Opinion

Channel must get on top of new mobile compliance rules

Avaya worldwide channel vice president, Jeremy Butt, examines new regulations on mobile communications handed down by the FSA, and considers the channel impact.

This week marks an important date for the Financial Services industry and indeed for mobile workers everywhere. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) declared that, from Monday onwards, all employees receiving, executing, or arranging client orders related to investments, or carrying out transactions related to the company's trading activities must have their mobile communications recorded.

So let's consider the significance of what's happening and what this means for the channel. First and foremost, this new regulation brings into focus the degree to which business is conducted on mobile devices today. Not only does it deal with devices provided by the enterprise, but it also deals with those the enterprise sanctions or permits to be used for business purposes. With this in mind, the consumerisation of IT and the growing trend of BYOD/BYOT (bring your own device/technology), adds an extra layer of complexity to adhering to this legislation from the start.

From a business perspective one must find the right balance of being compliant, managing risk, and providing employees with the flexibility to perform their job while mobile. From an IT perspective, it means adding call recording as a new requirement to an already complex FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) strategy. From a user perspective it is about being compliant, but not allowing technology to get in the way of accomplishing objectives, all while maintaining choice of preferred devices.

It is the ability to satisfy all these criteria and to do so in a cost effective manner, without negatively impacting the day-to-day running of the business that falls to the channel, in collaboration with the customer. Significantly, it isn't a one-off task. This week's regulation is just another step in the evolution of unified communications - this time driven by the government. Who knows, the next step will perhaps be driven by consumer based benchmarks being adapted for the enterprise, and the one after that might be by the application of technology to address new business models. The point is that, whatever the change, the channel community has a crucial role to play in ensuring customers are prepared for the here and now, and the future.

So, while mobile recording compliance will have been top of mind for our Financial Services partners, partners across the board would be wise to anticipate the next phase in the process or, at least, use the financial service regulation as an example of a likely course of events within their vertical specialism.  For example, while this week's legislation is UK specific partners should prepare for the emergence of similar requirements in other jurisdictions. Similar policies put into practice across Europe could impact customers with international operations which, in turn, has the potential to create a domino effect on compliance expenditure, if not managed properly.

For many IT departments, regardless of sector, the thought of having to meet new regulatory requirements will mean two things - expenditure and management headache. Called in to manage both, the smart reseller should see this as an opportunity to elevate the conversation to a business one and to explain that compliance can be cost-effective, it doesn't have to involve a huge investment or a rip and replace, and it can actually make a business more competitive over the long term. In fact, companies of all sizes can make the most of their existing assets and upgrade their infrastructure to meet these new requirements, and lay the groundwork for future regulatory changes, simply by using new open-standards based technologies.

One simple way to transform a traditional mobile phone call into one that can be automatically logged and recorded is to leverage a common protocol, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), over the existing infrastructure. From a compliance perspective, this serves several purposes. It enables organisations to easily record calls made to and from employee mobile phones, ensures an accurate record of conversation exists and can be easily identified and helps meet most financial institutions' need for high security on all communications. This is a big tick in the compliance box and will certainly satisfy both management and the FSA.

SIP can also provide organisations with the ability to extend their investment in existing network and communications infrastructures enabling them to securely connect to new, advanced technologies regardless of what manufacturer or solution provider they come from. Many financial services companies still run older legacy networks. With a few simple steps, these older systems can be brought into the present and future-proofed, without the need to replace or remove current systems. Or, at the least, offer a phased route to upgrade and renewal. With this job done the IT department's headache suddenly seems a little more bearable!
 
Finally, open standards, like SIP, mean that applications, such as call recording, can be added to any device be it smartphone, laptop or handheld. End user choice is protected and the impact on day-to-day process and practices is unnoticed.

Changes in technology mean changes in the way business is done forever. As businesses adopt new technologies, new challenges and opportunities will certainly arise as a result. Businesses facing new regulations now have an opportunity to investigate and implement new technologies to not just become compliant, but also to make their company more competitive. It's the job of the reseller to guide the customer on how best to achieve this goal. Resellers that understand the evolutionary drivers impacting their customer' businesses will be well placed to help them adapt and prepare now so that transitions in the future will be smooth and successful. Those that don't will be left scrambling when the next wave of change hits, only able to deliver last minute fixes, potentially costly solutions and disruptions to customers and their services.

This was first published in November 2011

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