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R U Compliant?

Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance is nothing if not a real-time challenge. Creating a good information flow among potentially hundreds of stakeholders requires a new influx of technology, including solutions based on instant messaging.

Naturally, RTC can't force people to collaborate; RTC may be too intrusive for people who prefer to manage their own processes undisturbed. But for everyone else, the RTC stack layer helps resolve compliance issues faster; resolve them better by means of a potentially a wider and more engaged set of participants; and resolve them cheaper because you can replace face-to-face meetings by Web conferences and compliance training material delivered online.

RTC Offerings: Microsoft

Both Microsoft and IBM have significant RTC solutions that can also enhance their SOX-specific offerings. The universe of RTC vendors also includes many that offer alternatives for Web conferencing and IM either as desktop applications, online services, or both.

The core of Microsoft's RTC offering is Live Communication Server (LCS), which provides presence detection, IM support, and video and audio streaming. LCS is part of the foundation for delivering RTC capabilities and integrating these capabilities into Microsoft Office applications, including Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and Word. With LCS in place, the SharePoint portal can invoke presence detection, messaging, and desktop sharing. SharePoint portal forms the core of Microsoft Office Sarbanes-Oxley Solution Accelerator.

Microsoft LiveMeeting is a Web conferencing offering (formerly known as PlaceWare) that offers desktop sharing, video, and audio support and the ability to archive meeting content. Microsoft offers three IM clients: MS Windows Messenger (part of Windows XP), MSN Messenger, and the MS Exchange IM Client. To deliver enterprise-strength IM in MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises, Microsoft has a partnership with Akonix to provide additional features such as message security, message logging, and improved user identity control.

IBM and Others

IBM's core offering is IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (formerly known as Sametime), which does what its name suggests. The offering can also extend presence awareness and IM to Web-enabled handheld devices, such as mobile phones and PDAs. IBM's WebSphere portal is also presence aware, which is handy because the portal is such an important component of IBM's SOX compliance solution, called the IBM Lotus Workplace for Business Controls and Reporting.

One of the leading independent players in Web conferencing is WebEx. And certainly, many other online service offerings are available for running compliance meetings and training, such as Citrix GoToMeeting, and eZmeeting. Jabber is also integrating Webex into its presence awareness and IM platform, which is focused on streaming XML data using Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). From a CEM perspective, these point solutions are useful; however, the key is to integrate RTC into the applications that you use to manage SOX compliance process workflows and documentation — which gives IBM and Microsoft a distinct advantage.

SOX in Real Time

CEM using RTC has the potential to reduce compliance costs, resolve compliance issues faster, and improve the overall process of complying with similar regulatory controls that are drawing so much attention in financial management and, ultimately, throughout organizations and their networks of partners. RTC technology is available today and offers many other benefits outside of faster, cheaper, and better regulatory compliance. It's unlikely that RTC will be first on your list of technology buys to support compliance, but it deserves a review by your SOX compliance team, especially if CEM is already consuming time and sapping your project bandwidth.

Stewart McKie is an independent consultant and technology writer specializing in performance management processes and applications. Reach him via his Web site at www.cfoinfo.com.

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