefits too. “Acquisition integration allows you to accelerate the ability to bundle, cross-sell, and upsell across offerings,” Antar says. “Thoughtful and timely integration creates a seamless and secure experience for all your employees, customers, and partners.”

4. Workforces will go truly boundaryless

By the end of 2022, some workforces had returned to the office, others went fully remote, and still others were embracing “hybrid” or “dynamic” work as their new normal. In 2023, our experts say the debate will shift. Instead of just tinkering with their remote work policies, companies will focus on making all kinds of work more streamlined and secure.

“The way today’s workforce is structured has made it essentially boundaryless,” says Sagnik Nandy, Okta’s President and Chief Development Officer for Workforce Identity. “That means there are more devices accessing company resources from more locations than ever before.”

Nandy says that in 2023, companies will need better ways to secure and govern access to all of those resources, no matter where or how workers might need them.

That also means paying closer attention to the security practices of third-party vendors, partners, and contractors. “In a boundaryless world where resources are being accessed from any device and from any location, every link of the digital supply chain needs to be as secure as the next. When a business doesn’t hold its supply chain to its own security standards, the third-party providers they rely on may not apply the same principles,” Nandy says.

5. The line between work and personal life will get blurrier, maybe

Workforces may be going boundaryless, but that doesn’t mean workers are. Sure, we’ve grown accustomed to joining meetings from our couches and taking work calls while walking the dog, but that doesn’t mean our personal and professional lives are truly merging. Or are they?

“We’re all grappling with those different identities as a concept,” Nelson says. “At what point will I continue to keep those things distinct? To what extent are we isolating parts of our identity? What is my personal identity? How do I mix that with my work identity? It’s going to be an interesting question not just into 2023, but over the next few years as well.”

Regardless of where we draw the line, with so many employees now using personal devices for work purposes (and vice versa), Nelson predicts that companies will want smarter ways of managing all those laptops, phones, and tablets in 2023.

“From a technology perspective, organizations have gotten a lot more effective at enabling remote work. But devices continue to prove challenging. Organizations have gotten really good at sending devices to workers and getting them up and running. But what about taking those devices back? It’s a different conversation that we’re hearing challenges around.” Nelson says companies will turn more to automation and other solutions to protect devices and keep systems secure as employees onboard and offboard.

6. Artificial intelligence will creep closer to the workplace

Finally, 2022 may have been the year artificial intelligence truly started to gain traction in the consumer space, if only as a novelty. Sites and tools like DALL•E 2 and Midjourney allowed visitors to generate AI-powered imagery from simple text prompts, often with remarkable (and at times disturbing) results. Other apps can generate “magic avatars,” highly stylized self-portraits based on a user’s selfies. Nelson says AI may need to go more mainstream through consumer apps like these before we see widespread adoption in the workplace.     

“Versions of AI have been used in lots of places for many years, but getting the average consumer excited about the concept is going to be a big bridge,” she says.

Companies will also have to consider the human consequences of implementing AI solutions. “There could be very tangible impacts on jobs,” Nelson says, noting that employees will likely fear having their roles replaced by AI-powered solutions. It’s a fear that has roots in decades of industrialization, outsourcing, and automation. To truly embrace AI, workers will need to feel that this new technology augments their work without making them irrelevant.

“Exactly what AI will look like within the enterprise will be interesting. Are we fully ready to trust AI for all of our security outcomes? Maybe not — but it could be a support. We’ll see. It’s still early.”

Ready to get started on ticking off your tech stack resolutions? Check out our new guide for CIOs on Identity-driven optimization.