How Identity accelerates M&A for Mars and Warner Bros. Discovery

Organizations who grow through mergers and acquisition (M&A) processes need to be laser-focused on a successful integration starting on day 0.

But for many technical reasons, integrating multiple, complex systems and granting access to the right solutions for the right people is easier said than done. Multinational enterprises, such as Mars and Warner Bros. Discovery, for which M&As are a part of near-daily business, constantly navigate the technical challenges and opportunities that accompany M&A-based growth strategies. As much as technology can create barriers in M&A situations, it can also be the solution that lifts them (Read the full Mars story here).

Mars has a presence in 83 countries and more than 200,000 employees. As a global brand with a highly diverse portfolio, Mars relies on a range of business processes and systems to manage their activities and employee access to them, all of which require Identity and Access Management (IAM).

Warner Bros. Discovery is similar in that reorganizations and M&As are an integral part of their multifaceted business, also requiring ways to consolidate Identity and ensure seamless, cross-company access to systems for their approximately 75,000 employees. 

Both organizations took to the stage at Oktane 2023 to discuss why Identity is the critical place to start when simplifying and accelerating M&A. Here, we share some of the key insights from the session, highlighting Okta’s role as a springboard for collaboration, efficiency, scale, and uptime.

Single-Identity collaboration and efficiency during complex mergers

Brands can harness Identity to break down silos between companies and unite them with federated Identity capabilities and standardization, enabling application and resource sharing. 

Mars’ Identity Director, Sasa Jankovic, shares that Identity enables collaboration and efficiency, simplifying access and reducing complexity considerably. “With our acquisitions, they usually retain their independence,” Jankovic says. “But we found that there was a need for more collaboration within the Mars business. With Okta, we learned that we can take users from different entities, put them in a universal directory, and then give them access to everything with a single identity — that’s pretty cool.”

Warner Bros. Discovery’s VP of IAM, Lenny Carulli, says, “When we’ve gone through previous acquisitions, we were still very separate companies. During one M&A, we decided we wanted to be one company and collaborate. We started bringing all those divisions together and breaking down those barriers. The problem we had, though, was application access. People had to get access to different applications if they were going to collaborate across different platforms. Before Okta, that forced us to create multiple accounts for all these people in different active directories, emails, and tenants, and it became unwieldy. With Okta, we made the complex simple and federated Identity, and it helped us move forward faster and more efficiently.”

Identity helps acquired entities scale

Unified Identity enables acquired entities to access the benefits of acquisition by an enterprise quickly. Matt Pecorelli, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at Mars, explains, “Okta has quite literally been the first thing that gets put on the table when we start to work with a newly acquired entity. It unlocks the ability for them to get access to our systems and powerful apps and unlock the scale of our large enterprise so they can take advantage of being acquired. Through the technology journey, the acquired companies can go from mom-and-pop shop to being fully integrated with a massive enterprise — and the benefits that offers.”

Empowering acquired entities with the technologies needed to do their work and potentially allowing access to tech they didn’t have can help them scale up, innovate, and gain new security-related economies of scale. For example, an acquired company might gain access to multi-factor authentication (MFA) and passwordless technology. 

Okta has enabled us to provide standard security practices and services to all our acquisitions and users,” Jankovic adds. “Not only does this improve the security posture, it really helps with our pain points, like driving passwordless policies, and does so at a greater scale and much more efficiently than we could do ourselves.” 

Identity helps business units avoid downtime during M&A

Companies like Warner Bros. Discovery have no room for downtime. The business can't afford disruption. Ani Kinare, Warner Bros. Discovery’s Executive Director of IAM Architecture, shares: “How do we bring together systems and users seamlessly without any downtime? This was our challenge.” 

“With the Okta API framework, we were able to build a custom interface on top of Okta along with using the federation model to seamlessly transition applications from Discovery into the Warner Brothers’ existing Okta tenant,” Kinare continues. “We switched to one single unit that actually helped us migrate seamlessly almost 1,000 applications over the past eight months, almost 45,000 employees and B2B accounts, close to 6,000 servers — all with almost zero downtime.”

Identity helps with human capital management

Acquisitions are difficult and can disrupt business for the acquired entity, but technology can significantly ease the transition. Consolidating multiple systems and merging two (or several) teams into one requires coordination, which Identity can ease. 

“It’s more than an Identity platform because when changes happen, there are too many things happening at once,” Kinare says. “We need to coordinate and collaborate using Identity as the way we put things together and manage people’s access with minimal disruption and no downtime.” 

Carulli echoes these sentiments: “The best thing I can do is get out of my people’s way to help them focus on their jobs and their end goals. We can do that by giving them the tools to get the job done.” 

Where Okta Identity fits in the future of M&As

AI solutions define the future of threat protection. Identity governance will help streamline processes and provide security and uptime assurances that can accelerate the value of M&As.

“Identity threat prevention and protection is table stakes now.” Pecorelli says. “And it's really exciting to see Okta leading with game-changing, AI-ML-powered threat detection.”

No M&A is the same: Okta Identity

No two acquisitions are the same, and Identity can drive the success of the M&A integration process. Starting with a secure, flexible solution that allows seamless integration lets acquired entities scale quickly with minimal disruption. Major global brands like Mars and Warner Bros. Discovery can reap the benefits of a standardized approach to Identity while gaining the extensibility of a flexible platform that caters to the needs of the M&A at hand.

Watch the full Oktane 23 panel session featuring Mars and Warner Bros. Discovery to learn more about their successful M&A efforts, fueled in part by Okta's Unified Identity Platform. For more information on how Okta Workforce Identity Cloud can help your business navigate the complexities of M&A, click here.