An alliance promoting best practices for complying with IT-related communications rules hopes to help companies navigate the regulatory waters and make lawmakers more aware of the impact their decisions have on the market.

The Electronic Communications Compliance Council (TE3C), a virtual group

made up of user companies, technology partners, consultants and industry experts was formed last month to educate enterprises on issues surrounding the need to manage, retain and archive electronic communications, and to push for regulations that can be realistically implemented by businesses

Priscilla Emery, TE3C chair, said laws such as Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act require firms to better manage internal e-mail and instant messaging use.

“”It goes beyond the cost of trying to figure out what technology to use,”” said Emery, also president and founder of e-Nterprise Advisors in Florida. “”The real problem is: ‘What kind of policy should we have? How should we enforce the policy?’ Most companies want to comply. The challenge is being able to do so in a way that doesn’t create major upset to businesses.””

One TE3C initiative involves offering from its own Web site free, limited-time access to Policy Builder, an online tool companies can use to create customized e-mail policies. The tool was developed by Fortiva, a hosted message archiving and compliance solutions provider in Toronto, and a founding member of TE3C.

According to Paul Chen, Fortiva president and CEO, his company planned to sell Policy Builder as a product for US$249. But it is now being offered for free until April 30 to persuade firms to contemplate electronic communications policies.

Many of companies with electronic communications policies actually have simple guidelines that inadequately set out the rules, said Chen. Businesses wanting to stay out of legal hot water should focus both on determining how e-mail and instant messaging should be used, and deciding what the penalties should be for breaking the rules, he continued.

“”As we were talking to customers, we realized one of the major difficulties for customers is to find out what is a best practice for electronic communications compliance,”” said Chen, explaining the rationale behind TE3C, which had its inaugural meeting January 11 in New York. “”A bunch of us passionate about electronic communications decided to start an organization like TE3C.””

Taking challenges seriously

David Senf, program manager at IDC Canada in Toronto, said Canadian companies are taking the challenges of monitoring e-mail and IM use seriously.

IDC research projects that North American enterprise instant messaging revenue will reach $219 million in 2005 and hit $424.3 million in 2008. This suggests businesses will increasingly be putting the same emphasis on managing IM as they have been putting on managing e-mail use, he said.

“”In terms of policies and procedures, I think organizations understand what they need to do around compliance,”” said Senf, noting IBM, Microsoft and open source provider Jabber dominate the EIM space while FaceTime, IMLogic and Akonix rule the managed EIM space. “”Canadian organizations are increasingly ensuring the collaboration going on inside and outside of the organization adheres to the policies that they should be.””

In the meantime, TE3C is still putting together its membership program. So far initial interest by potential members has been encouraging, said Emery, who envisions an alliance that over the course of its first year will focus on educating businesses about electronic communications compliance as well as creating forums where companies and regulators can discuss the issues.

“”The whole idea is we’re trying to provide a forum and educational resource,”” said Emery. “”We’re starting to see a lot of people coming to us with interest of being part of the organization.””

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