Somerford Associates: Helping UK Organisations Put Identity at the Centre of Their IT Strategies

Recent studies suggest that COVID-19 has pushed many companies over the technology tipping point. For some organisations, this has meant speeding up the adoption of digital technologies by several years. For others, it's meant the need for expert support to devise new strategies and practices to stay competitive in this new business and economic environment. For Somerford Associates, it’s meant continuing to do what it does best since 2001: helping some of the largest organisations and government departments in the UK and Ireland to accelerate their digital transformation journeys. They're enabled to solve business challenges quickly while gaining the flexibility to cope with ever-changing demands.

Priding itself on tailoring services to the individual needs of its customers, Somerford’s highly-qualified team of Okta-certified consultants assess and advise on the right solutions for each organisation at every stage of their technology program – from setting technical strategies and devising proofs-of-concept, to implementing solutions and providing training and in-life support. To understand its approach and learn how Somerford Associates became an Okta Premier Partner, we speak with Grace Maher, Head of Support and Presales, Somerford Associates, and an Okta Technical Champion.

Q: So Grace, please tell us about Somerford Associates. What do you do and what are some examples of your services?

A: Broadly speaking, Somerford Associates focuses on digital transformation and cloud adoption. That means delivering support and expertise to help our customers accelerate their strategy. We do that full-circle, starting with an initial conversation to understand the customer’s unique goals or challenges, through to creating an entire platform for them, implementing it, deploying it, and supporting them with consultancy and training so they can make the most of their own technology and data.

Q: What’s your personal mission within Somerford Associates?

A: ‘Enablement’ is the key word for me. Figuratively, our mission as a company is to really hold our customers’ hands throughout their digital or cloud transformation journeys—no matter where they’re starting from. And I love doing that by offering strategic advice, support, training, and workshops to enable them to eventually make the most of their technology and data autonomously. In this sense, we see our customer’s success as our success, too.

Q: How does this tie in with Identity and Access Management?

A: Whether organisations are looking to successfully migrate to the cloud, or to leverage cloud investments better and more cost-effectively in the long run, identity is a fundamental part of the IT strategy of any business. And Okta is the best-placed solution in our suite to connect everyone to everything.

Q: How and why did Somerford decide to become an Okta Partner?

A: We’ve been working in this sector since 2006, when we used to partner with providers for the on-premises world. At that time, we noticed a gap in the cloud market and we felt that we needed a partner that we could rely on to dominate that sector. We found that Okta develops solutions that are in line with what modern organisations need. So from day one of becoming an Okta partner, we also became Okta users.

First, to determine whether Okta was a good fit for Somerford and our customers, we implemented and tested Okta internally to assess what capabilities it could bring to the table, and then to gain confidence using those capabilities to create a suite of interoperability between security solutions and data platforms.

It turns out that Okta has a fantastic platform to implement and integrate with our other solutions. This is key because we have long-lasting relationships with customers who expect a suite of compatible products from us. So when we onboard a new partner, they expect to be able to leverage those benefits. This all happened in 2016, and we still feel that Okta is the perfect choice to support our customers and our own future growth.

Q: Do you find it easier to relate with customers because you know what they might be going through as Okta users?

A: Absolutely. To give one example, before Okta we had to create user accounts for each employee across more than 40 applications, and provision them manually when new employees joined the team. With Lifecycle Management, we only need to create one. Okta has reduced our onboarding times from around two and a half hours to less than 10 minutes –and that’s including paperwork. Not only does this help us to grow quickly as a company, but also having this first-hand experience using Okta to solve challenges internally helps our team to pepper customer conversations with our own findings. People are usually surprised to find that identity-related processes can be so simple, but we can confidently say from experience that they can.

Q: Somerford also has a highly-trained team boasting some of the highest levels of accreditation out there. Why invest time and resources on Okta training?

A: We never want to be just one page ahead of the customer in the manual. We focus instead on having expert-level knowledge in-house. There are currently 34 Okta accredited team members, alongside another six Okta certified team members across the Somerford sales, pre-sales and technical delivery teams, and this number will keep on growing.
Okta Partner Sales and Presales accreditation training gives us a fantastic background in the identity space as a whole and teaches the value of identity management. This is really valuable because, for example, when we’re in meetings with someone who is in charge of that space within their own company, difficult questions are asked, not just about specific products and features, but about that wider, strategic knowledge in the area as well. So by investing in Okta accreditations and certifications, we’re able to offer expert-level support to customers, while also empowering our team members to learn, join those difficult conversations, and grow professionally.

As a result, we’re an extension to Okta and everybody wins: we offer highly-skilled consultancy and professional services on Okta’s behalf, and we support knowledge transfer internally, too. For example, when we have a great delivery with some lessons learned and useful hints and tips, we’ll make sure to share that with Okta so that Okta’s engineers don’t have to face the same problems we did, plus we can all build upon our shared knowledge.

For five years we’ve been vouching for Okta, and because the results are clear and long-lasting, our customers vouch for us. Seeing them succeed with IAM and CIAM is really satisfying.

To learn more about partnership opportunities with Okta, visit our Meet our Partners page.

Read the full partner testimonial here.