Oktane20 Opening Keynote with Steve Williams (NTT Data Services) + Todd McKinnon (Okta)



Speaker 1: NTT is an amazing, very storied company, almost 120 years old, in excellence and innovation and really using technology to solve client challenges that they face in their individual businesses. NTT Data has the privilege of working with 85% of the Fortune Global 100. Part of our expertise is being able to look across many different industry verticals, solve challenges in unique ways and help use that as inspiration for what comes next.

Todd McKinnon: Steve, thanks for joining us today.

Steve Williams: Thank you, Todd. Looking forward to this.

Todd McKinnon: Yeah, thanks for being such a great customer, and it's been great to work with you.

Steve Williams: Pleasure, for sure. I appreciate everything Okta is doing. Got a great partnership going.

Todd McKinnon: NTT Data is a big IT services company among other things, so you're helping companies with their cloud migrations, retire legacy infrastructure, and generally solve really complex technology challenges. What have you learned from that?

Steve Williams: I think the biggest thing that we've learned from this is there is definitely no one size fits all solution to this, and there are a lot of different ways to approach the identity landscape challenges that exist. One of the most important elements is finding a partner who can truly give you that flexibility to answer many different problems, but off of the backbone of one very competent solution. That's one reason why we find Okta to be a perfect fit for our environment.

Todd McKinnon: So can you talk us through a little bit more how you, when you work with customers, some of the common things you see and how you approach those problems?

Steve Williams: Sure. I think one of the biggest challenges that we find commonly throughout the customer base that we have is there are so many teams involved with this identity challenge, from HR to legal to talent acquisition. Sometimes outside recruiters, of course IT and information security, and everyone has a different view of what makes identity real for that particular group, but also the company itself. I think a challenge that we all face is how do we have a common language center or vernacular was we start tackling this challenge and start bridging across, how do we bring continuity to that identity flow?

Steve Williams: Trying to take away the manual process, the heavy lift that teams tend to have, but also they're very error prone. And so one of those pieces that we look forward to is being able to use Okta's workflow to really solve that in a very seamless, very automated way, and of course there's the human change element to that as well. How do we make sure people understand very clearly, here's what yesterday's world looks like and here's what today's world could look like? Getting them through that whole pace of engineering, understanding the business flow, putting that into an automated tool, and frankly taking a lot of the burden off of those teams and letting them focus on more human problems.

Todd McKinnon: We talk a lot about platforms and the attributes of a platform, when you think about Okta as a platform, how do you think about the balance between flexibility and the ability to program Okta to do anything versus more out of the box, pre-canned flows? How do you think about the balance between those two?

Steve Williams: Great question, and to a large extent I think one of the powerful parts is that you can choose both, and finding that nice balance as you put it between how much customization do I really want to do versus how many of the out of the box Okta supported ways could we accomplish a lot of these tasks. The better part about removing the customization is most people have entrenched themselves very heavily in whatever their legacy process is, and I think the challenge is they find it very problematic to maintain both the discipline around the code, the testing is the vendor does upgrades to their particular product set, and of course as the business itself changes.

Steve Williams: NTT Data, for example, does a fair amount of acquisitions in the industry. So even if we thought yesterday we had a very good answer for how does NTT Data want to onboard or change or walk through the offboarding process for its people, the next acquisition inherently changes that. So the more we have a vendor supported automated workflow, the less work it is on our teams to go back through, try to re-engineer that process, test it, validate it, and ultimately get it back into production for that new team. I do think that's one of those common conversations we have with our clients, but also internal to NTT, of making sure we have that fine line balance between capability of our own customization, but also trying to keep that as minimalistic as possible and enjoy the power that Okta brings to the table.

Todd McKinnon: One of the things we're excited about with Okta workflows is the visual environment, so different people besides just developers can create the process. As you've worked with the product, how realistic is that? Have you've seen people that aren't down in the weeds, developers or identity folks be able to add to the process?

Steve Williams: Great question. Yes, absolutely. Thinking through one of those powers of low code, no code kind of visual development, if you will, the workflows have been incredible for that regard. Taking a talent acquisition person who's worried about what are the right requirements for this job, talking to those candidates, but then being able to turn around very easily and say, "Here's how I would have approached that problem on the phone or through our existing tools," and being able to drag and drop literally code snippets to be able to do that same element inside of Workflow has paid enormous for us.

Steve Williams: We don't have to worry about finding time with the dev teams or finding the right kind of Q&A person. A visual low code, no code style environment like Okta is bringing to the table with Workflow has been an enormous enabler for our teams that aren't necessarily technical.

Todd McKinnon: How do you think about, as you make the identity process seamless and more integrated, how do you integrate that with security?

Steve Williams: Trying to make sure that we can answer the security model in a very ubiquitous one NTT style of approach has been very powerful and a lot of that comes off the backbone of looking at that workflow, understanding in a very simplistic visual way to your point earlier, how can I identify what I need to do, where the security elements live, how I would actually do audit and [inaudible 00:06:49] off the back of that to make sure the processes are working as expected, becomes very simple when you have a common platform to do that. I think that's given us a lot of trust and speed as we make this transition across literally hundreds of companies. It's quite complex and it's nice to have that simple view to make people comfortable.

Todd McKinnon: NTT Data works with many of the largest companies in the world, helping them with their IT challenges. What are some of the interesting trends that you're seeing in your customer base that may help inform how you're thinking about the internal technology in IT at NTT Data itself?

Steve Williams: Great question, again.

Todd McKinnon: Five for five.

Steve Williams: You're on a roll. Thinking of OT, and a lot of our clients, especially in the manufacturing space, are looking for ways to integrate their portfolio of truly older non-human style automation, taking advantage of that digital transformation that may be appropriate for their industry. A lot of that means we can't actually assign identity or manipulate authentication expecting a human on the other end of the keyboard, or really just using yesterday's ideology of how we would challenge people to inter-operate with our systems.

Steve Williams: A lot of our clients are starting to see that same demand as they move from, say, a human who maybe yesterday did data entry for checks or some particular payment methodology, being able to automate that with true either custom development on their own or bringing in another piece of solution that could clearly do that job as a business process or robotic process, but having a common system like Okta to be able to tie that together and give you a digital identity that meets both the human and nonhuman element, that's been very powerful.

Todd McKinnon: That's great to hear. Well, Steve, we really appreciate you taking some time from your home. Take care of yourself and your team and your family and stay safe out there, and hopefully next year we'll get to meet in person.

Steve Williams: Sounds good. Thanks, Todd. I appreciate it.

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