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December 12, 2016

Sonian CTO Talks ITEXPO

Sometimes managing information can be difficult – even with everything now being digital. Big data can cause big problems if not handled correctly. Sonian, a pure public cloud information archiving and analytics company, realized this problem in 2007 and has been working to solve it ever since.

Sonian enables companies to preserve, analyze and access their electronic communications for legal, regulatory and continuity purposes while simultaneously gaining organizational insights.

Founder and CTO Greg Arnette thinks it’s important to recognize the officers who allow these processes to take place. So, he is speaking at ITEXPO (News - Alert) during the Hot Topics in Tech and Communications Track.

 Arnette’s session, From CIO to CDO: How to Drive Innovation and Value with Data will be held at 9 a.m. on Wednesday Feb. 8.

We recently caught up with Arnette to discuss technology, Sonian, and what we can expect from the company at ITEXPO.

1. How have technology changes over the past 12 months helped businesses grow?

In the past year, we have seen increased adoption of cloud and SaaS (News - Alert) that have allowed businesses to grow in three ways:

  1. Faster innovation cycles means getting closer to customers and being able to solve the most important customer pain points.
  2. Ability to focus on core competencies and letting others manage the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” increases growth with improved productivity and faster time to market because technology teams are able to focus on the value add versus the commodity.
  3. More access to data from all the SaaS services means more actionable real-time intelligence can be used for decision making. In the prior-to-cloud IT era, this was either not possible or very difficult and expensive.

2. What does the term collaboration mean to your business?

Sonian relies upon five core principles, two of which are trust and transparency. To Sonian, collaboration means implementing the tools and policies that foster team cohesion and enable the sharing of information – both of which lead to better outcomes. With these efforts in tact and attainable, we’re able to achieve high-level outcomes by working through collaboration.

3. Are you leveraging big data/analytics to operate more efficiently?

Yes. The Sonian service generates many data signals which we analyze to understand our customer usage patterns and continuously optimize based on our learnings.

4. How can artificial intelligence best be used in business applications?

We’re already seeing AI start to enhance collaboration and workforce tools, including suggestions on how to prepare for an upcoming meeting, or AI identifying the most important email to answer next. IBM, Google, Microsoft (News - Alert) and many startups are rolling out this functionality, drawing lessons from early adopters. The major collaboration suites will be infused with “AI Assist” starting in 2017.

We’re not ready to hand over all decision making to our “AI’s” but we are willing to let AI be an “assistive intelligence” as we get more comfortable and steer clear of “West World” scenarios.

5. How have the growing number of high-visibility security breaches impacted your outlook on security?  Which breach is of greatest concern?

Several recent breaches are of great concern:

  1. The hacking of Democratic personnel using simple phishing attacks. This shows folks need more security training and the tech providers need to step up their detection capabilities.
  2. The hacking of Target (News - Alert) department stores using an attack via the HVAC system. This hack was astounding and sheds light on the fact that too many of our systems are interconnected when they don’t have to be. Target’s point of sale system was on the same network as the HVAC controllers. The industry learned a lot from this attack.
  3. The Sony hack is also disturbing. Nefarious “state actors” using cloud and machine intelligence for bad can do great harm to industry and personal reputations.

6. To what extent are you using cloud services in your daily business processes?

Cloud services are at the core of every Sonian daily business process. We utilize the power of the public cloud for information protection, preservation and insights. Additionally, Sonian uses cloud collaboration, marketing, support, HR and finance tools to achieve our business goals.

7. Has your use of cloud-based resources increased over the past year?  Do you expect to make more use of cloud computing in the coming year?  Please elaborate.

We have been at “steady state cloud utilization” for many years. Any new services we use will certainly be cloud-based.

8. How has the growth in the managed services market impacted your business?

Sonian is very friendly with  MSPs. MSPs are a primary go-to market vehicle for our solution and we follow the latest trends with MSPs to ensure we can address their needs. Currently, MSPs need cloud/SaaS add-on services to help them with Office365 and G-Suite bundles. This is a growth area for Sonian.

9. Is the cloud / MSP model a realistic one for reliable IT security?

MSPs will use security as an area of growth for their businesses. Security training and enhanced SaaS will be an area where MSPs can bring value to their customers.

10. What emerging technology has the potential to have a disruptive impact on businesses in the coming years?

Sonian is tracking two emerging technologies with great interest:

  1. Serverless architectures, which allow tech teams to experience more agility and lower costs when used correctly.
  2. Dual path architectures, which support batch and real-time streaming data flows.

11. How has your business’ product development evolved over the past year as a result of emerging technologies?

Over the past year, Sonian has used more automated processes and continuous delivery optimized around three week sprints. Over our nearly 10 year history, we have used the gamut of agile processes, maintaining forward momentum and becoming increasingly efficient. With an increased use of cloud build tools, Sonian has been able to move forward at a faster rate.

12. Are channel partners keeping up with the latest trends and developments?  Is more education needed and how can they better leverage the latest technologies to grow?

The channel had been lagging on latest trends, but is catching up quickly. Cloud and SaaS were threatening since these new ways of procuring IT allow customers to “go direct.” But at the end of the day, customers still want to buy IT from a local presence -- this is where channel can still offer value.

13. What is your session at ITEXPO about and who should plan on attending?  Why should this be a must-attend session for the week?

My session is part of the Hot Topics in Tech and Communications Track which will cover the evolving role of the CIO to the chief data officer. A key theme is how CIO, wearing the CDO hat, can drive innovation and more value with data streaming from their SaaS services. This is a big theme and will become very important in 2017 and beyond.

14. What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO 2017?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet other IT professionals in addition to presenting a story about the evolution of the CIO role to the chief data officer.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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