Microsoft Corp’s complicated unified communications product roadmap, unveiled with much fanfare recently, is missing an important component: regulatory compliance tools for VoIP and instant messaging, according to Avanade Inc, an Accenture-Microsoft joint venture.
There currently are no compliance regulations for instant messaging and IP phone calls. But as these technologies become centrally managed, as Microsoft’s forthcoming platform promises to do, enterprises can expect potential compliance issues, Avanade said.
We are already seeing issues about legal departments have more restrictions around email, yet excluding voice and IM, said Larry LeSueur, VP of Avanade’s infrastructure practice.
The mostly likely scenario for digital communications compliance complications would be when a company has a legal subpoena against it — an increasingly common occurrence with intellectual property suits, for example.
As LeSueur pointed out, legal departments already work with IT departments on getting emails during the legal discovery period of a lawsuit. Throw VoIP and instant messaging into the mix and IT managers will need new tools to respond to subpoena requests, LeSueur said.
Now that you bring voice messaging, potentially instant messaging into an archive, how does that fit under the legal model that needs access for discovery? he said.
Avanade, which sells integration services for Microsoft enterprise platforms but does not conduct regulatory audits, believes that while unified communications will have a positive impact from a pure IT standpoint, these governance issues will need to be worked out in the marketplace, LeSueur said.
There are pockets of groups working on such tools … around individual pieces of these technologies, LeSueur said. But there’s definitely a need for a more collective set of these tools that could go across the broader platform.
Avanade, which does not sell regulatory compliance tools of its own, has asked Microsoft to bake these tools into its strategy. We have not seen this as yet, LeSueur said.
At this point in time, it still in discussion. We have not got a clear direction from them and an understandings of the timing that they are going to produce something. It’s not to say they won’t, it’s just that we’re in those early discussions. We are also talking with other software vendor, he said.
If Microsoft doesn’t come up with the goods, LeSueur said other software makers would.
Where there are gaps in the marketplace, we will identify the need and discuss it with Microsoft. If they don’t address the problem … in a timely fashion, then oftentimes we will look out to the ISV ecosystem to see who does. In the absence of that, we will make investments internally, he said.
Privately held Avanade, which is about 78% owned by Accenture, would not, he stressed, release its own stand-alone software, but may custom software for individual customers.
The market for VoIP and IM compliance software would potentially be mammoth. Legal engagement is something that every customer may be faced with, LeSueur said.
We definitely see some verticals where there’s more urgency energy, finance and pharmaceutical, just because of the scrutiny they have at least in the States, he added.
In addition to potential compliance issues with Microsoft’s unified communications products, LeSueur said IT administrators also can expect organizational challenges in bringing its telephony group closer to its active directory and messaging organizations.