Okta announces new support services for channel partners at Oktane customer event

The new initiatives include the creation of teams of sales engineers and business development reps specifically to engage with the channel.

Patrick McCue, SVP, Worldwide Partners at Okta

SAN FRANCISCO – This week, Okta held their annual customer event here, Oktane, at the Moscone Center West. The Partner Day, held on the first day of the event, was well attended, with about 500 partners present. Okta emphasized to partners how their major new solution announcements at the event have a major channel play. They also announced new support services to further enable partners, with teams of sales engineers [SE] and sales development reps [SDRs] to work with them.

“Okta has to partner,” said Patrick McCue, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Partners at Okta. “If partners didn’t exist today, there would be no Okta, It has become all about integrating things together, and partners are very good at that. We have a strong partner organization behind the momentum we are building here, and we can do an even better job working with partners.”

McCue came to Okta a year ago from Gigya, where he ran their global channel for four years. When he arrived, he said that partner-related activity fell into four types of buckets, which did not have much co-ordination between them. One was solution provider partners. Another was strategic system integrators. A third was ISVs like Box and Slack, and their final one was Okta’s own Partner Success Team, who built the partner program and partner community.

“My job was to knit them all together,” McCue said.  “There’s a lot of value in collaborative partnership. For example, we work with Deloitte and Workday in a three-way Go-to-Market model.”

McCue said that a lot has been accomplished in bringing partners together, and in bringing many into Okta’s partner program

“We won’t ever be completely finished, but we have migrated 70 per cent of partners over to the new program, which is great,” he said. “Now we are doing strategic business plans with focused business partners as we grow out.”

Okta started out direct, and added a channel as they grew.

“Today, channel revenue is 15 per cent of overall revenues, but we are increasing that pretty rapidly,” McCue said. “We have a goal of having partners involved in 65 per cent of deals. Partner-led is our goal, although we aren’t looking to be 100 per cent channel like VMware or Zscaler. The partner program is designed to reward those who do things like do a demo or do a Proof-of-Concept.”

Digital transformation is opening up new partner opportunities, and bringing Okta into contact with new types of partners.

“The more traditional way of working with us is around customer identity and access, and access management,’ McCue noted. “However, digital transformation also applies to solutions that once used to be handled by on-prem solutions like Documentum. Today, customers use cloud vendors like Box for that, and they need the security components around that.”

Digital agency partners are something that Okta is just starting to focus on. Getting more of them has been identified as one of its strategic priorities which they term a VMT –  Vision, Method, Target.

“We want to go out and recruit them and start working with them,” McCue said. “We talk with these companies on a regular basis, but we don’t have a big position with them yet. It’s because our core business is around security. Our traditional partnerships there with companies like Sailpoint and CyberArc didn’t fit into that digital agency world.”

Okta made several announcements at Oktane that significantly extended the ability of customers and partners to do new custom integration capability. Okta Identity Engine, a revision of the engine that drives the Okta Identity Cloud, let customers disaggregate the identity workflow and reassemble it like Lego building blocks to better address specific cases. The Identity Engine is complemented by Okta Hooks, new functionality that lets developers create unlimited custom integration

McCue sees Advanced Server Access as a enormous growth opportunity for the company. Partners will be able to sell it, and some of Okta’s present partners have the skills to do so.

“I have found when I meet with partners, that many of those in the security business are already deeply into servers,” McCue said. “Partners like Optiv get that. On the other hand, partners who sell more to the marketing side don’t have that skill now. We are definitely looking for new partners around servers.”

Okta will also be adding additional integration functionality based on their announcement last month to acquire Azuqua. Azuqua makes a no-code, cloud-based business application integration and workflow automation, and the plan is to integrate the technology into Okta’s Lifecycle Management product to create a neutral, independent control center for automating the business processes and the flow of identities between applications and services for everyone in an organization, That will let customers use pre-built connectors and logic to automate more of their business processes and connect to even more apps.

“We will be able to more fully incorporate identity into customized workflows with this,” McCue said.

A highlight of the Partner Day was three panels.

“One had our two founders and Charles Race, our President of Worldwide Operations,” McCue said. “One was a panel with a partner and a customer, and the other was a panel with three different partners who worked together to create a solution.

“We also talked about new support areas that we are launching,” McCue stated. “We are investing in partner success to make sure that our partners can be successful. We created a team of SEs to work with partners. It starts with five of these available globally, with Adrian Ward as the leader. We will build that out further. We also added a team of Okta SDRs to work with partners.

McCue said that these business development reps are particularly important for partners in Okta’s line of work.

“Partners get a lot of their business through relationships,” he said. “However, in identity, many people don’t know that they need us until they are approached by us.”

Last year Okta launched a new partner portal. This year at Oktane19, they talked about the addition of new features, and also emphasized to partners that they can save time if they use the portal more.

“They aren’t using it as much as you might think,” he said “Some people just like to do email. They email their rep and register a deal that way, and we let them do that. But if they register leads through the portal they can track its progress through the approval procedure, and can see what happens.”

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