How Okta saved 1,000 engineering hours with Fivetran

The world’s leading identity company saves over $100,000 annually on data engineering for financial planning and analysis by automating its data pipelines to handle more than 42 billion rows of data.
“Fivetran delivers substantial cost savings and efficiency. It quickly freed up a team of six people in FP&A for strategic tasks and higher-value activities, giving each of them 30 hours back every quarter.”
- Lauren Anderson, Senior Director of Enterprise Data Platform, Engineering and Architecture at Okta

Key results

  • Saved the Financial Planning & Analysis team nearly a thousand hours per year ($100,000) by automating 300+ business-critical metrics and visualizations
  • Reduced pipeline development and security review timelines from months to minutes with out-of-the-box connectors
  • Moved 42.6 billion rows in 12 months, significantly reducing dependencies on custom pipelines
  • Accelerated Okta’s self-service data ecosystem and predictive analytics capabilities with enterprise-level governance and individually-owned environments

Okta’s data stack

  • Pipelines: Fivetran
  • Destinations: Databricks, Snowflake, AWS
  • Data sources: 70+ (including S3, Workday, Coupa, Marketo, Netsuite)

Okta is the leading cloud-based provider of identity management solutions. With over 18,000 customers worldwide, $2 billion+ in annual revenue and a market cap of more than $13.5 billion, it is one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated cybersecurity companies. 

Okta helps organizations manage employee identities and access to applications and data. Their identity solutions are known for their ease of use and high security standards. Okta trusts Fivetran to move and power more than 42 billion rows of data per year.

Financial planning & analysis turning on a dime

Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) teams are under constant pressure, especially at high-growth companies like Okta. After collecting, tracking and managing more than 300 business-critical metrics, Okta’s FP&A team had quickly outgrown its Excel-based tracking and reporting. 

The amount of data and complex in-cell formulas proved problematic. The FP&A team spent hundreds of hours every quarter collecting numbers, pasting them into spreadsheets and duplicating files across multiple machines. It was as stressful for the team as it was for their workstations.

“Every time we opened Excel, it would break the computer or the tabs inside,” remembers Darshita Rai, Staff Data Analyst at Okta. “We had a team of six people spending more than 30 hours a week every quarter for FP&A. They were just collecting numbers and putting it in the spreadsheet, not even doing analysis.” The team had multiple versions of the same spreadsheets across several workstations and struggled to validate formulas and data.

Fully automated, high-quality data securely delivered by Fivetran

Excel wasn’t panning out, so the team built an entirely new FP&A metric-tracking system with Tableau, Salesforce and Netsuite, backed by Fivetran. “Using Fivetran, we automated our collection, tracking, validation and analysis of more than 150+ crucial data points. This freed us to move to a more secure, efficient environment with built-in change control and access controls,” says Rai.

The new processes and workflows have saved the data engineering team nearly a thousand hours annually (approximately $100K per year) and significantly enhanced the security and trustworthiness of the financial data.

“Fivetran provides the flexibility we need to create executive dashboards at a moment’s notice,” Rai adds. “We can move quickly and get leadership teams what they need as soon as they need it. More importantly, we can tell our financial story more confidently and in greater detail because we know our data is accurate and high quality.” 

No more headaches over which version of the spreadsheet is correct, lost data, human error or triple-checking the financial data for correctness.

Time-consuming data projects were not unique to Okta’s FP&A team. Prior to adopting Fivetran in 2019, Okta’s marketing team was asked to quantify the ROI for marketing and advertising. Like FP&A, they manually collected data from multiple sources, then worked across multiple systems and spreadsheets.

A marketing executive asked the data engineering team for help with a solution. When data engineering finally got back with an estimate, it was “at least six months to implement custom data pipelines.” Marketing’s reply? Find a different solution.

At that time, Okta was designing, building, securing and testing all of their data pipelines in house. Data project timelines regularly spanned weeks, if not months. Lauren Anderson, Senior Director of Enterprise Data Platform, Engineering and Architecture recalls, “With our capacity and resources, we could only do top priority projects. It took us a minimum of three weeks to do anything.”

Competing on data happens in minutes, not months

Waiting weeks — or worse, months — for data was not reasonable for the world’s most valuable cybersecurity company. Okta needed a faster data pipeline alternative that still met its stringent security and delivery requirements.

Fivetran’s out-of-the-box marketing connectors are so easy to set up and way more robust than competing solutions. We were able to deliver analytics to our marketing team in a fraction of the time it would have taken. Those dashboards are still delivering insights to the marketing team today,” Anderson says.

Anderson and her team have used Fivetran to stand up several new pipelines for the marketing team. When they moved to a new Marketo instance, they used Fivetran to import the old and new instances, merging data together in the transformation layer — no historical data loading and validation required.

Building with Fivetran has transformed the work of Anderson’s team. “We lead with Fivetran. Their out-of-the-box connectors bring immediate value and save us the time of building and maintaining custom code.”

Billions of rows moved, thousands of hours saved, relationships built

Okta acquired Auth0, the popular developer-focused Identity and Access Management (IAM) platform, in February 2022 to complement Okta’s workforce-focused IAM platform. Fivetran has entirely powered Auth0’s data movement strategy since 2020, which influenced Okta to lean further into the Fivetran data platform.

As the two companies have integrated, they’ve crossed a remarkable data movement threshold. In a 12-month period (mid-2022 through mid-2023), Okta and Auth0 have moved and processed 42.6 billion rows of data. This includes all of Auth0’s ETL/ELT pipelines as well as Okta’s marketing stack, HR data and finance data. “That’s 42.6 billion records that I can easily transform for business value. That’s 42.6 billion things we didn’t have to move ourselves. Poof, it’s right there!” exclaims Anderson.

Fivetran’s fully-managed pipelines have freed up substantial time for data engineers at Okta and Auth0. They’re using this time to build relationships across the two companies and focus on the business problems that matter most to Okta: data quality, governance, eliminating data silos and innovation.

A better future with secure data movement

Okta is consolidating its data ecosystems and streamlining its data architecture, building around a set of core principles:

  • Self-service data sharing: Let data consumers find and use data to solve their critical business problems
  • Maturing customer insights: Building sophisticated AI- and ML-driven data models to predict what customers and prospects need
  • Shortened time to insight: Leveraging high-quality and timely data models to discover patterns and insights that can drive revenue and operational efficiency
  • Observability over the entire pipeline: Monitoring metadata for anomalies and exceptions, integrating into communication systems (e.g. Slack, email) for visibility and alerting
  • Built-in data governance: Design and deploy consumer-specific data playgrounds with governance rules set by each business unit

They’ve already made some headway on these innovations with Fivetran at the center of it all. Ken Neff, Senior Enterprise Architect at Okta, is particularly excited about customer metrics data models. Neff says by bringing data together from digital, marketing, sales and product usage, these models will be able to answer questions about product upsell opportunities and churn prevention that sound simple but can actually be quite complex.

Okta has stringent security requirements for all tools, platforms and architectural patterns. Fivetran’s commitment to security plays a major role in enabling Okta’s forward-looking data models. Anderson is particularly impressed: “Fivetran's strong security posture and ongoing improvements allow us to keep data secure and deliver on our promises as a cybersecurity leader.

Download this IDC report to learn how Fivetran drives millions in financial impact and enables new business initiatives for enterprises.

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