Balancing data protection and productivity in the digital era (VOICES OF DATA PROTECTION--Episode 1)
Published Feb 23 2021 11:18 AM 2,831 Views

Host:  Bhavanesh Rengarajan – Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

Guest:  Rudra Mitra – VP of Compliance Solutions, Microsoft 


The following conversation is adapted from transcripts of Episode 1 of the Voices of Data Protection podcast.  There may be slight edits in order to make this conversation easier for readers to follow along. 


This podcast features the leaders, program managers from Microsoft and experts from the industry to share details about the latest solutions and processes to help you manage your data, keep it safe and stay compliant.  If you prefer to listen to the audio of this podcast instead, please visit:


BHAVANESH:  Welcome to Voices of Data Protection! I’m your host Bhavanesh Rengarajan, and I’m a Principal Program Manager at Microsoft.  In this first episode, I talk with Rudy (Rudra) Mitra, Vice President of Compliance Solutions at Microsoft 365.  Rudy has been with Microsoft for more than 20 years, helping organizations keep data safe and minimize risks.  


Rudy and I will discuss how the pandemic and remote work have accelerated the need for compliance, how organizations are navigating this new landscape, and how Microsoft is developing a strong solutions roadmap to help organizations and people succeed in these unprecedented times! 


Thank you, Rudy, for taking time to speak with us today, please give us a quick introduction of your role at M365 Compliance and your charter.


RUDRA:  Hey Bhavy, how's it going? I'm Rudy Mitra, the Vice President of Compliance Solutions at Microsoft 365.  And looking forward to having this chat.


BHAVANESH:  Would you quickly cover your areas of operation and talk about your team as well?


RUDRA:  At Microsoft 365 with our compliance solutions, we think about areas such as data governance, data protection, insider risk management, which we can probably go into a little bit more, discovering content and auditing the access to content. And then of course, compliance management to round it out, all geared towards keeping enterprise data safe, secure, and helping organizations work on risk, reducing risks.


BHAVANESH:  So, let me ask you this question, how has compliance as a scene evolved since the pandemic and switching to working from home. And how are you thinking or reassessing the roadmap in these unprecedented tough times?


RUDRA:  Of course, as you know, we all find ourselves in these unprecedented times. And organizations are looking to react as the workforce goes remote. And so, you know, a couple of things are coming forward as we sort of listen to customers, as we talked to them with remote work, it's all about sort of where the organization's data is now located, where it's flowing as we work from home. There's lots of questions in organization's mind about how to keep their data secure, but also ensure employees can stay as productive as possible, not put-up walls to their productivity. So that's sort of one key theme that we continue to hear and react to. Also, things like making sure the risk from communications, which are now happening more in the digital medium, you know, like us talking to each other versus the cooler talk or in other places, there's a lot more of that going on, meaning that there could potentially be risks with that data, what's talked about, what's in email, what's in chats. So covering those bases for compliance, making sure, you know, if there's anything that needs to be discovered or flagged or protected, that's another key theme through all of this. So, remote work, we've all been transitioning to it, but at the same time, maintaining that sense of compliance, meaning maintaining that sense of security of data protection of that data, key themes for organizations that are pretty much globally is what we hear.


BHAVANESH:  Would it be fair to say that the need for compliance has grown over the last few months compared to where we were about a year ago?


RUDRA:  Oh, for sure. This whole situation has accelerated the move to some digital medium. I think Satya says this really well from Microsoft, which is, he's sort of puts it as the transition to digital and acceleration to the cloud move for organizations has really accelerated because that is the way to stay productive. That is the way to operate in this, in this situation. And with that, the need for compliance, as you just pointed out, has tremendously accelerated. And we see this not only in the customer conversations, but we also see this in the adoption and usage of our solutions.


BHAVANESH:  Since I heard you say that you're looking into information protection, governance, and insider risk management as some of the key pillars, what are some of the core concerns or struggles that you hear from our customers and what they feel they do not have a solution around today?


RUDRA:  The intellect property of an organization, intuitively, is the thing they are trying to protect most. That’s the place where compliance really is important to make sure that their intellectual property is safe. They know where it is as workers for the enterprise access and data from home, what devices it on. It could be a managed, it could be unmanaged. So, the information protection need for these core assets is the key requirement we hear. When you think about areas like data loss prevention, very geared towards making sure that what is important for the company, stays within the enterprise is control, they know where it's going, particularly in this distributed environment. And then of course, you know, where, where company secrets are involved, where company intellectual property is involved, being able to classify that content, being able to say what's the important information from what the non-important information is so important now, to be able to make sure you can protect that 5% of data, 2% of data, 10% of data from everything else. That's more data in the organization. And just to put this in perspective, by some, some measures it's estimated that we are now doubling the digital data for an organization large or small every couple of years with continued acceleration on it, which means the volume of data that you're trying to figure out your intellectual property out of protected, whether that's patient records, whether that's taskforce forms, whether that's blueprints, for manufacturing, financial records, very important things to talk about the scale aspects of it and being able to protect what's important from maybe all the other digital data that's floating around.


BHAVANESH:  That's really exciting, Rudy.  So how does your roadmap address all these concerns for your customers?


RUDRA:  A great question. What we feel at Microsoft is that this explosion of data combined with the trend of remote work just brings to forefront the need for automated solutions, solutions, leverage the best of machine learning. And yeah, yeah, I do assist with the production of data would be identification when there are insider risks. And what we really leaned in on is solutions that are ML and AI powered so that these can scale. It's very different when you're trying to do this at small scale versus really the scale at which businesses operate today, large, or small. We talked a little bit about the, the volume of data and in that context, automation is super important, so, that's sort of number one. Number two for our solutions is being part of the productivity experience or users and users. You know, it's very easy to sort of say, I'm going to protect data that no one ever accesses, right. I can lock it up in a vault and protect it, but what's the fun in that then there's no productivity, but it's 100% secure. And so, this balance of experiences that are geared towards productivity and security and protection and compliance is important. And so when you think about the work that we've done in the Office applications, in SharePoint, in Teams where the person working on it is in the flow of their work, they never leave their flow, but their knowledge, if they're dealing with sensitive information, they know that they have to deal with it carefully combined with things like IT manageability, where they don't have to deploy additional add ins it's part of the product experiences and apps.


This is sort of number two on our sort of areas of focus, which is balancing productivity and protection. And then number three is sort of our partners and the work that we do with our ecosystem to make sure that this is not just production for Microsoft data, but for all data. Because an enterprise is messy, it has data in different places. And so really our production solutions are important as well.


BHAVANESH:  And Rudy, I think I'm going to throw you a curveball. It will be good to get your perspective as well as a customer. Let's say that if they are using a very manually operated system today, like you have manual labeling on sensitivity and retention, what kind of sedation would you give them so that they can basically increase their productivity by moving towards your automated solution, like auto labeling, using sensitive information, machine learning, AI?  What would be your top three steps that you would suggest to them to move from here to there?


RUDRA:  The idea of starting small with data loss prevention, you know, maybe starting with your data classification in, in more where they can see where the sensitive data is located. That's sort of how we are approach this question with customers united very daunting, maybe to think about going from having no information production solution to a fully deployed solution overnight. And as you correctly pointed out in your question, yeah. Now, how do you, how do you take this a step at a time with Microsoft 365? The fact that this is data loss prevention built into teams this is built into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook SharePoint gives you as an organization, the control to start small, you know, see how you can roll out data loss prevention first, or see your insights on sensitive data first in these different repositories where data may be located and from there, and build on different policies.


And with manual data, labeling classification back to your question, you're sort of still seeing an incomplete picture, but what you can do is automate that with the automation behind the scenes, run that in sort of test mode, run that in simulation mode, see what shows up and then go from there. So that's, that's sort of one part of it. If I may, the delivery, I'd kind of extend the question a little bit to also say that, you know, the work that we've been doing, an insider risk management, where, you know, we try to think about risks from people within the, within the organization. And just to put that in context, over 90% of organizations we survey and talk to say that they are worried about insider risks, and more than 50% of those risks are inadvertent, meaning that this isn't a malicious scenario, it's just an accidental leakage of data. It's an accident, explore exposure of data.


So when you use the automation, when you use the controls that we build into Microsoft 365, and then extend across your entire digital estate, you sort of see more of the picture light up, whether that's where the data is located with our know your data products or where sensitive data is that you need to protect or data loss prevention solutions you need to put on the end point or that, or the app. So, the automation can really be a staged rollout that augments what you may be doing already with manual controls.


BHAVANESH:  Rudy, I think your last few statements really hits it out of the park.  The vein, which I would like to summarize this as all of your companies, initiatives are totally focused towards trying to stop the accident, oversharing and breach of data. That's how it kind of sums up in my head.


RUDRA:  Yeah, that's right, Bhavy. When we're all remote, you know, it's a, it's a very interesting time. We're all working in and in these unprecedented times, not to overuse that, but it really is a scenario. We're all navigating together, but we've never seen. It's work under duress. It's working in this remote environment and we've got so many things going on, you know, just to kind of bringing at home, for me, you know, I'm, I'm juggling the kids at home you know, and trying to be productive in the work I'm doing. I'm multitasking all the time. And making a mistake with the handling of the company's data, the enterprise data, you know, it's not going to be something for me, that's potentially malicious. It's going to be an accident. And so, yes, being automated to sort of be there to help someone and catch those kinds of scenarios and protect those scenarios, that's the very likely set of scenarios where we hear the customer need and want to be there to help them with it.


BHAVANESH:  What have been some of your biggest learnings throughout your career working in this particular space?


RUDRA:  Oh, wow. That is a little bit of a curveball. I would say as an engineer and as a product person, if I had to pick one out, I would say that being customer driven as we've worked on these areas in sort of our solution space of compliance, or sort of broadly, as we thought about how Microsoft delivers on security and compliance and identity solutions, it's really listening to customers. It's being very customer centric in terms of what we try to achieve for them. Making sure her activity for customers is as important as a compliance security is sort of our guiding light has been probably the biggest takeaway for us.


And, it's frankly been at the center of every solution that we're trying to build, because, you know, we could try to do these things in isolation and whatnot, but, you know, just as you talked a couple of times about the situation we find ourselves in right now, listening to the customer, going back to them, asking them how they're trying to navigate this and then adapting our solutions to it, probably has been very core to what we do. And frankly, very rewarding and trying to help customers.


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