Thoughts from the 2014 RSA Archer Summit: Head West, Explore the Opportunity Landscape

At the RSA Archer Summit in Phoenix this year, the theme of pioneer spirit and innovation permeated the event. Art Coviello’s opening keynote outlined the technological advancements driving business and the collective challenges across the industry. Gen. Wesley Clark highlighted the growing threats in our world. Amit Yoran articulated of how digital risk and business risk is now inseparable and Eric Erston’s call to action to transform compliance, harness risk and explore opportunity inspired us all. The sessions this year continued in the legacy of previous Summits sharing best practices and war stories from the front line of trailblazers in our industry. The thriving city of Phoenix was the perfect backdrop for this collection of innovators.

The expansion west all started with the Louisiana purchase.  This purchase was a gamble for the Thomas Jefferson administration since most of the territory was unexplored.  It was mainly driven by the protection of the trade access of the Mississippi River.  It was not really as strategic as it seems now – it was a tactical answer to an emerging problem.   The territory had lots of potential but no one had a clear picture of the vastness and actual value.  Exploiting the territory wasn’t the immediate driver – it was a tactical step and turned out to be an absolute immeasurable turning point on the future of the country and the world.

This is parallel to many companies journey to GRC and our customer’s purchase of Archer.  Our customers buy Archer many times as a tactical answer to immediate needs – compliance, risk management, business continuity, IT security, Audit, etc.   While there is a sense of future value, most often it is a lot of unknown and unexplored potential.  Those customers that have been exploring the territory (implementing Archer) for a period of time have discovered all of the natural resources (unlocking the potential of GRC and Archer so to speak).  The many new customers are just expanding their understanding of what the potential is but still need to deal with tactical issues.  They all at some time stood on the bank of the Mississippi looking at the daunting task of exploration but knowing that riches and wealth are just beyond the horizon.

The Western expansion in the United States has been a journey based on technology.   There are many parallels when you think of that historical perspective and the journey our customers are taking for GRC:

  • Transportation evolved from trading paths leading to roads leading to trains expanding the West and forging new communities. This expansion is similar to how organizations broaden the footprint of GRC in the company building channels across operational functions.
  • Communication technologies transitioned from messages passed along trading routes to the pony express to telegraph systems connecting towns together.   Many of our customers articulate how communication and collaboration has expanded in their company through GRC.
  • Homesteaders facing the wild frontier organized into small settlements then into towns and ultimately from a territory into a state. Sounds like some of the momentum we see in our customers as they develop their GRC programs from grass roots efforts to a core business discipline.
  • And finally, the Wild, Wild West was transformed by the improved safety and stability from town sheriffs and escalating to US marshals and formal government. The reduction of risk made it safer to live in the West as GRC strives to reduce risk and make it safe for the business to explore and realize new opportunities.

All of this advancements led to the country exploiting the opportunities and tapping into the natural resources of the territory.  Out of that effort, we saw the result – Phoenix, a thriving modern city.

At the Summit, we used these concepts to bring our customers together through the many personas that made the expansion West possible.

  • Sheriffs – Risk and Security roles
  • Gunslingers – Technical administrators
  • Trailblazers – special designees for those people responsible for bringing Archer into a company and program sponsors
  • Prospectors – those evaluating Archer and GRC
  • Homesteaders – Compliance people representing most often the first people to embark on the GRC journey

These personas helped our customers connect with like-minded explorers of the GRC landscape and highlighted the different roles it takes to create a settlement, organize into a territory and achieve statehood. In other words, the many different skills and expertise it takes to make GRC a success in an organization.

This was my sixth Archer Summit. Each year, I am amazed at the growth (we had over 1,000 people this year), the level of sophistication and the amazing openness of our customers to help each other conquer the challenging frontier of GRC. As I tried to tweet out highlights, as soon as I heard one great quote to tweet, a customer would offer up another nugget of insight. It was a constant flow of information and a great week. Thanks to all of our customers for participating in such a wonderful, open community and sharing your knowledge as we all continue exploring the land of Opportunity.

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