Unifying access for the French Red Cross employees and volunteers with Okta

1

night to implement Okta for all users

2

weeks to develop a custom Okta Workflows solution

47,000

user accounts managed centrally

  • Providing unified access to a more collaborative infrastructure
  • Choosing a cost-effective IAM solution for 47,000 accounts
  • Implementing a single secure point of entry for employees and volunteers
  • Leveraging Okta Workflows for dynamic provisioning
  • Securing more resources for the French Red Cross workforce
Providing unified access to a more collaborative infrastructure

In 2018, the French Red Cross decided to implement Google Workspace, with the goal of helping its two different categories of workers, employees and volunteers, to work together in a better way. Offering simple and secure access via a unified portal was also an important part of this project.

Choosing a cost-effective IAM solution for 47,000 accounts

As the French Red Cross IT team consists of just 80 people managing a relatively large IT perimeter, efficiency and simplicity were key priorities when choosing a solution. Because the Red Cross is an NGO, the acquisition cost of an IAM solution for almost 50,000 users also needed to be financially viable.

Implementing a single secure point of entry for employees and volunteers

Now, all French Red Cross users pass via Okta to log on to Google Workspace, and their login is authenticated by Single Sign-On. To strengthen security while maintaining a good user experience, users are asked to re-validate their authentication with a second factor once every two weeks using Multi-Factor Authentication.

Leveraging Okta Workflows for dynamic provisioning

With all accounts now integrated in Universal Directory and managed with Lifecycle Management, the team has greater visibility over all its users. The team has also been working on developing custom implementations using Okta Workflows to automate the creation of temporary accounts in a secure way.

Securing more resources for the French Red Cross workforce

The team is now in the process of integrating new tools and resources with Okta, including its intranet portal and online time-tracking tool. It's also putting in place new services to provide users with more autonomy, such as a portal enabling users to create their own accounts and reset their own passwords.

"We wanted a single collaborative tool for both salaried employees and volunteers in order to unify the way they work together. Offering simple and secure access via a unified portal was an important part of this project. We wanted a simple, safe, and effective solution, as well as a unified way to manage user accounts."

Yves Couturier, CIO, French Red Cross

Benefits

  • Offers a single point of access for both employees and volunteers, providing a unified experience that's secured by MFA and simple to use
  • Centralises account management for 47,000 employee and volunteer accounts
  • Automates custom processes with Okta Workflows, saving time for the IT team
  • Provides users with greater autonomy thanks to services such as self-service password resets

Supporting the most vulnerable in France and internationally

Best known for its work in emergency situations such as natural catastrophes or  warzones, the French Red Cross's mission is to prevent and mitigate human suffering under any circumstances. From distributing food to students who are facing precarity, to supporting France's aging population at home, the French Red Cross's actions cover health, education, and the social sphere. Federated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, it functions as an independent not-for-profit entity that works across metropolitan France and its overseas territories. At all times, its goal is to remain impartial, neutral, and independent.

Its role as a social services provider has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people found themselves in difficult circumstances and needed additional help in their daily lives. To deliver its services, it has 21,000 salaried employees working alongside 61,000 volunteers, with a total working population of 82,000 people. This makes it the fourth largest Red Cross organisation in the world, and the second largest in Europe. The French Red Cross's representatives are spread across 1,000 branches dedicated to every aspect of the healthcare and social support sectors, from medical centres to retirement homes.

Providing unified access to a more collaborative infrastructure

In 2018, the French Red Cross decided to implement Google Workspace, with the goal of helping the different categories of its workforce to work together in a better way. Previously, the way they accessed IT tools was segregated: volunteers logged on to software through a web portal, while employees accessed resources through their workstations and a VPN. "We wanted a single collaborative tool for both salaried employees and volunteers in order to unify the way they work together," explains Yves Couturier, CIO of the French Red Cross. "Offering simple and secure access via a unified portal was an important part of this project. We wanted a simple, safe, and effective solution, as well as a unified way to manage user accounts."

Even before the decision to implement Google Workspace was made, Couturier and his team had been considering the French Red Cross's specific needs and looking for an access and identity management (IAM) solution to support the long-term transformation and modernisation of its IT infrastructure. Once the decision to switch to Google Workspace was taken, they needed to put an IAM solution in place very quickly. The team chose Okta as it was the best fit for both their security and account management needs, as well as being the simplest to use.

Choosing a cost-effective IAM solution for 47,000 accounts

Couturier's team of 80 people manage a relatively large perimeter of IT hardware including 35,000 workstations and accounts for 47,000 IT users. When choosing a solution, efficiency and simplicity were therefore key priorities. "As we are a large organisation and had a limited timeframe for completing the implementation, we wanted a solution that was simple to set up, and to optimise," says Couturier. "That's exactly what Okta offered us. We wanted a platform that had proven experience of working with organisations such as ours."

Another point to consider was the cost of implementing the solution for a large number of users. "We're an NGO, so we needed an IAM solution that's financially viable, despite the fact that we have almost 50,000 users," he explains. "That was exactly what Okta offered." Finally, the positive relationship with the Okta team meant Couturier felt his team was well supported. "I've been doing this job for 30 years, and I know that it's important to work with people that you trust," he reflects.

Implementing a single secure point of entry for employees and volunteers

Olivier Geremy, Infrastructure Architect at the French Red Cross, was responsible for handling the Okta implementation, without the need for external consultants. "The fact that a single team member was able to set up Okta for 47,000 accounts demonstrates how simple yet efficient the platform is," says Couturier. "We simply put our pilot project implementation into production for all the accounts, and it was ready overnight."

Now, all French Red Cross users pass via Okta to log on to Google Workspace, and their login is authenticated by Single Sign-On. To strengthen security while maintaining a good user experience, users are asked to re-validate their authentication with a second factor once every two weeks using Multi-Factor Authentication, with an SMS, GoogleAuth, Okta Verify, or a Yubikey.

Leveraging Okta Workflows for dynamic provisioning 

As well as securing authentications, the French Red Cross also wanted a way to centralise the management of employee and volunteer accounts within a single system. With all accounts now integrated in Universal Directory and managed with Lifecycle Management, the team has greater visibility over accounts.

Couturier and his team have also been working on developing custom implementations using Okta Workflows. "When we discovered the capabilities of Okta Workflows, we decided to review a number of our processes, and to improve them," explains Couturier. For example, the team needed a way of rapidly creating temporary accounts. With Workflows, an internal user can create a new temporary account which will automatically expire within 48 hours, without any support from the IT team.

"As we provide caring services, we often work with temporary workers who need rapid access to an account in order to use collaborative tools," says Couturier. "Using Okta Workflows, this can happen without involving the IT team, and we were able to put this process in place in just 2 weeks."

The team is also planning to use Okta Workflows to enable volunteers and employees to easily access custom French Red Cross applications that are not yet part of the Okta Integration Network, which offers more than 7,000 pre-built integrations. Over the next two years, the team is planning to integrate as many of its custom software applications with Okta as possible, so users will be able to access all their applications using a secure single sign-on.

Securing more resources for the French Red Cross workforce

Around 80% of the French Red Cross salaried employees have already made the switch to using Google Workspace, accessed via Okta SSO. "On the volunteer side, uptake is closer to 35% as they mostly use communal email inboxes, which have not yet been migrated to Workspace," says Couturier. "However, within a month, we will have an uptake of close to 85%." 

The team is now in the process of integrating new tools and resources with Okta, including its intranet portal and online time-tracking tool. It's also putting in place new services to provide users with more autonomy, such as a portal enabling users to create their own accounts and reset their own passwords. "We realised that we were receiving around 2,000 questions monthly, and more than 35% of those questions were about account management," says Couturier. "With Okta, we want to provide our users with more autonomy, and soon we'll be able to do that."

"We're very happy with Okta as a platform, it's simple to use, efficient, and fulfills all our needs," Couturier concludes. "We trust Okta to help us to speed up the modernisation of our infrastructure."