Enterprise IT on Team Collaboration: 'More Security, Please!'

Heard at Enterprise Connect 2017 during a panel discussion with enterprise IT professionals: "It really is a place that needs a lot of TLC."

The "place" is insurance provider AIG, and the "TLC" is in the hands of Mirril McMullen, the company's product manager for unified communications and collaboration. But the sentiment, no doubt, is one with which many Enterprise Connect attendees and No Jitter readers can relate.

From a UC&C perspective, AIG, like untold numbers of other companies, is still feeling the effects of the economic downturn that started round about 2008. As McMullen described, "We went through a speed bump ... and we've been recovering since then, so I have a great opportunity to turn AIG around ... in the UCC space. And even though there's so much to do, ... we're looking forward to leapfrogging, because for so many years we have not invested in our infrastructure and now there's all this opportunistic new technology to enable our customers to be successful."

Team Outlook

Among these opportunistic technologies is team collaboration, much discussed at Enterprise Connect, including among McMullen and his fellow panelists: Ben Schunk, director of enterprise voice and video engineering at Cigna; Mark Winston, senior IT manager, enterprise productivity services, at Medtronic; Doug Peat, manager of infrastructure for the Pinellas County (Florida) Technology Services Department; and Chris Abrams, director of corporate systems at Yum! Brands.

Enterprise Connect enterprise panel participants, from left: Robin Gareiss (co-moderator), Nemertes Research; Chris Abrams, Yum; Mark Winston, Medtronic; Doug Peat, Pinellas County; Ben Schunk, Cigna; Mirril McMullen, AIG; Beth Schultz (co-moderator), Enterprise Connect/No Jitter

Interested as McMullen might be in bringing team collaboration to AIG, he said he faces a fairly substantial challenge: user habit. Half of AIG's remote clients still join meetings by dialing their phones and entering 10-digit codes, and half of all meetings are still audio-only conference calls, he said. What he's trying to do now is convince his users that they don't have to dial a phone to join a meeting but rather click on a link, he said. "I can't give them team [collaboration] until I can get them to stop dialing their phones."

Once AIG users get over that outdated phone-dialing habit and start using a a modern click-to-meeting interface, then the behavior of working in shared spaces, or virtual rooms, will naturally follow, McMullen said. And no, he added, he doesn't believe shadow team collaboration app use has been an issue at AIG as it has been at so many other companies. "We don't federate, and our firewalls are the tightest firewalls I've ever seen on the planet," he said, by way of explanation.

Security Struggle

Unfortunately, panelists agreed, team collaboration app vendors haven't been as diligent on security as they'd like. Holding up his smartphone, Cigna's Schunk summarized the problem: "The biggest inhibitor we have with team collaboration -- and we're piloting it and looking at a few [apps] -- is the security. It's the data loss prevention on my mobile device. I mean right now I could go into my team collaboration app, I could save a file down to this device, and once it's on this personal device I can do anything I want with it."

Before Cigna can forge ahead with team collaboration, Schunk said he needs to be able to solve for that problem. And while various ways are starting to pop up for how to address security, he noted, "the applications themselves ... don't inherently have that capability."

Yes, most team collaboration app vendors offer end-to-end encryption and some other inherent security capabilities, but then they point enterprises to mobile device security wares for additional protections. "So that's more work for me, and ... it's slowing that deployment down for me -- making me have to go find another vendor, verify the solution, get it approved, and everything else," Schunk said.

At Yum, Abrams said he is investigating such an option now. While ultimately he said he intends to move toward a single UC&C provider, Microsoft, and that Teams is on his agenda, he also said he knows that pockets of team collaboration have sprung up organically across the company's sprawling global operation comprising KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants. "Part of it is, we just weren't ready to offer a solution so, yeah, they found a solution." And, yes, while Yum could block the use of such tools from a security standpoint, Abrams said that since the desktop falls under his purview, too, he is hoping to "maneuver this all together" and figure out a way to "containerize these collaboration apps."

What he'd like do, and is investigating "pretty hard," Abrams said, is use an enterprise mobility management app like VMware AirWatch or Citrix XenMobile. That way, he explained, he'd be able to provide appropriate levels of service while meeting corporate security and compliance mandates.

Words of Wisdom

Given that just one data leak is all that's needed to get team collaboration "shut down fast," security is indeed paramount with this technology, agreed Medtronic's Winston. But any number of team collaboration apps may prove of value to the business, depending on particular use cases, he added. "So as long as you can manage and understand the security, you may have more than one of those tools in place."

Winston had a recommendation that I'll leave you with: "Try to get them through governance. Try to really understand them instead of cutting them off, and you'll be more successful."

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