A press release from PresenterNet caught my eye today. They announced a new web conferencing software release designed to help companies achieve Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. For those of you unfamiliar with SOX (as insiders abbreviate it), Sarbanes-Oxley was an American federal law passed in 2002, requiring companies to be able to show strict internal accounting controls (this covers a lot of ground and there are many interesting details, including more protection for corporate whistle-blowers). The huge corporate financial disasters of Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, and others spurred the creation of the bill. Full compliance requirements come into effect this year.
Ever since the bill was made into law, enterprise software vendors have been racking their brains to find a good marketing spin to show that their software is beneficial for the new compliance requirements, and therefore a necessary budget item for their customers. So my BS sensor was in high alert mode as I looked at the press release headline.
But I have to say that I like the niche feature sets that PresenterNet says they added (I haven't had a chance yet to check it out in action). It creates an archival log clearly stating what was presented at what date and time, by whom, and who attended in the audience. Of course all the big name vendors can produce attendance reports for a session, but this is the first I've heard of a vendor keeping track of individual content items and logging those as well. It can stamp the upload time of a PowerPoint deck or a shared document. PresenterNet then says it stores the information on its own servers so the presenting company can't fiddle the data after the fact.
I can certainly see where this would be valuable evidence of fiscal responsibility in the future. If Andy Fastow had given PresenterNet web conferences to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, the current Enron trial wouldn't be having as much "he said/she said" in the contentious attempt to ascertain who knew what when.
I'm giving this my stamp of approval for an innovative and useful concept. I only have reservations about one sentence in the press release:
"...our system converts all user media into a permanent format, and stores it in our servers."
Do you think that could be true? I can't imagine that PresenterNet is going to permanently archive every piece of media content every customer ever shows. The cumulative data storage requirements could be massive. And the security and privacy considerations are mind-boggling, since this feature will be used for highly sensitive information. Still, they must have realized this stuff going in. At least I would hope they must.