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Zoom and Teams Recordings – The Content Problem You Didn’t Know You Had

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The opinions shared here represent those of the contributor themselves and not those of their employers nor that of Big Men On Content as a whole.

Every one of us are living the Zoom life with our working days comprised of meeting after meeting on video. This shift will be one of the long lasting impacts of the pandemic as we have readjusted our expectations for what it means to meet together. Along with this comes the ability to easily record meetings never would have considered keeping otherwise. There are obvious benefits to having these files, like needing to include someone who could not make the call or needing to refer back to it later for clarification. What we do not often think about is that when we click record we are contributing to a records management challenge that has never before existed on this scale.

Security concerns were an early backlash to the rapid expansion of online meetings, but the focus of the stories was largely on realtime interference or access by unwanted parties. Frankly, these are easily solved problems. Better education on how to use the services prevents most of the issues. The persistent problem lurking under the waterline is the terabytes of recordings, scattered and unmanaged across your ecosystem after the calls end. Video conferencing services are ill equipped to natively handle the types of data classification and controls enterprises need to apply to electronic records in the volume we are seeing today.

Before the entire world moved to online experiences, meetings had an ephemeral quality. What you said and heard faded into memory, subject to the interpretation of attendees. Official minutes that some unfortunate soul is charged with writing are relied upon to retain what needs to be remembered. Those minutes, depending on the topic and industry, become THE business record of the event and are subject to retention and other rules.

Those documents are relatively easy to classify, redact and manage the risk from a given discussion. The future of notes and such from our new way of meeting is not the voracious notetaker but the autogenerated transcript with AI extracted summarization and interpretation. The recent explosion of use in fact gives that AI exactly what it needs to improve. Data. But until this technology matures what happens when minutes are superseded by recordings complete with sidebar conversations, facial expressions and revealing information about other topics. Thousands of hours of video that may or may not contain discoverable conversation or intellectual property in extraordinary detail.

Risk from recorded meetings is hardly a recent development. More than one public figure can attest to that. Similarly none of the technology we used in our mass migration to work from home appeared from nowhere in March. We have been working with these technologies for years but this was the event that pushed the virtual meeting bird out of the nest and it took off. Zoom and the like already had some basic controls for constraining the behavior around their recordings. The video technology scaled but frankly the processes around it have not. In response companies have the option to do the wrong thing and disable or severely limit access to recording features altogether, avoiding the problem. This would be horribly shortsighted. Clearly this data has value or people wouldn’t want to steal it in the first place. Recording is easy and it should stay that way.

The burden of protecting these files is often largely left up to the hosts, who may or may not have been given well thought out rules to follow and places to properly store this content. The copies end up left on the services or moved to laptops, file shares, personal cloud storage, etc. I am not suggesting Zoom et.al. add content classification, legal hold, metadata search, etc, to their products. Rather, they need to make it easier for customers to use the tools enterprise users already have.

As I mentioned there is a push for auto-transcription and other text analysis integrated into the meeting systems. There is tremendous insight that could be extracted from this mountain of video we are building but summarization does not solve for compliance. You need both. Things like classification and indexing are non-existent in the meeting tools but they are capabilities that are absolutely critical for managing business records.

There needs to be thoughtful and tighter integration to the content platform capabilities available in our ecosystems. The last thing we need is ANOTHER silo where insight is wasted and risk is created. Rather than asking everyone who ever hosts a meeting to manually download from one service and upload these huge files to whatever file share is handy, let the back end do it. Push these files to a cloud service that understands content and let these recordings slip seamlessly into existing governance workflows.

The ISV market is working to fill this need but honestly this should have found its way into the roadmaps already. Look to partner innovators for easy methods to move the content into management tool of choice. Avoid those though that will attempt to layer on top of the meeting services in place. I wish that we could expect seamless integration from the mega vendors but it simply is not there yet. If you record in Teams for example you actually have to add Microsoft Stream and the content ends up in Azure rather than either of the other two content silos (OneDrive, SharePoint) already behind the Teams curtain.

At the end of the day this is not a meeting service problem. It is a content issue. Ignore it at your peril. Discovery from litigation will soon start going after this treasure trove of risk if you do not. As I said above though, making recording more difficult for users is the wrong thing to do. Manage retention and such on the back end. Ensure your people do not have to take time away from their day job deciding where to put the files, who should see them and how long you keep them around. Hold your meeting vendors accountable to drive innovation and enable integration with content platforms designed for just this sort of expanding compliance challenge.

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Categorised in: Content Management, Content Services Platforms, Records Management

1 Response »

  1. Thoughtfully composed…and a component of the evangelical position I take with clients. The evangelism is the assertion that the client doesn’t know the risk nor the rewards of the unstructured data in the hundreds of content stores used by an enterprise. The most pervasive response I have seen is the assertion that “what we don’t know won’t hurt us”. A bit of head in the sand…I believe. Granted the highest value proposition for most of this is the potential for litigation discovery…And that is a compelling event, not a general and accepted business practice.

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