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Secure collaboration tools are a basic necessity for digital transformation

IN today's business environment, data is being shared across messaging platforms at unprecedented rates, powered by the rise of cloud computing and a host of other technological innovations.

Although these collaboration tools have made it easier for employees to communicate with each other, across multiple regions, and on any device, they can also pose significant security and compliance risks.

While many attacks are caused by malicious hackers who are experts at breaching the system, the hard truth is that many organisations and their policies also pose a risk to themselves; be it through tolerating the use of consumer messaging systems or implementing insecure workplace collaboration applications or simply misunderstanding their security limits, as well as of course not enforcing best security practices for employees who use such tools.


Workplace collaboration tools emerged to help companies better meet client needs. The benefits of collaboration tools are many, but according to McKinsey, it all boils down to the productivity advantages fostered by better knowledge-sharing capacities, helping employees benefit from what we call at Symphony "social intelligence". These tools do not only break down silos between employees and teams, by pretty much removing borders whether they are physical or virtual, but also streamlining the delivery of the most relevant content or information to the right people at the right time, or in other words providing the community with contextual intelligence for making informed decisions faster.

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Simultaneously, many of these tools are increasingly leveraging NLP and AI to help automate repetitive tasks. The most apparent are chatbots, which employees leverage to sort out mundane tasks while they can focus on the more value-added aspects of their job.

Indeed, at Symphony we've seen a 128 per cent increase of human-to-bot and bot-to-bot communication on our platform since last June. As bots become more sophisticated and entrenched in day-to-day activities, we expect this upward trajectory to continue.

However, the productive power of collaboration tools must also be balanced with equally strong security and compliance considerations. More business critical information is being passed over these platforms than ever, and trusting your communications to an insecure platform makes your organisation highly susceptible to data breaches and regulatory violations.

Consider that in 2017 alone, over 2.6 billion records were stolen, lost or exposed worldwide - almost a 90 per cent increase from the year before. While data breaches in any organisation are bad, the problem has been very apparent within lucrative sectors such as financial services, which in the UK experienced a rise in data breaches of 480 per cent just last year.

This rise in attacks, and all the fines paid for compliance failures, is why it is vital that organisations consider carefully which collaboration tools to use. While it may be strategic for your business to deploy a product that offers appealing end user capabilities, that solution must also be assessed on its security and compliance controls. In order for data to be truly safe, solutions must include end-to-end encryption, the key management must be independent from the communication infrastructure and vendor and the cloud provider. These state-of-the-art security capabilities must be complemented with sophisticated compliance tools that are relevant to the regulations and guidelines of all the countries the businesses operate in.


To sum it all up: collaboration tools can have transformational effects of workplaces, and the addition of automation capabilities only acts as a further force multiplier for our productivity, accuracy, and ability to better serve customers. Companies that aren't digitalising now may soon fight for their continued relevance in tomorrow's economy.

If collaboration tools show us nothing else, it is that information and data are the new currency in today's increasingly digital economy. But by choosing an insecure collaboration tool, you could be exposing your most valuable assets to hackers.

To realise the fullest potential these automations may have for us in the future, the use of such tools must be underpinned by a secure system. If not, these tools - which can become your biggest asset - also become your greatest risk.

  • The writer is general manager of APAC, Symphony Communications.

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