Apple isn’t the only tech firm launching new products with a live-streamed event tomorrow, as Ottawa-based Pythian Group Inc. will announce Tehama, a new business unit that will act as a startup with a software product designed to securely manage remote workers and third-party relationships.
Tehama is also the name of the software as a solution (SaaS) platform described as providing a digital work environment for securing a global workforce. Building up a global workforce of independent contractors has been growing in popularity in the decade since the 2008-9 recession.
In a report on the global workforce trend, international consultant firm Accenture writes about the need for new human resources (HR) models built around shared platforms. It points to the use case of London-based Diageo, a beverages firm selling into 180 markets around the world. It uses a “hub and spoke” model for its workforce, with central offices in Europe and North America serving as home base to workers reaching far and wide. They’re united by a shared services platform that includes a knowledge repository and an electronic employee filing system that’s compliant with data security standards in the European Union and North America.
Meeting the scrutiny of regulators enforcing requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the problems that Tehama is designed to help with, says Gene Villeneuve, senior vice-president of Tehama. It’s targeting the financial services sector as likely early customers.
“The trend is to reduce the spending on internal IT resources and do more external IT spending,” he says. “Banks love our solution because it enables that and to perfectly witness what people are doing no matter where they are in the world.”
Rooms in the cloud
The software creates encrypted virtual rooms that employees, contractors, and even vendor collaborators can join to collaborate on a project. There’s also a layer of encryption around the entire application. The whole platform is hosted in Amazon Web Services.
Working in on the common-ground provided by the cloud is better than providing a virtual private network (VPN) connection that leads users back behind the corporate firewall to access applications, Villeneuve says. That approach provides network-level access, whereas Tehama provides access only to the applications needed.
“We lock down all the ports and we drive access to the single application they’re allowed to have access to,” he says.
This prevents malware from moving from a worker’s computer to internal IT systems. It also records how the workers are using company data for audit purposes. Not only are the actions output to logs, but an actual video replay is produced and archived of every session.
“Customers love it,” Villeneuve says. “One of our customers was hit with ransomware earlier this year. When we played back the tape to show it wasn’t us that introduced the ransomware, the customer gave us additional business to rebuild their networks from scratch instead of paying the ransomware.”
Tehama’s origin story
Pythian, an IT services and solutions firm founded 21 years ago by Chairman and CEO Paul Vallée. It first created Tehama as a solution to its own strategy to hire talent from abroad.
“Paul’s philosophy has always been to hire the best person in the world,” Villeneuve says. “They may be in India, the Ukraine, Russia, Brazil, or Australia, he’ll find them.”
The approach also allowed Pythian to provide 24/7 support, which also covered customer databases. In 2006, one customer found out about the international workforce and was worried about the security implications, Vallee responded by creating an early version of the Tehama platform. The platform acted as an intermediary space that sits between the client and its external contractors.
“So if that guy in the Ukraine does have malware on his computer there’s no way it could enter the corporate entity,” Villeneuve says.
It’s helped Pythian build its business from 50 employees to 450 over the past decade. When clients started asking to use the platform to manage relationships with other vendors, the Pythian team knew it had a new business opportunity on its hands.
This video from Tehama further explains the software: