Governance From the Ground Up
Eddie Sheehy | CEO, Nuix
Eddie Sheehy, who has been CEO of Nuix since 2006, was a little leery of this “Meet The Leaders” thing at first. “I don’t think people want to read poetry about me. I think they want to read about information governance.”
Modest is an understatement. I had to convince—maybe coerce is a better word—him to open up a little about himself and his path to his leadership role in his company. But he eventually warmed up. “I think the people who follow this industry are more interested in the vision than the background of somebody like me,” he said with typical candor.
Here’s a guy who got up before 6 A.M. Sydney time (Nuix is Australian-based) to talk to some yahoo reporter from the States, and didn’t want to waste time. Yet he generously spent about 45 minutes on the phone talking about himself, his company and his philosophies of strategic leadership… probably before his first cuppa.
OK, if you must, he finally relented. “I always wanted to build businesses. My first outings were in investment banking, but my interests were always in what made companies succeed and fail. My first jobs were in London, and then I moved to Australia in 1996. Again, it was all about helping to make companies better, but it turned into a chance to create Nuix, which now has about 200 people around the world, and we’ve had a habit of growing at 60% to 100% a year for the last seven or eight years. I see no reason for that to stop!” He’s benignly proud, this guy. I like him.
So I prodded him a little to explain how his background in financial services and investment banking eventually led to a business that is essentially technology-based. “At that time, getting into IT was a natural way to grow businesses,” he explained. “That was the era of Cisco and Microsoft. The lovely thing about IT in the ‘90s was that you could get the distribution cost down to about nothing. And IT was the enabler,” he said.
He quickly realized, as he put it, that IT could “break the stranglehold” that the existing large companies had at that time. “Customers could download software to their laptops and servers and use it immediately,” he explained. ”The big companies had multiple salespeople working the same company. We were lucky to have one salesperson in a geographic region! So the ability to have people, through the Internet, have low-cost distribution—actually zero-cost distribution—to download and try software, allowed companies like mine to go up against the big IT firms.”
Bringing It To Now
I introduced the subject of SharePoint, at this point in our conversation, mainly because the concept or “low-to-no-cost” software deployment usually isn’t either one. “Well, that’s the other side of the coin,” he answered. “SharePoint shows you how unstructured data just grows and grows. It looks like it’s free at first, but it leads to lots of data that has to be accessed and searched,” he said, and companies need to recognize the triggering events, and they want to “rationalize what they need in today’s world, rather than what they needed when their SharePoint server was first commissioned.” I probably overstated the perception of SharePoint’s cost (or lack thereof), because Eddie soon reminded me, “very few things are free.” Point taken.
“SharePoint is just another container of unstructured data. We come across similar problems with fileshares, email systems, email archives, and the information governance problems exist in every one of them,” he said. “Doesn’t matter what the container is.”
We then transitioned to a discussion about that “transition.” Did he, I asked, think that businesses were moving from on-site, licensed content management systems to more cloudy off-site systems? “That’s a very interesting subject,” he began. “Migrations are usually the business of the IT teams. Whereas solving records management is the realm of, well, records managers. And I’ve found that IT can usually ignore records managers without a lot of sticks being shaken at them.” We both laughed at that one, but he has a greater point: “A migration is a trigger event; it’s a chance to fix up records. It’s no different than you or me moving our house. We take the stuff in our house, and shove it into another. But we typically get rid of a large portion of the stuff we haven’t used for the last number of years. The IT guys are like the movers; they can take everything. But it’s a lot harder for them to make decisions about what’s been used recently.”
Best description of IT versus records I’ve heard in a long time.
Leveling the Playing Ground
“We do a lot of migrations. And what we find,” said Eddie (and I think it says a lot about human nature) “is that at the beginning, 80% of organizations want to clear out all the junk before they move it. But then 80% of those end up saying, ‘Ah, what the heck. Let’s just move it all.’”
It’s a complex arrangement, said Eddie. “The CEO is now attuned to the fact that retaining old email, even if you didn’t have to, makes it discoverable and that can hurt the business,” he said. According to Eddie, some lawyers accept that culling is good and some have a “keep everything, just in case” mentality. He thinks this is a US versus non-US thing … I don’t know about that. “But IT steamrolls the process to meet migration requirements. So most organizations will probably end up with the same data in the cloud as was behind the firewall.”
But Eddie is sanguine about the balance of roles in the organization. “Everybody who has competence, ability and drive can become part of the business strategy development.” Everyone has their own problems, of course, said Eddie. “IT has had its budgets static or cut for decades. But information governance is their opportunity,” he insisted. “If IT wants to be where the action is, it needs a triggering event such as an acquisition, or an investigation, or a migration from a behind-the-firewall solution to a cloud platform. And all those things are happening in businesses right now.”
Nuix North America Inc.
Simple | Powerful | Precise
660 York Street, Suite 102
San Francisco CA 94110