Thriving in e-commerce by focusing on enabling Dynamic Work

Hut group Okta

We’re continually in conversation with our customers at Okta. It helps us optimise our platform and products, whilst maintaining a strong sense of community. Okta recently sponsored a series of interviews with technology leaders, to discuss how they and their organisations have had to adapt to remote working; leading and succeeding through the Covid19 pandemic.

One of them was a current Okta customer, Joanna Drake, CIO of The Hut Group (THG). They are a British based e-commerce platform, managing over one hundred international brands. Joanna discussed how THG has been equipped with the technology tools, not just to survive the months of lockdown, but to thrive during that time and beyond.

It seems that decisions which Joanna and her team had made over the past eighteen months turned out to be fortuitously well planned, when the Covid19 lockdown hit. In that time, THG had been running a Digital Workspace Programme with the aim that employees could do their job from any device, anywhere. “It made this challenge one that we were able to relish, manage and cope with,” Joanna explained. The lockdown providing an acid test at scale, of THG’s approach to what we at Okta call Dynamic Work.

THG is a large, complex organisation with a global outlook, so they could have been forgiven for not adopting such a progressive attitude to their digital transformation. “Making sure that we can provide our services flexibly across the globe,” was the driving force behind the forward-planning Joanna explained. “We’ve got staff in warehouses, production facilities, health clubs, hotels, and offices. So, we had this vision that a device becomes a dumb thing, and everything is on the cloud. We forged ahead with Office for the Web, Single Sign-On and Multi-Factor Authentication via Okta. Lots of things that meant it didn’t matter where you were or what device you were on.”

This secure, agile approach to working, that enhances productivity and employee happiness, is something we believe will be one of the silver linings to emerge from the Covid19 pandemic. A cultural change, enabled by technology, to allow workforces greater freedom. Accommodating more individual ways of working, with less prescriptive structures and more fluid working environments. Trust sits at the heart of this approach. Trust in employees and trust in the technology to keep them secure. A circle of trust that we have already seen benefitting those organisations that have embraced it.

Joanna went on to talk about how implementing zero-touch provisioning of services within THG had enabled them to continue to grow smoothly over the past few months, knowing that everyone was operating under a secure, seamless technology umbrella. She thought that because the average age of the staff at THG was relatively young, they were a generation that had grown up with expectations that technology should be accessible in a business environment, in the same way that it is in a consumer one. Provisioning apps from an app store or from the cloud is now familiar behaviour for everyone, as is using MFA to log-in to their banking or service accounts.

From a training and adoption point of view, that was how THG sold their cloud approach to employees. Unsurprisingly everyone was immediately on board with it. “I don’t know what happens but when it comes to buying stuff on the high street and the way that we operate in our normal lives, when you go into a business, all of that jumps back twenty years. We just wanted to make it exactly the same,” Joanna observed.

Utilising the Okta platform allowed THG to deliver securely against their ever-growing number of employees and their expectations. “We rolled out Okta Single Sign-On. A really important piece when it comes to secure apps and being able to provision apps out really quickly. It also comes in very handy when it comes to acquisitions. Using tools like Okta we can integrate those staff on day one, “Joanna explained, “Multi-Factor Authentication then makes sure that when you access these apps outside of the office, that it’s really safe and secure and you get these prompts from MFA to verify it is who they think it is. It’s been invaluable since lockdown.”

So, far from entering a dormant mode during the past few months, the foresight of decisions made 18 months ago has allowed THG to thrive. “We are seeing productivity either stay the same or go through the roof,” Joanna agreed.

There is a balance to be struck here though she concedes, when technology blurs the lines between work and homelife. With less time potentially spent commuting, employees and employers will need to create greater boundaries to ensure that productivity and mental health are kept in balance.

As Okta’s New Workplace Report has shown, living in a big city where the living spaces are often more cramped, can affect an employee’s overall productivity and satisfaction levels. Making remote work possible is only part of making it preferable. Just because the technology can be always on, anywhere, doesn’t mean that employees should feel obliged to be too. The freedom to choose your particular preferred way of working daily, is what should be empowering for everyone though.

Our vision is that Dynamic Work is much more than enabling employees to work from anywhere. It’s about providing employees with comparable benefits, flexibility, and experiential work environments in the location that best fits their needs; empowering employees to be their most productive and successful selves wherever they work.

Listen to the full conversation with Joanna Drake, CIO of The Hut Group on our podcast here <>