Weight Watchers and Office: Work/life lines are blurring

Identity management company Okta has surveyed use of software and found a shrinking gap between corporate and personal tech use

There’s good news and bad news from identity management firm Okta, which recently unveiled its latest study into the relationship between our personal and business software. The good news is that corporations have found a way to stop our personal lives from ruining business. The bad news is about the disappearing barrier between work and personal time, with these two aspects of our lives being ruthlessly blended into a single work-life ‘solution’.

This is one interpretation that could be made of this year’s Business@Work report by Okta, which includes details of its third annual study into organisations and the people who work for them. Okta studied anonymised customer data from the millions of daily authentications and verifications it conducts across users, applications, custom integrations and partners.

The raw figures identify some obvious trends in enterprise software, such as the continuing growth of cloud applications and the diminishing influence of on-premises software. Since last year’s study, Microsoft’s Office 365 has extended its lead over rivals, surging ahead as the most popular application found on Okta’s network. Online collaboration service Box and Google G Suite are also increasingly strong presences in this space.

However, the cloud app market is more difficult for vendors to dominate than the on-premises software market. The liberalising of software into smaller services means that vendors can no longer strong-arm users into accepting inferior offerings elsewhere. There is no longer an obligation for a single-vendor continuum across functions. The soaring popularity of collaboration tool Slack has dramatically repressed the impact of Microsoft’s rival offering Yammer. This perhaps explains Microsoft’s recently announced plans to discontinue selling Yammer as a standalone product in 2017.

Similarly, in the video and web conferencing sector, established vendors are finding it harder to dominate now that software is delivered via the cloud. Zoom, for example, wasn’t even in the top 25 conference vendors in last study, but after growing 67 per cent in the past six months, by Okta’s data, it’s the fastest rising cloud app on the market. But there’s more to these studies than just the numbers, according to Okta CIO Mark Settle.

There are two interesting overall trends, says Settle. The authentication transaction figures indicate that there are more external users than employees identifying themselves on corporate networks these days. In other words, the number of customers, suppliers and partners who have access to a corporate network has boomed so much that “indigenous” users are outnumbered.


Work/life blurring

This widening digital footprint is an encouraging sign, since it means that supply chains - and by implication productivity - are much more efficient. The fine-tuning is reliant on Okta’s ability to create identity and authentication transactions. This is linked to the second major trend: that the types of application being accessed on the network are increasingly of a personal nature, with a sliding scale of professionalism ranging from LinkedIn to travel apps to Weight Watchers, says Settle. Catering for the coexistence of these on a corporate network can create the best of both worlds for enterprises, says Settle: the productivity dividend of an engaged workforce without the downsides of a compromised network.

“People are increasingly using smart phones on the corporate network, which can be a good thing if we can help the enterprises keep the business and the personal separate,” says Settle.

In October, IDG Connect reported how Facebook aims to capitalise on the trend for blending consumer and work applications, with the launch of its Workplace by Facebook service. But market analyst Clive Longbottom is not convinced this is necessary. 

“This is yet another attempt to provide the one place for all innovation to happen – just like Lotus Notes, SharePoint, Dropbox for Business, Box Enterprise, Office 365, Chatter, Huddle and the other 500,000 apps and services that have tried to do pretty much the same thing,” says Longbottom.

While Facebook serves a purpose as a popular consumer tool that doesn’t mean it is suitable elsewhere, he says. “Who wants yet another silo of information that is difficult to get to, aggregate with other sources of information and report against?” asks Longbottom.

Individuals won’t want to create teams at work in the same way as Facebook does. Facebook’s appeal to the individual may be anathema to a team member and no organisation will want a secure environment full of cat videos. Shadow IT is big – and is a problem for organisations. They need to identify what is being used, whether to accept it, how it gives helps a broader set of people and who it should be afforded to. WorkPlace by Facebook may find it impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. It’s a moot point whether Facebook can make itself the place to go for individuals, teams and organisations and create the right governance and management, says Longbottom.


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