ActiveNav develops industry leading file analysis software that enables the discovery, transformation and ongoing control of unstructured data. Its products play a fundamental role in information governance strategies by facilitating cost savings, risk remediation and improving efficiency through information audit, clean up and defensible deletion, intelligent file migration, records capture, eDiscovery collection and ongoing policy monitoring.
We recently spoke with Steve Matthews, Senior Vice President of Global Accounts, about his role leading ActiveNav’s commercial sales efforts. Backed by 20 years of experience in the information management and governance field, Steve shared some of his clients’ biggest challenges, the future of technology and how he’s supporting the success of our industry.
1. Tell us about how you got to where you are now.
I left school at 16 and had no idea what I wanted to do. I joined the UK Air Force, did six years there and during that time I finished my education. It was then that I realized I wanted to work in IT and had a real passion for data analysis and analytics. By trade, I was a statistician. After I left the Air Force, I worked for several small companies — all of which were in the data analytics field — whether that was looking for patterns in data or more general business intelligence.
Ten years ago, I moved to Virginia with my family to help start up ActiveNav in the US market. It’s been a real journey. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, which is why it’s fantastic being able to help clients that are lost and don’t know where to start from an information governance perspective. Helping people understand what data they have on their hands is very fulfilling.
2. What are the biggest challenges for your clients?
A lot of organizations have little to no information on what data they really have, what data is valuable and what data is at risk. When we’re able to show clients what data they’ve got, they can see how much of it is redundant. Then comes the next part: paralysis by analysis. There are so many stakeholders involved that some businesses are afraid to hit the delete key. Sometimes legal can be very conservative and say, “We need to keep everything forever, just in case.”
With all the data breaches in the news, we’ve been happy to see many organizations move from the “reactive” to the “proactive” stance on data management and compliance, but it often isn’t until an organization experiences a compelling event themselves, will they want to investigate what data they’re holding onto.
There’s also a raft of data privacy initiatives from across the world that come into play: Canada has PIPEDA (the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), the US has CCPA (the California Consumer Privacy Act), amongst a myriad of others. These are incredibly complex programs with competing priorities in an organization. ActiveNav helps companies identify which regulations affect them and how they can comply.
3. What technology or solution excites you the most about the future?
We’re getting ready to launch a new cloud-based solution. Our flagship product is on-prem, so being able to have a cloud offering as well will help organizations with their privacy compliance and data minimization programs is something we’re all very excited about.
From a personal perspective, the advancements in big data analytics — the ability to take huge amounts of data and mine them to gather real information out of it. Specifically, as it relates to health outcomes where it can make real differences to real people’s lives, not just about the bottom line for a company in terms of profit. It’s great to see solutions that positively impact people.
AI is all the rage, and everyone says they “do AI.” But, it’s not a panacea. I would say that AI certainly has a role to play where it’s a very focused outcome you’re looking to achieve. If you’re doing it as a nebulous, business wide initiative, I’m less convinced about the technologies that exist today. In the IT industry, there’s always been a move towards the latest, shiny new object. Even if something has worked for years, people will gravitate to the new solution. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it but if there is something that can add a degree of “betterness”, absolutely investigate it.
4. What's next for you in supporting the success of the industry?
Continuing the journey of innovation. Our whole way of working is changing which means we can never settle for the status quo. When we work with partners like Ricoh, we can help clients start their journey. Together, we enable them to get their arms around really large, complex and global programs.
For the younger members of the team at ActiveNav, I hope to provide them with the mentorship and the guidance they need for their career — now and for many years to come. For me, that’s the most important piece.
5. What advice would you have for someone working in the field?
There are three pieces of advice I’d suggest:
- Don't be afraid to innovate and think outside the box. In my experience, clients welcome creativity. Even if they don’t agree with you, you can become a trusted advisor because they recognize that you are trying to find a solution that’s right for them.
- From a sales perspective, there’s a culture of being afraid of failing. Don’t be afraid of failure. Embrace it! If you’re concerned about it all the time, it’s going to hold you back. I’ve learned far more from my failures than from my successes, which enables growth.
- Be flexible. As we’ve seen with COVID-19, it’s completely changed work patterns. I was on a plane every single week of the year and now I haven’t been on a customer site for five months. It’s shown that people can work remotely and do it well. Just because something worked a year ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to work now. You need to move with the times and be willing to adapt.
We’d like to thank Steve for taking the time to speak with us. To learn more about ActiveNav, be sure to check out their website and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. To connect with Steve, you can find his personal LinkedIn profile here.