“We need to use partners in a bigger way than we’ve ever done before,” says a new Okta channel exec.

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

September 6, 2023

3 Min Read
Partner-first strategy

Okta is joining the march of vendors adopting a partner-first strategy.


Okta’s James Bradley

“We’re at the point where we need to use partners in a bigger way than we’ve ever done before. And that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Okta’s new regional VP of partner and alliances, EMEA, James Bradley. “Partners have been important for a long time. But now it’s about, ‘How are we going to establish that across the entire organization?’ So, it’s not just the partner team doing things with partners. It’s the entire organization embracing partners in everything that we do.”

Bradley cited Okta’s recent second-quarter financial results, where CEO Todd McKinnon outlined his vision to grow the company from its current $2 billion valuation.

“Partners are going to be foundational to that to that growth,” said Bradley. “You look at the companies that have already done it — they’ve done it with partners. It’s being taken very, very seriously. Not just at the partner level, but at Todd [McKinnon], our CEO’s level, and all of all of the team beneath that.”

Partner-First Strategy: A New Era

The exec went on to describe the growing momentum around partner-first strategies as “a new era.”

“When I joined AppDynamics six years ago, it felt very sales led. Money was cheap. Valuations were crazy, and you could just hire loads of people and sell loads of software. Then then there was an era of product-led. Now it feels like there’s so much focus on efficiency and the market’s a little bit more challenging. Money’s not as cheap anymore and valuations are challenged. Now’s the time; now’s the era of partners.”

Dell Technologies recently said it was pivoting to a partner-first strategy across its storage business. It follows the likes of IBM, ServiceNow, Google and Cisco all making similar announcements around a partner-first strategy.

Bradley said Okta is also adopting a partner-first plan, where the channel is embraced throughout the company.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with our interim CRO, Jon Addison, about ‘How do we build this thing together? Can we count on the field? Can we count on the organization to become part of us? In that we show up with partners and there’s trust and respect and we’re building a business together.’ And the overwhelming answer is, that is exactly what we’re doing. It’s not just me saying that. It’s the interim CRO of the company saying we are building an organization that is going to embrace partners in a way that we’ve never embraced them before.

“So I want partners to be excited about that. There’s a lot there is a lot to come.”

Partner-First Investment

While Bradley said he couldn’t provide details of what partners can expect, he indicated deeper investment and engagement.

“There’ll be things that we’re developing around how we just become simpler to work with … tons of investment to make this a lot easier for partners. Not just that but more profitable. We’re also investing internally in resources in non-partner teams around services and architects so that we can help partners build things on top of our platform. [That’s] going to drive services [which] are what we want to drive profitability.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Christine Horton or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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