Helping Companies Manage Data--and Contemplating Modern Communication

NetGovern seems like a company from another era. It’s not a hot, new startup, raring to go. It’s not a stodgy, established competitor that periodically swallows smaller companies. It’s not trying to be IBM or to beat IBM.

It wants to help companies protect and manage their data. That’s all. And that’s basically all it’s been doing since 2001. It offers an all-in-one software package that’s comprehensive. It covers data analysis, data compliance, data security, data retention, e-discovery and more.

Based in Montreal, NetGovern’s customers are not the Fortune 500. It goes after the mid-market, with 500 to 50,000 users. What’s more, it’s not funded by venture capital. It’s employee-owned and self-funded.

But 2020 may be a year it remembers for a long time. That’s because the Covid pandemic has changed work patterns. Companies have never had their entire workforces working remotely. And that has generated new problems they need to solve—and not just those related to security, said Frederic Bourget.

Bourget is NetGovern’s chief technology officer. He’s also the executive vice president of marketing and partnership, and recently he provided a briefing for TAG Cyber analysts on the changes and challenges companies are confronting, with a nod to the state of the world.

He talked about the changing paradigm of NetGovern’s clients. The data it helps companies manage is unstructured, human-generated content. It could be created using Microsoft Office 365 or using Slack. But now there are new wrinkles. Suddenly in this new work environment, companies have lots of videos they may need to archive.

It’s part of a long progression, Bourget reflected. If you follow the permutations of communication back a half-century, he said, the memo was a key form of business communication. These were filed in folders that were placed in file cabinets. Meetings were similarly memorialized. Then the memos became emails, which were not so different but less formal. And meetings now are sometimes Zoom recordings.

There are also texts and chats and emojis and OMG shortened words. The form and the language are increasingly conversational, Bourget observed. He suggested that the pandemic and work-at-home culture could push us farther down this digital path faster than we’ve already been traveling.

NetGovern’s advantage is that it’s been dealing with these issues for a long time. For years it was focused on email. The name of the company, in fact, used to be NetMail. (In 2018 it changed its name because it had expanded its services.) And AI natural language processing has gotten steadily better with the aid of machine learning. Automation is now both fast and accurate.

At the same time, just classifying content seems as though it’s becoming more difficult as the categories of business communication expand.

One of the first steps NetGovern recommends, for example, when classifying content is eliminating obsolete, redundant and trivial data. This could prove increasingly challenging if Bourget is right about the path we’re on. Classifying and archiving texts and videos, and separating the wheat from the chaff, may not be so easy.

What about chit chat recorded before and after a video meeting is in progress? Is that supposed to be eliminated before the video is archived? And who makes the decision? Can AI do that? And how do machines feel about emojis?

Just wondering. ;-)