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Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar
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Don't Forget About Compliance When Developing Collaboration Plans

Compliance is increasingly a dirty word in the enterprise.  Meeting compliance requirements costs enterprises time and money that could arguably be better spent improving productivity, and in many cases can limit the ability of an enterprise to take advantage of emerging collaboration technologies and tools.

As I’ve noted in recent columns, we’re currently interviewing a large number of enterprise organizations for an upcoming benchmark entitled “Building a Successful Virtual Workplace.” As part of these interviews we’re asking enterprises about the role compliance and regulatory controls play in developing collaboration plans.  As you can expect, we’re seeing more concern about compliance issues from heavily regulated organizations in vertical sectors such as energy, financial services/banking, and health-care/pharmaceuticals.  In these (and numerous other) sectors, enterprises must meet stringent requirements for privacy, records retention, and control of communications.

Not surprisingly, enterprises in these sectors have found that compliance requirements are impacting their collaboration efforts, mostly in a negative way but for some, compliance needs has a positive benefit.  On the negative side we’ve heard numerous stories of enterprises either delaying or avoiding implementation of tools such as unified messaging for fear that once voice mail enters the e-mail system, it will need to be archived for potential discovery requirements in case of lawsuit or audit.  Compliance requirements have limited the use of web conferencing in some organizations, again due to concern as to how to archive web conferencing sessions for possible future access.  IM has suffered as well, with several organizations struggling to figure out requirements and capabilities to archive instant message sessions. 

Compliance requirements also generally limit the ability of organizations to take advantage of public services such as Skype, or web-based collaboration tools such as Wikis, again due to an inability to guarantee privacy or archive data.

But there are some positive aspects to compliance and collaboration.  For some organizations, the use of structured collaboration tools such as Microsoft SharePoint or IBM Lotus QuickPlace to improve the ability for the organization to manage and archive documents related to a specific collaboration effort, making records retrieval easier.  Enteprise-grade IM systems, such as Microsoft Live Communications Server, Lotus SameTime, or Reuters IM can enable enterprises to gain management control of the use of instant messaging, and apply policies consistent with compliance requirements rather than worry about unmanaged employee use of public IM services.

The bottom line for enterprise IT managers is to incorporate compliance requirements into your collaboration planning efforts.  Make your compliance management team part of your overall planning team for your collaboration plans, and don’t automatically assume that compliance is a negative when it comes to collaboration.  In some cases the need to meet compliance requirements will be a driver and not an inhibitor for deployment of enterprise collaboration applications.

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