Defining the new relationship between the workforce and applications

The relationship between the workforce and the applications they use to fuel productivity and meet their business objectives is changing. Increasingly businesses are using more applications, and deploying more tools, to meet their diversifying range of challenges, such as storage, security, learning and beyond.

Using anonymised Okta customer data from our network of thousands of companies, applications and millions of daily authentications and verifications around the world, we can observe which apps are increasing in popularity and use this to gain an understanding of future workplace trends and insights.

The top three trends we’ve seen are:

1. The substantial growth of data management

Data now takes a greater role at every level of an organisation and acts as a key differentiator for businesses. According to IDC, data is expected to grow by 177 zettabytes by 2025, meaning its influence will only continue to increase. This is backed up by our findings, as data tools have grown significantly. Data warehousing provider Snowflake is the highest growing app amongst our customers, up 273% compared to the previous year. Snowflake’s success is part of this wider trend around data tools, empowering organisations to make informed decisions faster, as these applications soared to the top.

This shows a shift in approach to data management from organisations, as we increasingly see application-first data management strategies. Businesses are moving away from legacy platforms and in house data storage to cloud-led applications, which is reflected in the growth of these apps across Okta’s network.

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2. “People” layers are dominating the security stack

With attackers increasingly targeting individuals and their credentials to gain unauthorised access to accounts, the protection of people is increasingly at the centre of security strategies. More than 42% of companies now deploy a tool in the people layer, which refers to tools that protect people, such as email security and password management, ID proofing and privileged access management. This is up from only 24% three years ago.

Collaboration may no longer be the fastest growing app space, but it remains prevalent across businesses’ approach to security. When customers adopt their first security tool, more than one third start with a people-focused tool, which is known as the ‘people layer’.

Within this layer, the fastest growth is coming from password managers, at 84% year-over-year growth. But it’s the infrastructure layer, which refers to the content delivery network providers, server access and infrastructure monitoring tools, that is seeing the fastest year-over-year growth, at 61%. This suggests that companies are increasingly prepared to embrace multi-cloud set-ups.

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3. The rise of apps fuelled by best-of-breed purchasing decisions

The number of businesses adopting ‘best-of-breed’ applications is increasing exponentially. We have seen a significant rise in the number of available applications, as the workforce has greater influence in tech purchasing decisions, and this bottom-up approach enables teams to pick the tool they feel will optimise their performance. The average number of apps used by each enterprise now stands at 88, up from 11-16 apps five years ago, although 10% of Okta customers now use 200 apps or more to power productive, secure collaboration.

Customers use more than one platform, purchasing best-of-breed apps in addition to bundles: 78% of Okta’s Office 365 customers have adopted one or more best-of-breed apps with the same functionality as the Office 365 suite.

Popular office suite bundles generally include tools for personal productivity, communication, collaboration, and content management. It is increasingly clear that organisations no longer find the Office 365 suite to be an exhaustive platform, meaning they are less likely to commit to an exclusively Microsoft environment. Instead, the overlap of companies that deploy Office 365 and also invest in best-of-breed apps continues to grow.

This explains the growth in total number of apps used and creates a market for specialised applications that provide best-in-class services, as opposed to the traditional method of purchasing bundles as an exhaustive technology approach.

The way that work is changing is forcing organisations to look at applications differently. The benefits of a best-of-breed approach are clear and organisations are increasingly using data management tools to help differentiate them from their competitors.

As our workforces adopt more applications, using the right security tools is increasingly vital to businesses. By making the right use of the evolving security technology available in the market, organisations have what they need to stay productive and tackle inevitable security challenges.

Written by Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM EMEA at Okta

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