Standing at the forefront of communications compliance infrastructure: An interview with Devin Redmond, CEO and Co-Founder of Theta Lake.
Who is Theta Lake?
Founded in 2017, California-based Theta Lake provides compliance and security for modern communication platforms like Zoom, Slack, RingCentral, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and more. It enables better capture and record keeping for unified communication and collaboration (UCC) content and features – which leads to dramatically improved efficiency of search, discovery and replay of captured communications as well as the ability to increase effectiveness in risk detection and response with proactive compliance. All without disrupting existing archives and compliance processes.
In fact, the company is the only compliance platform financially backed through public investment by the investment arms of the leaders in unified communication and collaboration including Cisco Webex, RingCentral, Salesforce, and Zoom. And has recently been included as a vendor in the new Gartner market category of Digital Communication Governance (DCG)
What are the biggest challenges in the unified communications space?
We see a lot of challenges customers have now they’ve migrated, very rapidly, to new communication tools and new communication infrastructure. This was happening prior to the pandemic, but it was obviously a huge catalyst to upgrade the types of communication tools being used. From purely voice calls and email to rich chat conversation tools, video, cloud-based calling, and the mesh of those three with collaboration tools like digital whiteboards and more combined.
Typically the archive infrastructure in place is split across voice (audio or aComms) and textual (e.g., email or eComms) based communication with little integration and even less coverage for mixed mediums and the mesh of tools and mediums. That hurts capture, recording keeping, context, search, and risk detection.
What are the key pain points that firms are looking to solve?
One of the key areas for our customers is around proper record keeping and archiving, and for firms to be able to produce reports showing that they have captured, reconciled that capture, and properly stored all the communications across any modality where users conduct business.
The challenge for most organisations is that each of those new tools has so many features and types of communications such as emojis mixed with text, chat comments on whiteboards, chat in a video meeting, images with text in them, files shared via a link in a chat or meeting, and many more. Effectively capturing those and keeping pace with new communication features added to tools is a real struggle. The most common reaction can be to try to turn those features off.
This may at first glance seem like a simple response for compliance, but the downstream effect of turning off those capabilities creates a lot of friction for your end users while reducing their ability to be productive. This in turn means you’re not getting a great ROI out of the communication tool, because you’re not leveraging features that you paid for inside of the platform. It also has the negative compliance side effect of driving up unmonitored communications, because by disabling the features in the platform your users expect, they simply find other ways and use other communication tools.
What are the consequences of not fully embracing everything a UC platform has to offer and restricting features?
By turning off features, which north of two-thirds of firms do, employees will go a different route to communicate and share content faster and more efficiently. When this happens, there is a good chance that not only are they distracted and less productive in the communication tool the organisation standardised on, which hampers the ROI of the platform that you’ve already spent all that money on, but some of those users likely go to unmonitored communication tools.
The risks are quite clear if you look at the fines over the last year – $2.5 billion and counting – for improper record keeping, in particular the recent wave on unmonitored communications. You can see a lot of little causalities of how that’s occurred, based on the disabling of features in newer communication channels, and the friction created for users – driving increasing numbers to unmonitored, but easier to use and more engaging, communication tools.
It’s the unintended consequences of trying to tighten the controls around the platform and disabling features that were built into it to drive productivity – you have that knock on effect of creating friction in adoption and engagement. When you create that friction, water always finds a way, and you’re more likely to drive good users to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Why isn’t existing compliance infrastructure working?
Most organisations have existing infrastructure that’s been in place to either capture email or very separately, record voice calls. Those tools have been in place for decades and have bolted on and iterated to try and support new communication tools by trying to convert content into formats that an email-based compliance infrastructure can handle, or try to take on-premise recording and attach it to massively scaled cloud-based UCaaS environments. The results are predictable – they struggle to fully support all of the modalities and features in new UCC and UCaaS tools, miss much of the context in an entirely new format of conversations, and struggle to scale with the pace of new features and volumes of communications produced by UCC and UCaaS solutions.
As an example there could be voice recording infrastructure that has been designed to capture phone calls that is not well attuned to dealing with a lot of the things that happen in a video meeting, which may include electronic communications like chat or a file shared, so it just isn’t captured anywhere. Another scenario is where an email or eComms based tool is going to miss the actual audio and rely on transcripts that they try to treat like an email, which is a notoriously unreliable approach – not to mention what happens if it’s a video with a screen share that needs to be captured.
Even more pervasive is treating a chat in a platform like Microsoft Teams as an email with only text supported – this creates a nightmare when that chat spans weeks, months, or even years with rich media files shared, emojis used, replies to month old parts of the chat, a call is initiated from the chat, etc. Simply trying to make that work like an email, as a short, text only exchange, outright fails in capture, search and in detecting risks effectively and efficiently.
So the concerns about the gaps in those existing tools, plus the range of new modes of communications that can happen inside of a meeting or inside of a chat or a whiteboard session typically leads compliance teams to turn those off. They are worried they can’t record or that they won’t be able to properly search or surveil those conversations for potential risks or improper behaviour. That repeats the cycle… Disabling those communication and collaboration tools drives up unmonitored communications instead of reducing it while impacting the organisation negatively in other ways around productivity and ROI.
How is Theta Lake helping firms?
Theta Lake helps customers by allowing them to enable UCC tools and their full feature sets without caveats through being able to capture, search, and detect risks across all the new and existing communication tools, across chat, video, SMS, voice, email, file sharing, and more. That approach reduces unmonitored communications without increasing complexity or reducing efficiency for compliance teams. In fact, I believe the vote of confidence from our partners like Cisco, Microsoft, RingCentral, Salesforce, and Zoom, especially those that became investors, is around our ability to satisfy the advanced compliance needs of highly regulated customers. The “100 percent would recommend” rating from customers that include 5 of the top 50 Global banks, is another testament to the value we are providing to firms in this area.
We help customers across three distinct phases that deliver value quickly and consistently. First, our unified capture means capturing all of those communications from any feature or modality of a UCC tool, and making sure it is captured properly and sent to the customers’ chosen archives for eComms and aComms. This includes improving reconciliation of records captured all while not forcing change and disruption in existing compliance processes and tools. That allows for maximum ROI for the end-users of the UCC tools while increasing engagement on compliant communication channels and improving compliance record keeping.
That value is achieved in record time and paves the way to augment pre-existing compliance tools with Theta Lake’s ability to add new, unified search and replay options directly into the existing tools records. That unified search and replay functionality adds additional value by turning manual, non-contextual search of fragmented communication records into highly efficient views of conversations searchable across timelines and all media types.
Theta Lake also gives customers the ability to move into a more proactive compliance mode when they are ready to shift from improving capture and search – meaning they can improve the effectiveness of their risk and surveillance programs beyond just detection and alerting.
What sets Theta Lake apart from its competitors?
Having actual certified integrations and partnerships is a differentiator for Theta Lake. It creates a foundation for better capture, better reconciliation, better search, better detection, and full circle ability to work within those integrations to take action on non-compliant risk users and communications. The deep technology patents Theta Lake has across UCC compliance capture, workflow, machine learning-based risk detection, and the proactive UCC compliance controls are all core differentiators that are used in the solution.
This differentiates Theta Lake’s capture and ability to improve record-keeping; the ability to improve efficiency in search by adding context and unifying search across modes and tools. And by using that rich context to better detect risks with ML and help compliance teams be more effective with AI while also providing the only ability in the market to take direct corrective action on compliance risks. Combining all of that with the fact that the UCC leaders are aligned and literally invested in Theta Lake to enable a more engaged, product, and compliant workplace for regulated organisations directly proves that Theta Lake is a differentiated foundational and category defining vendor.
What has Theta Lake got planned for the rest of the year?
A year after the company brought $50m in new funding from tier one venture firms and strategic investors from UCC and the FInancial Services organizations, Theta Lake continues to go from strength to strength.
In terms of the tech platform and the roadmap, we continue to push the envelope of innovation. And innovation for us comes in the form of the new integrations we have for unified capture, our capabilities to improve the ability to do search and replay, and how we use AI and ML to help compliance teams to get more control and efficiency over their detections and be more proactive around compliance.
This year alone, Theta Lake has already had multiple releases. We have introduced a unified conversation replay as well as a document timeline viewer, where users can watch how documents traverse the communication mass – here, the users can see if the file was shared over chat, email and who were the most frequent sharers of the communication.
Furthermore, the firm has spent a considerable amount of time scaling out its ability to make customers successful and happy quickly and persistently, this includes its strong investment in its field technical services that keeps that 100% would recommend rating across the globe. We now have a footprint that covers all of North America and a majority of countries in Europe, as well as a presence in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Some final thoughts: Has the pandemic impacted the future direction of the industry?
Absolutely, I think sometimes you still hear the conversation about whether people go back to the office and the hybrid work topic, but honestly, that’s just not relevant. What is relevant and lasting is that the way we work and the tools we use to create and communicate information with each other has permanently shifted to a UCC-first workplace.
The reality is that regulated organisations have dramatically shifted the tools that they’re using from a communication infrastructure perspective, and so the biggest trends that are happening on that front are that firms and their users, customers, and partners are fully embracing UCC platforms – whether it’s for meetings, chats, file sharing, or simply updating voice infrastructure, this shift has happened and is persistent.
These platforms – such as Microsoft, RingCentral, Webex, Zoom, etc. – allow organisations to be flexible in their infrastructure, whether they’re all on site or whether they’re remote, they have flexibility to be able to support any of these models and all of them combined.
How do you see AI impacting the communications compliance space in future?
The key watchwords surrounding AI are change and disruption. In communications compliance, this is hardly seen to be any different.
It has had a huge impact. Many communication and collaboration tools can be dramatically enhanced by using AI to help source data to help generate replies and to help give context inside of the communication. So there is a big potential for businesses to benefit, but there are also a lot of compliance challenges around that.
For instance, how do you determine authenticity? How do you make sure that the right data is used for the answer, whether that is in terms of being factually correct and representative of the organisation it is coming from, or whether it’s making sure that sensitive data isn’t inadvertently exposed. So there’s a huge upside and opportunity from that for compliance technology to, yet again, enable more adoption of productivity and efficiency oriented capabilities in communications and in compliance tooling as well.
Many organisations are still in the early days of assessing how they are going to deploy compliance tools to better govern the use of capabilities such as Gen AI. I think there’s a lot of discipline in using AI very purposefully in a very targeted way to improve the efficiency of a compliance team, to help detect potential risks or eliminate things that are not risks.
Going forward the challenge for compliance AI is how it can work with the new suite of generative AI capabilities. I think there will be a lot of work in this space, and it is something I know Theta Lake is and will continue to be at the forefront of.
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Copyright © 2018 RegTech Analyst