Making 2021 the Year of Rapid Innovation

There’s no question that 2020 will go down in history as an unprecedented and challenging year. But in spite of this—or even because of it—we’ve seen several breakthroughs in science and technology. Take the vaccines that have been developed to combat COVID-19. Before the pandemic, there had never been a vaccine created in under a year, nor one that used mRNA. And less than 12 months after the virus exploded across the world we now have three different vaccines thanks to the efforts of various companies. That’s just one of the many world-changing milestones we’ve hit this past year.

Okta has also found opportunity within this larger ecosystem of discovery and innovation. As an organisation born and built in the cloud, our teams were equipped to work outside the office well before it became necessary. We pivoted our operating model to be fully remote, enabling our teams with the tools and technology they needed to work while sheltering in place. And most importantly, we’ve continued supporting our customers and communities, providing critical identity infrastructure to meet ever-changing demand.

So what does the year ahead hold for Okta, and for the world as a whole? If the theme of 2020 was the virus, then let’s make 2021 the year of the vaccine—of discovering and delivering solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, building long-term immunity and resilience into our businesses, and continuing to leverage our collective intelligence and willpower to push the limits of possibility.

The forecast calls for more cloud

Growth prospects are still strong for SaaS organisations globally. The pandemic has accelerated cloud migration and digital adoption for all companies—from local grocery stores to traditional medical services providers. 

In 2020, spending on public cloud services was approximately $257 billion, with SaaS spend coming in at about $117 billion. Despite last year’s economic slowdowns, the sector maintained—and enhanced—its momentum. The end of this trajectory is nowhere in sight, either: when you consider that overall IT spend is reaching $4 trillion, you get a sense of how much potential lies ahead.

In the identity and access management (IAM) space, the economic potential is even more pronounced. Today, the market for workforce IAM stands at approximately $30 billion, with likely another $25 billion coming from customer identity—and Okta is well positioned to address these burgeoning opportunities with both a product portfolio and a customer base that keep expanding.

A focus on digital infrastructure

Instead of looking at the SaaS and IAM spaces specifically, I want to take a second to look at all industries more broadly. It took North America ten years to grow e-commerce from 6% of overall consumer spending in 2010 to 16% at the start of 2020. But by July 2020, that number had gone from 16% to 27%—a decade of growth in six months. The genie is out of the bottle. Organisations need to delight their customers, partners, vendors, and suppliers with seamless web and mobile experiences, and that means doubling down on identity and security.

The same goes for the global workforce. A dynamic work model enables organisations to discover new talent and opportunities overseas and expand their teams internationally—but with employees signing on from everywhere, enabling access management that’s both secure and seamless is more critical than ever before.

Taking a stand for public health

While there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021, we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that in many places the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst it’s ever been, and the most challenging weeks and months may still lie ahead. As I write this, my wife is at the hospital where she works as a physician, working hard to uphold high standards of care for her patients while navigating the implications of the pandemic. It’s exhausting work, but it’s essential—and we each have a personal responsibility to stop the spread and flatten the curve.

Technology also has a role to play. I want to voice my appreciation for the CTI League, a coalition of cyber security experts, law enforcement officials, and IT teams from 80 countries volunteering their time to protect healthcare organisations from cyberattacks. One of our own—Marc Rogers, Okta’s executive director of cybersecurity—is among the group’s four global leaders and a founding member. Within the first month of its existence, the CTI League found and flagged more than 2,000 software vulnerabilities that could compromise hospitals, as well as almost 3,000 malicious web domains. Their work continues, and Okta is proud to support Marc and the entire CTI team in their ongoing efforts.

We’re also deploying our resources to make a difference where it’s needed most. Last year, we funded critical services through our Okta For Good rapid-response grants, as well as launching the Emergency Remote Work Program to help nonprofits go virtual. And to kick off 2021, we announced $1 million in new multi-year funding for nonprofit technology innovators as part of our Nonprofit Technology Initiative. Through this program and many others, we’ll continue to give back to our communities, and take pride in the fact that Okta is enabling individuals and organisations all over the world to stay safe, secure, and connected.

To learn more about our many initiatives in 2020, read this post from our chief people officer, Kristina Johnson.