Oktane18: Fragmentation of SaaS Apps -- Solutions with Workplace by Facebook and Okta
Ravi Malik: And we'll get started with this session. Ravi Malick will be up here a little bit later from Vistra Energy, and right now I'll introduce Anand Dass from Facebook. Come on up. Thank you.
Anand Dass: All right. Got to fight against the blood levels after lunch. Good afternoon. My name is Anand Dass, and I work on platform partnerships at Workplace by Facebook. Thanks for being here. Before we get started, I'd love to get a pulse of the room, see who's in the audience. So, if you guys don't mind, how many of you folks are in IT? 70% of the audience, okay. How many are in other functions, like procurement, finance, purchase, marketing, sales? 5, 10%, okay. Anybody who's a startup, building applications, developers? One, lone army of one, okay. Awesome. So, it sounds like mostly an IT-driven audience, so this is going to be interesting. Another question. How many of you guys have heard about Workplace by Facebook before? Okay. How many before the keynote? Okay, good. Half of the room, so then this'll be ... This'll be more fun.
So, here's the plan of action. We're going to spend about 20 minutes and we're going to talk about the trends that we're seeing at the enterprise. Specifically, we're going to talk about what we see as the proliferation of SaaS applications, the resulting fragmentation of the enterprise, the impact of that on employee experience, and how modern CIOs are navigating this change.
And then, we'll transition to the back half of this conversation, which I think is more fun. Because we're going to have Ravi, who's the CIO of Vistra Energy, up here. Vistra is an interesting power and utilities company out of Texas, and yes, I did say, "power," and, "exciting," in the same sentence, and you'll know why when Ravi's up on stage. He's got a fascinating story of a modern CIO driving the business forward.
So, that's the plan of action for today. Sounds good? Okay. We're going to breeze through this.
So, the promise of technology has always been to make our lives better, and slowly but surely, that's happening, right? I used to stand to the side of a road trying to wave down a cab that wouldn't stop, and now I just tap a button on my phone. I used to fish for change in my pocket, change I never had, but now I swipe my phone. I used to struggle to make plans to meet with colleagues and friends, but now we're all just connected. So, as technology becomes faster and better, it's becoming less and less obtrusive. Just a couple of years ago, if I had to order takeout food or check traffic or listen to music, I would go to separate apps on my phone. But now, if I have the right technology, I just ask, and it happens.
So, consumer technology's going through this profound moment of convergence and refinement, but the technology that we use at work is doing exactly the opposite. Right? It's fragmenting into isolated gardens. I mean, far from being connected, familiar, and easy to use, it's getting disconnecting and atomized and wieldy, and is splintering into multiple, isolated gardens. Like the interesting thing is, each application is profoundly impactful and great at doing something really specific, which is why they're best of breed applications. But the unintended consequence of this is it silos information and disconnects communication, right?
I don't know if you guys have experienced this, but I know I have. Like remember the time when, I guess you were in a meeting, trying to get a decision made, but only half the room actually had access to the analytics report or knew even where to find it? I see a few nods in the room. Or the time when you're on version, I don't know, 40 of your presentation but only half the folks on your email or distribution list have the latest version? It happens all the time, and it's a ubiquitous problem, it's so pervasive. There's, on average, 461 applications that an enterprise uses to help people do their jobs, but each of them are separate and unique.
So, let's quickly step back and understand how we got here, right? So, I'm going to take you on a quick tour through history. It used to be that CIOs bought on-premise software, applications, and databases, so that they could run IT systems and maintain them. Things never talked to each other, a lot of data was generated, and it got dumped into data warehouses, but that was the classic on-perm era, right? But soon, as computing got better, CIOs realized that, "Hey, I don't have to be in the business of maintaining stuff, I can actually build applications that are specific to specific business processes, and a lot of custom applications were built. And this was primarily with software from blue chip companies, which were on-prem giants like Oracle and Sapient, Microsoft, and IBM.
And the rule of IT shifted to plumbing. Everything worked well within a stack because each of these vendors had the full stack through from application database, and things kind of worked well within the streamline, but IT still had to do the plumbing to make all of these things work better together, but they did not work between applications, and the burden was still on IT to make sure that these things ran. Just when CIOs thought that they had their grip on things, the cloud arrived, and everything changed again.
Suddenly, there was a proliferation of choice, like best of breed applications designed to do something really specific and really good at it, while lowering the total cost of ownership, which suddenly gives CIOs the idea that they no longer have to be locked in with incumbents, with these 200, 300 million dollar projects, they could actually pick best of breed products and drive the business forward. And the rule of IT changed to be an enabler of business, and also protecting and managing the risk and governance associated with the choice of these products.
So, while enterprise technology changed in terms of how it was being bought and consumed, there was a profound shift happening in parallel with consumer technology, right? This emergence of consumer-friendly mobile apps, with a ruthless focus on beauty and design and user experience, raised the bar in expectation of how software and technology should work for people. And people brought those expectations to work, and they just realized that the software at work just sucked. Right?
In parallel, what was happening was the audience and the people that came and showed up at work also changed. By 2020, over 50% of the workforce is expected to be millennials. Many of you in the audience, I see from up here, are millennials. And millennials communicate and collaborate very differently. There's a lesser preference for long, winding meetings or long-form memos or email distribution lists with announcements. No one reads them. And there's a greater preference for short-form add-on conversations and being able to make decisions, on the fly, where information is available. The proliferation of messaging apps is a great example and a proof point that people are trending to a place where short-form add-on conversations are valuable, and it gives them the ability to drive forward faster.
So, as you use hundreds of applications to do your jobs, as mobile apps reshape your expectations, as conversational interfaces like messaging applications change how you communicate and collaborate, the key question is this. How do you make sure that information, living in all these multiple applications, are intuitively surfaced where conversations are happening, so you can create, share, get feedback, and make decisions? And we think the answer lies in making sure that the best of breed applications that the companies invested in all work better together in an integrated, seamless manner. And that's what we're trying to get done at Workplace.
We're trying to create a place where everyone can work, not just the overserved worker in product or design or engineering, but everybody at a company, and bring together the people who you do work with, information and applications that you need to do the work, and conversations where you make decisions around work.
So, what you see up here is the Workplace experience. It centers around newsfeed. It's a very familiar concept to two billion people worldwide because if you've used Facebook, it looks and feels like Facebook. But here's the cool thing. People in a workplace instance are controlled and provisioned and user-managed and MFA-ed SSO-ed by enterprise. Those are the only people in your instance. So think of it as a private version of Facebook, just scoped down to your company. But it is not an enterprise social network, it's a product where work happens. And work happens in groups, and groups are collections of people. And here, you see Amanda posting a project update in a group, and her colleagues will give feedback with the classic user experience paradigms that all of us are familiar with in terms of likes, comments, shares, et cetera.
Work also happens in Workplace Chat. Workplace Chat is our chat product for text, voice, and video calling. But it's not just communication and collaboration, that's just the beginning. Workplace also allows you to bring in information from other best of breed application that you've already invested in, and take information from Workplace and move it into those best of breed applications, so you can actually get work done better.
So if you're working the team, and you have a file stored in Box, you can easily surface that in conversations in a Workplace group. If you are in sales and marketing and you have your lead report or your marketing automation report, you can bring that into Workplace groups and have discussions and decisions around it. If you're in HR, and you're trying to get new employee onboarding done, and you want them to sign paperwork, you can directly notify them from Adobe Sign, for example, into Work Chat. And it shows up as a chat notification like it would on messenger because Work Chat is the enterprise version of messenger.
If you are in learning and development, you can share new course content in the newsfeed, as if you're sharing news. And if you're an employee trying to get work done, but you're stuck because things don't work and you need help by filing a support ticket with IT or HR, you can directly file support tickets from Work Chat into ServiceNow or Freshservice or other products that are out there.
And that's just the beginning. We strongly believe that everything should work better together because it's a better value proposition for the user, for the business, and for the SaaS industry in general. And this is why we think of Workplace as a glue layer. We're not trying to replace any of these best of breed products, we want to act as an interface that is extremely familiar to everybody worldwide, where interactions are easy to happen and accessible for everybody, and plug that and connect that with the core systems of record that drive the underlying business processes. And do it in a way that is extremely secure, while respecting identity and permissions.
So, what does better together actually mean? Let's talk about what it means for people. We've learned from customers that it involves three constructs. Content, context, and identity. Content is the atomic unit of information that you need to make a decision. It is the task in JIRA, the plan in your Box document. Context gives a reason and adds meaning to that content so that you can make decisions. It's a notification that your project manager changed the status of a task in JIRA. It's a notification that, "Hey, guess what! You have vacation days or sick days that you haven't used, it's going to expire." People shouldn't have to remember these things, they shouldn't have to go and fetch this information. It should just be available to them.
If content and context are taking about data portability, identity talks about security and permissions. There should not be a situation where there is an unintended escalation of privileges and people get to see something that they're not supposed to see. And it's also important to understand that just because two best of breed applications that you've invested in can't agree on whose permission supersedes what. There shouldn't be a collateral damage around escalation of privileges. So, if you can solve content, bring it together with context, and respect privacy and identity, then you get to a place where things work better together for people.
Let's actually dive into an example. So, Andrew here works in communications. He's drafting a communication plan. He has a plan, but he doesn't have the plan. So, he shares it in his Workplace group and asks Rebecca or Rob or Regina, saying, "Hey, give me feedback." We believe that sharing creates transparency, and transparency creates better insights, and better insights lead to better decision making. Workplace is not about technology. It's, at its core, about people.
Let's talk about something more personal. All of us love to get paid. But I don't know of a single person who loves to go check their pay stubs or our W2 or figuring out leave balance. Anybody who love to do that? Or thinks it's easy? It's not, it sucks! But it's different with ADP and Workplace.
So, if you are in a Workplace instance that has ADP turned on, ADP shows up as a bot inside Workplace Chat. It allows you to check for time off and pay balances when you're inside Work Chat. And let's say you get started, the ADP bot, the first thing it asks you is, "Do you, as the person, want to receive your information via this channel?" And so you opt in, and after you opt in, the next thing the ADP bot asks you in this conversational interface is authentication. It asks you to prove that John Doe in Workplace is actually John Doe in ADP, and you authorize to actually receive this information. And once you authenticate yourself, it gives you your payroll information.
But the really cool thing about what you're seeing up onscreen is none of this information is living inside Workplace. That sheet that just popped up is a web view. The information that is being rendered in the web view controlled server-side by ADP. And it's controlled in terms of how ADP wants this information exposed and how your enterprise HR and benefits administrator set up ADP for that company. But the user can get this information, they can click in, and they can drill in, and let's say you want to see how many dollars you've paid in taxes, you can-
Anand Dass: ... and they can drill in. And then, let's say you want to see how many dollars you paid in taxes. You can drill in, too. This is a great example of how somebody can fetch information in a very intuitive way, which other ways would've meant logging in to a separate system through VPN, understanding the user experience, and logging in to pick the information out.
This might seem trivial to many of us who spend most of our days in front of a computer, but imagine the retail worker. Imagine the power plant employee. Imagine the delivery person who's out on the street, or a salesperson. It used to be that the only way they could get their pay was a physical pay stub landed in their mailbox or if it in landed in their e-mail inbox, which they had to click on and then go on and log in to, and if they didn't have an email, it's a piece of paper. But now, they don't have to worry about any of this stuff. They can get the information when they want, and it is personalized to them.
Let's talk about what Better Together means for I.T. We think it's three things. It's engagement, choice without having to sacrifice on security. The hardest thing or one of the hardest things that we've learned from customers in I.T. organizations is to get adoption for the tools that they have spent millions of dollars and invested in to get employees to use it, but the reality is people don't give a shit. They will use what they like, and they will use what they're comfortable with. The question really becomes, how do you provide them the ability to make a choice and make the decisions of the products that they want to use without losing control and letting shout out and making sure that the investments you've already made ... the information, the data, and the workflow are intuitively surfaced in places where they're spending time and having conversations.
In terms of security, it's really interesting to think about the constructs of what is a source of truth? With Okta and Workplace, is what happens is the employee provisioning, just the instant provisioning of the Genesis users, the single sign on that happens after a multi-factor authentication and user life cycle management, the single source of truth is Okta.
Once you use Okta, the truth just propagates through the Workplace. In addition, the Workplace has ISO 27001, SOC 2, SOC 3, and GDPR compliance, so it gets to a world where if you've done investments, like I say, applications, but you're looking for a discovery surface in a way that is engaging for employees at work and consume that information, we can give you a secure interface to do that so that you can leverage your existing investments and you can give people choice.
Let's look at more examples. This is an example of Box. The user here is trying to share a file that is in a Box folder. The file lives inside Box, and user is making a post here saying, "Hey, the client launched the product. They love it, and they've written case study." They pick from the options in there, which is Box in this case, and it renders a metadata preview in the feed. The cool thing is, the file preview does not render unless the person has underlying permissions in Box to see the file. So they will show up as 'Link Not Found.'
And when the user sees the file in the feed and wants to click through to see the file, it takes them to a previewer, which is a Box previewer, which lives inside Workplace. The content is still in Box's [governing 00:17:15] zones and in Box's data structure, which the customers bought into, but the previews are rendered inside Workplace, which allows for a couple of things to happen. One, it ensures that I.T. doesn't have to worry about people randomly uploading files in random places, but the cooler thing is this: If you spend millions of dollars buying Box ... But not everybody uses it because they haven't had a chance to know about it or use it ... The fact that it shows up in their feed, even if they don't have permissions, and the fact that for them to access it, they need to sign on and get access to a Box account, increases the ability for you to get returns out of the investments that you've already made in Box.
This is an example of how we can provide choice and yet leverage customers' investments while doing this in a secure way. A lot of modern organizations are realizing that there is a better way to leverage information and investments they've already made in multiple applications.
For example, Farmers and GoPro they use Okta as a source of food for provisioning and use a lifecycle management, and they use Workplace as a system of employee engagement and interactions.
Lets deep dive into a case study. Oxfam is a global non-profit with about ten thousand employees. Oxfam provisions employees into Workplace through Okta and uses Workplace to deliver what they call as the "One Oxfam Experience" and you see cool examples based on how their using both Okta and Workplace and Box.
The thing that was powerful to me was the following story. An aid worker in Africa whose job it was to ensure that there's water pumps in villages, so that kids in the village could have clean water. That's a shock. He goes out there, and he does this. He realizes after he's installed the pump for the first time ever the kids in that village have access to clean drinking water. He pulls out his phone, on a 2G network, so super high latency network, pulls up Workplace, which is on his phone, access which has been provisioned through Okta goes live in Workplace because Workplace live where you can actually go live with video, captures that authentic unedited raw moment of kids experiencing the fact that they have clean drinking water. Posts it into his group, which is a filed working group the fundraising team sees this post in their news feed and realizes that this is this unscripted moment of delivering value to their stakeholders is something that's incredibly powerful when it comes to fundraising. Choose to take that video, share it with their fundraising officers through Box and draw fundraising dollars.
The journey from an authentic moment where you actually did work that was meaningful and purposeful to driving the mission of the company happened because Box and Okta, and Workplace together made that possible in a very easy way while securing information. Diane Langley at Oxfam talks about this really well. She thinks that Workplace is a glue that brings together all the tools in her ecosystem so that it all behaves together as one Oxfam, like one IT infrastructure in one ecosystem, but it's not just about on-premise applications, it's not just about enterprise, SAS applications and best of breed applications working better together, it's also about on-premise applications. We're starting to see companies leverage the fact that there's this familiar user experience with Workplace and plug-in Workplace with their enterprise core systems that are on-prem.
So let's talk about Version Atlantic that connected their reservation system where they can see passenger load, what flight attendants and crew can get to see in Workplace chat, so we're going to play a quick video to hear about their experience. I'm going to transition over. Mindy could we transition to the video please?
Speaker 1: When we first applied Workplace our goals we're really to create channels of communication of information that didn't exist before. I think the ease of use and the ease of communication actually started new connections that didn't exist, which fostered further new connections. When you're an airline employee right? You can fly standby. You can sit on an empty seat on the aircraft. So there's a great deal of interest in how many empty seats are on this aircraft or that aircraft.
Speaker 2: In the past making staff travel has been a little bit more complicated. We've had to log on to a couple of websites, check the loads, then actually go into booking the staff travel text, bit of a lengthier process.
Speaker 1: We made an integration, a bot that would do that for us, and our employees just love that. It's really helped drive usage at Workplace.
Speaker 3: What Low Checker actually does is it looks into our passenger service systems, exactly same systems we use for our customers, and it brings up the flight data according to seats how many seats are full and available.
Speaker 1: So our strategy for integration. Our first one we built ourselves, I think ... however we're not wedded to that at all. We're very interested in integrations and things that other people build, building upon lots of other smart people doing lots of interesting things.
Speaker 3: The impact it can have. It can transform how an organization functions fundamentally. He is a game changer.
Anand Dass: Mindy could we switch back? Perfect. So, in summary the ways we think about Workplace is at its core, it's about people. It's about giving people the ability to create share get feedback and make decisions, while ensuring that the enterprise has the ability to provide them with chose and do that in a way where they can get more out of the investments that have already made in software products and do that in a way that extremely secure, while respecting identity and permissions.
This brings us the story of Mr. Energy. Please join me and welcoming Ravi Malik, CIO of Vistra on stage to share his story of how he thinks about change and driving transformation in the organization.
Ravi Malik: Thanks Robbie.
Anand Dass: So, every story has a hero, every hero has a backstory. Tell us your backstory.
Ravi Malik: Okay. Let's see. Where to start. I had a little bit of a different road to the CIO job. I started my career actually in investment banking. I was an analyst driving spreadsheets, equity trading, trading fixed income trading on the business side. I'd always been a little bit of a tech head, so I automated all my spreadsheets, taught myself Visual Basic automated everything so I could get out of the office earlier, but that was my initial foray into the tech world if you will, after investment banking I joined PWC on the management consulting side. Spent a few years with PWC and that's really where I got ... kind of cut my teeth on system design and enterprise deployments.
That was about the time where big ERP deployments we're going, so SAP, PeopleSoft, Ceville those kinds of things. I actually ended up taking a little bit of a different route, focusing on the eCommerce, so I go into JAVA early, which was like I say, it was well planned, but it was just like, "Hey! You want to learn this new language JAVA?" "Yeah! Sounds great." Hooked me up with this guy JAVA Pete and little did I know the impact that was going to happen to my career, because I became one of the very few people in PWC that knew JAVA, so that had an interesting aspect to it. I got into eCommerce side of things where everybody was going the ERP route.
I didn't have that sort of influence, the ERP influence. Spent about three years at PWC and then left to join a software startup. This was late 90s, a company called Extricity and through various acquisition spin offs I was there for about six pears and then all in different roles, so from starting and consulting, to sales, marketing, BusDev, lot of different roles that was the fun times of being a startup, and just having to do what was necessary and fill a lot of different jobs.
About six years after that I joined a company called Optsware.
Anand Dass: Yeah.
Ravi Malik: Similar role with global services sales, presales, and consulting. That company got acquired-
Anand Dass: [crosstalk 00:25:33]
Ravi Malik: Yes. Yes. That was-
Anand Dass: It's a cool book you guys should read if you haven't read it.
Ravi Malik: Yeah. No it was a really interesting experience. There was Mark Andreessen and Ben Horowitz company that eventually got acquired by HP, but prior to the acquisition I decided to go back and do the financial world, spend time with a smaller financial services company really with the intent to stop traveling. That unfortunately did not happen because we grew significantly and after a few years there we ended up selling the company. I literally had one goal which was to stop traveling.
we were living in Florida at the time, willing to relocate. I soon discovered that the location parameters had some thresholds to it. My wife did not want to go back to the northeast, really enjoyed the warmer weather, so that's literally how we ended up in Texas. TXU Energy at the time, the prior CIO there we got connected, and I said, "Look I didn't grow up in IT and I didn't grow up in energy." He said, "That's great. That's perfect. We need more of those people." I said, "I really don't want to travel." And he said, "All our customers are in Texas." Sold!
Anand Dass: That's interesting. Why was it perfect though. You we're not an IT-
Ravi Malik: Yeah, it's ... so TXU has its roots and we’re, so Vistra Energy is the corporate parent of TXU Energy, which is our largest retail brand, and Limited Energy, which is our generation brand, so we are a power generator and we sell electricity. We're the largest competitive electricity company in North America now after our recent acquisition. So what that means is in a lot of markets you have a regulated utility the customer does not have choice to pick their electricity provider. In Texas and in other markets you can choose your electricity provider. I equate it to walking down the cereal aisle and you have a lot of different options to choose, some are big brands that you recognize and some are the little organic startups, but that's the choice that you have, but even with that fairly recent dynamic the utilities industry and the power generation energy hasn't really changed the way it operates from how you generate power for a hundred plus years.
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:28:04]
Ravi Malik: ... generate power for 100 plus years, so it's usually a central plant type of plant or location that generates power, puts power onto the grid, and that grid then delivers it to the end user, to the customer.
Anand Dass: So here's a nontraditional exec in a traditionally industry and he's just said. "I'm going to go run IT at the office”.
Ravi Malik: I don't know if I actually chose that, but no, it was an opportunity. I looked at it from the perspective of it's an industry that has done things the same way. It's heavily regulated and been heavily regulated. You have tenure, average tenure, in some cases of 25, 30 years, and it's not uncommon for us to celebrate a 35 or 40 year anniversary.
Anand Dass: Employee.
Ravi Malik: You have generational employees.
Anand Dass: Wow.
Ravi Malik: And so I looked at it as one, it did fulfill the checkbox of not traveling and staying home more. But two, it was an opportunity to learn a new industry, which is really a fascinating industry, the electricity industry. And two, yeah, I could bring an outside perspective. So I was unencumbered by some of the, one, the industry knowledge, that this is the way you do things. And two, the sort of the traditional IT thinking. I had sold into IT for many years. I'd interacted. I had a lot of preconceived notions, some were true, others were not. But it was there were a combination of things that made it felt like a startup in a large company.
Anand Dass: What were those things?
Ravi Malik: So the first off the deregulation, so that was still ... Texas was deregulated in the early two thousands for electricity. So they were still working things out. Still though, the transition from the traditional interaction with the customer to a more digitally oriented interaction with the customer was occurring. We were prior to ... There's a little bit of history of the company in 2008. TXU Corp was bought by KKR, TPG and Goldman in a very large LBO betting that the price of natural gas, which drives the power prices, would either remain the same or go up. It actually went the other direction. This thing called fracking started to emerge shortly thereafter. And so the value dropped.
Part of that LBO, they had ... Like many companies, they had outsourced ... They had outsourced pretty much every back office function. They took the opportunity to sever that agreement and bring things in source. So we were hiring, building organizations had just implemented sap for the retail side. We were moving data centers, overhauling data centers. It felt like a startup. I mean there was just really a flurry of activity. And there was opportunity to wear a lot of different hats.
Anand Dass: So you arrive at this moment of change with an outsider perspective. What were the things that you thought worked to your advantage because you were not in the system and what were the things that you had to pick up as you went through the business?
Ravi Malik: I think one thing that worked to my advantage was I was used to a pace of decision change that was very different and did not include a lot of layers. I was used to, "Hey, we need to make a decision as a company." Whether it's a new product direction, how do we close the deal, how do we price a deal? And that was you get a group together, you get the right people in the room, everybody agrees and you're done. And it's maybe a 30, 45 minute meeting. I had to adjust my expectations to decisions taking a much longer time and involving quite a deal more people. So that was something I had to change, but at the same time it was less of a change. It was more of how do I try and move this over time to do something that's a little bit more efficient and faster?
Anand Dass: So at that point, like how do you make decisions to drive agility and how do you actually make prioritization decisions, specifically resourcing and what to do and how much to do?
Ravi Malik: So we have ... We're still a large company so we have forums and steering committees that we utilize. But one of the things that we did, so the continuing the company history, a formal energy future holdings had to file for bankruptcy in 2014. We emerged in 2016, TXU energy, and limited the competitive sides of the business. Our new CEO, one of the things that he wanted to do when he came in was really kind of flatten the org structure and get to decisions faster, improve the decision making process. And so that is something that we focused on. So we got rid of a lot of administrative processes and frameworks that were slowing that up.
We've often talked about even sometimes the wrong decision is better than no decision, because you can course correct.
Anand Dass: Yep.
Ravi Malik: So we've focused on, as a company, just kind of as a policy, trying to get to decisions faster. The things that enable that, so we are a workplace customer, I'm a strong believer in the same thing. Work is done in groups. It's done around content. The faster you can get people to look at that content, understand it, weigh in on it, and then agree what the direction is, the better you're going to operate as a company. So there was a cultural aspect of that change. There was a technical aspect of that change. And bringing those two together, I believe, has helped us in our decision making process. We have less of the 30 to 40 people meetings, more of them, "Hey, if you subscribe, if you're in this group and you're part of it and you want to weigh in with an opinion, great. If you don't weigh in with an opinion and decisions made, train's gone."
Anand Dass: Train's gone.
Ravi Malik: Sorry. You lost the opportunity. And I think people are getting comfortable with that. We, for a long time, we had very much a kind of a Kumbaya type of approach with meetings that, okay, if that person's coming, then those three people need to come. And you'd have people, executives, show up with entourages and then people would want to be there because executives were there. And that was something we also honed in on was have the right people in the meetings, have the right forums, get people used to you don't have to know about everything that's going on, but you need to know about the things that are important to you.
Anand Dass: How did you make the decision to pick Okta? How did you make the decision to pick Box? Decision to pick Workplace? What was the calculus behind that?
Ravi Malik: So I'll start with Box with our progression was actually we started with Box about three, four years ago. And then we actually adopted Workplace before we switched to Okta.
Anand Dass: Okay.
Ravi Malik: But the decision to bring Box in was very simply a version control issue on financials that actually impacted me personally. I presented financials that were not quite accurate because the version had gotten screwed up in email or in the shared drive or whatever. And so that was kind of the end of it. I said, "No, we're putting this in." And that kind of started our progression with Box. The decision on Workplace was literally visiting the Facebook headquarters, seeing the presentation and just very quickly saying, okay, that is something ...
We had had a lot of conversations as a leadership team, my technology leadership team, on how do we get people connected better? How do we shrink our world? Because we have lots of different locations with our plants. A lot of them are in remote, kind of less populated areas. How do you make them feel part of the headquarters? How do you make them not feel so far away? As well as getting a pulse very ... being able to very quickly get a pulse of the organization and what's going on. What are the issues that people are raising and gravitating to? What is the work that people are interested in and they're highly engaged on versus the things they aren't engaged on? And if you know Facebook and you know connect the world and really shrink the world and bring those groups together, applying that to the enterprise, it was just conceptually, it was like, "Oh yeah, we need to do that."
Anand Dass: How do you layer on the notion of security and identity along alongside this?
Ravi Malik: So yeah, so there are ... Our decision on Okta came actually very shortly thereafter. We had, like many companies, gone a different route. About five, six years ago, you know, the energy industry, the utility industry, became more of a hard target once people realized that actual infrastructure could be hacked and compromised and used, basically weaponized, in a way that you could take out huge portions of the infrastructure. And that had become a military strategy. Things really started to heat up on the cybersecurity side. There'd always been kind of the, "Well, let's make sure we don't get lose customer data or those kinds of things." But it really started to ramp up.
We went down a very traditional path. We brought in advisors. We implemented some kind of big software packages, but we hit a plateau pretty quickly, particularly around user education, just the user experience. So there's a lot of things we ended up looking at and we looked at tools that would accomplish what we needed to accomplish, but would impact user productivity. Right? And that just, one, that hurts adoption. It kind of kills your license to do other things from an IT perspective to go do innovation things if you just ... if you're impacting the user in a negative way.
Okta, we had been talking to Okta. It checked a lot of our boxes for very intuitive, easy user experience. It's cloud based, not on prem, and integrates through API. In fact, with a lot of things we were already running like Workday and Salesforce, Box-
Anand Dass: You'd made the decision to pick the best products for the job and then you started pulling them together.
Ravi Malik: Which is ... best of breed is you hear that, but there's always a ... there's the upside downside to best of breed because you get application sprawl and then you get people like, "Well no, this is the best for this particular task that only this one person in the company does." Well, no, sorry, find something else.
Anand Dass: I realize we're running out of time. So quick 30 second soundbite on what value have you seen from these three products working together? Like a tangible example maybe?
Ravi Malik: Yeah. So we just went through a major acquisition. So we acquired a company called Dynegy, which effectively took our footprint out of Texas and made us really the largest national competitive power company, Integrated Power Company. And we created groups in Workplace to manage the integration. So we have groups managing the email conversion, managing the access. We have a group that ... issues that came up, not just technology related but business issues. As with any acquisition, you have vertical acquisition, you're expected to achieve synergies. And so issues that would come up ... and these are two very complex companies that you're pulling together and trying to integrate content box, right?
We could extend out to advisors internally and externally. And then Okta, when it came time, when we closed the deal and we had to provision people on both sides to access Vistra apps, access Dynegy apps, we used Okta and it was ... We had very, very few issues. I've gone through these kinds of things with companies on a much smaller scale and experienced much more serious and greater number of issues. And I think those three tools really helped us make it a smooth transition.
Anand Dass: Fantastic. So, it's like you're running a whole post-merger acquisition playbook through Okta, Box, and Workplace. So it's a good story.
Ravi Malik: Yeah. I don't know ... yeah.
Anand Dass: But thank you so much for joining us and I think we're out of time. So ...
Ravi Malik: Okay.
Anand Dass: We'll wrap it up. Thank you so much. Thank you
By combining Workplace by Facebook and Okta, these industry leaders are finding new and exciting ways to bridge core, on-prem infrastructure such as Active Directory all on a cloud platform. The inaugural partner of Okta’s Project Onramp, Okta + Workplace by Facebook gives enterprises the identity and access management (IAM) tools they need to succeed with a simple one-click delivery. Watch this presentation if you are an IT Admin interested in maximizing your return on our combined services.
Tejal Parekh, Head of North America Marketing, Facebook
Ravi Malick, SVP & CIO, Vistra Energy