Three Keys to Managing Risk and Unleashing Communications Intelligence

January 05, 2021by Robert Cruz

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Over the course of the last year, many business professionals experienced a dramatic shift in their work lives. That shift appeared to be catalyzed by the pandemic, but it had already been gaining momentum. Fundamentally, business professionals became even more immersed in a world where an increasing percentage of our time and mental energy is engaged in, consumed by, and overloaded with digital communications tools.

For IT professionals, the implications are enormous. There have been staggering growth projections in the global datasphere, with IDC estimating the annual volume growing from 41 zettabytes in 2019 to 175 zettabytes in 2025. What is not as thoroughly investigated is the growth in data variety, which has grown exponentially since the beginning of the pandemic. Consider the following:

  • Daily participants on Zoom grew from 10M to 300M
  • Daily active Microsoft Teams user count jumped from 32M to 115M
  • Slack use increased by 40% in one month, up to 12M daily active users, culminating in its acquisition by Salesforce in December 2020
  • WhatsApp saw a 40% usage increase, with 65 billion messages sent each day

These are impressive numbers, but what is more significant about these stats is that they reflect how and where people are working every day. They are using tools that are comprised of many different feature sets, can be accessed virtually, generate high volumes and varieties of communications data, and convey conversational context in unique ways.

Unfortunately, for many firms, the technologies that remain in use to capture, control and understand this information were designed in a different era, for a very different problem. This challenge is one that we recently had the opportunity to explore in a Gartner CIO forum, as summarized nicely in this video by Smarsh Chief Technology Officer, Greg Vesper.

v-play-btnunleashing intelligence vesper

Managing risk and unleashing Communications Intelligence

For many firms, managing this new reality has turned the relationship with their communications data on its head. Identifying and mitigating information risk has been and will continue to be an ongoing challenge. But firms reimagining how they can architect an information foundation with this ever-growing data variety can unleash new sources of value — not only to mitigate risk but to surface new workforce insights and mine customer intelligence that will drive engagement and satisfaction. In other words, “communications intelligence.”

To pursue this nirvana of data collection and preservation, risk mitigation and actionable business intelligence requires taking a step back and focusing on three basic concepts: 1) remember, 2) understand, and 3) act.

Remember: start with a future-proof content foundation

Dealing with petabyte-scale datasets, comprised of 80+ unique data sources and deployed in multiple geographic regions, is not a small task if you are required to establish a reliable, scalable system of record. This is not just a challenge for firms faced with industry-mandated regulatory compliance requirements.

Every firm needs to have a primary source of truth to address potential policy infractions, loss of intellectual property, and/or disputes that could lead to litigation. Two options to capture and preserve corporate memory from a new communications source are either to 1) add yet another data repository, or 2) attempt to stretch, contort and force-feed legacy systems to manage the load. A better approach is to consider the following:

  • The adoption of Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) public cloud infrastructure is now adding $10B in revenue every 12 months, representing an accelerating growth rate. Not to be outdone, Microsoft Azure grew 48% in its most recent quarter compared to the prior year. These are both indicators of public cloud infrastructure adoption and the readiness for cloud-native (or “composable”, using Gartner’s terms) platforms and applications to leverage the availability, scale and flexibility that the public cloud delivers today.

  • 80+ unique data sources is not an endpoint. The events of 2020 have only accelerated the innovations contained within new collaborative tools, mobile apps and video-enabled communications. Designing a data foundation for the future must anticipate the next network and consider options for the API-driven capture of content and metadata — directly from source providers of new communications modalities.

Understand: capture and preserve conversational context

Context is key when attempting to understand a conversation that may contain chats, video, bots and collaborative authoring. Consider conversations that jump across communications (“hit me on WeChat,” “txt me,” etc.), use multiple languages, or are encoded with combinations of emojis — when they include or are instigated by individuals with bad intentions. In 2019, there were 101 court case references to the use of emojis — a trend which likely increased in 2020’s shift to a virtual world.

Given where we spend the vast majority of our work hours, it is only a matter of time before we see major regulatory action or court decisions focusing on the use of Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom. Understanding the conversational context of these interactive, multi-modal tools is critical to managing risk and requires two fundamental considerations:

  • Does the content platform provide a native-like playback of conversational snapshots? Participating in a Teams meeting or Slack channel can often consist of dozens or hundreds of individuals (including anonymous dial-in users), and may include sharing and co-authoring of documents or distributing information that contains value or risk to the firm. Mimicking the original collaborative experience as it happened is vital to helping a compliance or legal officer find the needle in the haystack, after the fact. It is here that the unique nature of collaborative technology is most apparent, and where firms need to examine the suitability of their legacy technologies to understand the interactive, multi-modal and full-fidelity nature of today’s content sources.

  • Is the content platform extensible to leverage advances in machine learning and natural language processing (NLP)? Identifying potential policy infractions or other red flags within conversational snapshots is only the beginning to understanding conduct that may be material to a legal action or regulatory investigation. Modern content platforms should provide the extensibility to share point-in-time items of interest with machine learning models that can uncover patterns, trends and anomalies that provide deeper insight into the motivations and behaviors of those individuals.

Act: delivering insights that impact the business

For firms faced with rigorous regulatory obligations or frequent discovery or investigative burdens, changing the relationship with communications data from a source of risk to a source of insight means the ability to impact multiple objectives at once: cost reduction, risk mitigation and value creation.

A modern content platform can accomplish these goals in several ways:

  • Improved risk mitigation effectiveness by leveraging machine learning to build models specific to use cases such as insider activity, market abuse or customer complaints. Insights derived from models can also identify emerging risk vectors, which can enrich existing policy sets and be built into written supervisory procedures (WSPs) for ongoing inspection.

  • Resource savings and increased productivity by reducing time and energy spent tracking down false positives. This helps to direct compliance, legal or investigative resources toward those items that represent greater business risk.

  • Greater business agility and flexibility by enabling the firm to harness insights gathered from stored information to better meet client needs, capitalize on opportunities for new service delivery and respond to requirements in new geographic markets.

An innovative content capture and archiving solution that is open, cloud-native and designed to interpret the unique nature of today’s communications and collaborative technologies is an essential part of business strategy. With it, regulated and litigious organizations can unlock communications intelligence and properly recast stored data as a vital business asset for 2021 and beyond.

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Robert Cruz
Smarsh Blog

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Smarsh handles information you submit to Smarsh in accordance with its Privacy Policy. By clicking "submit", you consent to Smarsh processing your information and storing it in accordance with the Privacy Policy and agree to receive communications from Smarsh and its third-party partners regarding products and services that may be of interest to you. You may withdraw your consent at any time by emailing privacy@smarsh.com.