How WPP is reimagining the workplace with Okta

When you think of a traditional advertising agency, what likely comes to mind is a group of creatives gathered in a room discussing a campaign. And for decades, that’s how we operated at WPP to provide an integrated offer of communications, experience, commerce, and technology for our clients. But now we’re able to deliver all of that without setting foot in an office. Because with Okta, we’re rebuilding WPP’s environment by establishing a single identity architecture that makes it easy to share resources, solutions, and knowledge across the 350 group companies that make up WPP – even when we’re all working from home.

To explain how we got here, let me take you back to before the COVID-19 outbreak, when WPP had already planned a digital innovation strategy aiming to enable easier collaboration across our group companies. For decades, WPP has successfully relied on traditional on-premises IT infrastructure. But because WPP grew very fast since it was founded, both organically and through acquisitions, it’s IT environment came to include more than 250 separate directories and multi-tenant solutions for all its applications. But the siloed environments made it challenging for employees to collaborate and exchange information, ideas, and resources. We knew that to fully harness the power and creativity of WPP’s employees, something needed to change.

At the same time, it is my remit in the organisation to plan for the future when it comes to identity. I knew that it was crucial for us to use this momentum to not just enable easier flow of information, but to do this while future-proofing the security of our IT environment. Key to this would be to build a new identity infrastructure for WPP in a Zero Trust, cloud-based environment. We selected Okta as the identity partner that can help us bring this vision to life.

Now, we’re using Okta to unify our identity directories, and we’re already seeing results: Firstly, we reduced duplicate accounts stored across siloed systems by setting up each of WPP’s 120,000  employees with a company-level identity and storing them on a single identity solution: Universal Directory. Secondly, WPP employees are now able to access all applications they need from a single dashboard using Single Sign-On, which consolidates their multiple accounts for them to access using just one login and password from any device. This way, it’s much easier for colleagues to get to work, no matter if they’re at home or in an office. Finally, this dashboard is protected by adaptive, context-based policies using Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication, so we’re not only providing colleagues with near-instant access to the tools they need to do their jobs, we’re also securing all user accounts.

Although the decision to implement Okta across WPP came from the Head Office, each of the different group companies that make up our environment has its own criteria for establishing security and confidentiality. So, keeping in mind the fact that there are slight variations of security posture across the organisation, we use Okta to establish a minimum baseline of security and standardise certain access controls across WPP. At the same time, using Okta’s broad sweep of functionalities, each group company can also continue to customise and improve their security layers from there, to best fit their unique needs and priorities across the 112 countries where we operate.

So far, one very welcome benefit of deploying Okta is the fact that we are better able to provide rapid, secure access to a number of new remote-working solutions for colleagues. This was particularly relevant in 2020, when WPP could enhance its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reimagine the ways we work and collaborate as a global organisation, without disrupting our services to our clients. Working from home is a completely new reality for us, and Okta played a key role in helping us to consolidate all information we needed to make it possible.

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Workplace