Interview: Okta’s Bill Hustad on identity management

In a career that began in the United States Marine Corp supporting the President of the United States, Bill Hustad has led teams in everything from sales to product management. His most recent role before becoming SVP partners and alliances at Okta involved leading Splunk’s global partner organisation, overseeing strategy and execution across technology partnerships and channel sales.

What excites you about working with a company such as Okta?

What excites me about working at Okta is that the company is very well positioned to capitalise on recent changes to the market. Identity has never been more important, thanks to the rise of multi-cloud, hybrid cloud and the rapid growth in remote work. Okta is helping companies around the world to connect individuals with the right technologies, securely and quickly, wherever it is necessary. That puts Okta at the centre of our changing digital world.

Why should channels consider including Okta as part of its tech stack?

Okta is 100% Software as a Service (SaaS) and it offers channel partners a great opportunity to generate wins. Identity has become vastly more important for modern businesses; our identity solutions are becoming an integral part of how customers ensure that end-users have access to all the apps that they need. It’s central to any digital transformation effort and empowers organisations to engage with remote work, edge or hybrid cloud.

We also help our customers meet their security goals, offering them the ability to use tools, resources and systems smoothly, but also securely. For customers, the peace of mind and ease of use Okta offers means that they can be free to focus on other crucial aspects of their business.

What is Okta aiming for in 2023?

In terms of the partner contribution to our business, I feel there’s more that we can do. We have seen around a 10% growth in our channel business in the past couple of years and I believe that can go higher. We’re doing great things in the traditional channel, but so far, we haven’t really modernised that approach.

Our new partner programme, scheduled for early 2023, aims to build on our current success – and I’ve already met with dozens of partners to get input on what they want. We’re looking at everything from discounts for partners hoping to invest in their businesses, a points system for different ‘levels’, plus market development funds. Our new programme is designed to add value for our partners, providing improved product offerings, integrations, and sales. This will allow our partners to identify up-selling and cross-selling opportunities more quickly, build on relationships with customers, and create more predictability in their sales.

How will channel partners navigate challenges such as the skills gap, the evolving partner ecosystem, changing business models etc?

The skills gap will remain a real challenge for channel partners in 2023, and the answer is to be open to ways of working that improve the employee experience. Finding and retaining technical talent, especially specialist identity skills, is front of mind for channel partners, which is why creating a developer persona within our community is critical. Eliminating complexities for developers and giving them a more seamless environment to work in is key to making sure their work and overall experience is more rewarding.

To modernise alongside such a rapidly changing ecosystem, we hope to see partners take a more active role, and focus on what I call the ‘six motions that matter’ – find, develop, influence, deliver, manage and transact. These create harmony with customers and deliver a ‘win-win’ outcome for everyone.

As more customers embrace cloud-based services to address changing business models, securing identity and access and streamlining the user provisioning process becomes vital. The same goes for customers going through mergers and acquisitions or building more robust processes for a growing workforce outside of the office.

What is the key to success in a partner programme that businesses should focus on?

The single most important part of any partner programme is to listen to partners and learn from their experiences. Feedback is the lifeblood of successful, sustainable partner initiatives.

In our new programme, we want to collaborate more closely with our partners, learn from them, and offer better support in everything from sales and integration to product offering.

Partners need to be able to see how successful they are and have regular opportunities to share their insight and their experiences with us. This offers certainty and transparency, and that’s why we are establishing a partner experience team which will oversee advisory groups.

What do you think will be some key trends in the channel for 2023?

Hybrid and remote working will remain the key trend driving change across businesses in every sector. The expected economic turmoil will see companies revisiting and optimising their office strategy and assessing their environmental impact and ESG credentials.

We also expect to see further innovation driven by the macro trends of cloud adoption and remote working. We hope our partners can start creating full-stack solutions for customers, taking a strategic approach to identity, and leveraging the full force of combined technologies to drive real value in the marketplace.

This article and more can be found in PCR’s March 2023 issue:

Check Also

PCR Awards: calling all retailers!

With just five weeks to go before entries close for the PCR Awards, it’s time …