Editor’s note: Executive Q&A is a regular feature on Tuesdays.Raymond Keen, a member of management teams for more than 20 years, saw an opportunity for a new business in scandals.
And the idea he has launched may just get a major boost from resulting federal legislation triggered by those events.
Keen, a 20-year management team veteran with a number of firms, launched his own company — Passing Lane Technologies — last year with one product in mind: A means for employees to act as whistleblowers but in a confidential fashion.
PLT is rolling out SuggestionBox.biz this month as a result.
“The initial idea was a result of the corporate scandals following the collapse of Enron,” Keen tells Local Tech Wire. “It seemed to me that much of the corporate upheaval at that time could have been avoided if employees had had a way to anonymously report wrongdoing. On the other hand, just when candid employee feedback was most needed, it was being choked-off by the increase of company
internal network monitoring and surveillance. The answer seemed to be a trustworthy third-party confidential employee communications service.”
And helping give the company a jumpstart is the Sarbanes-Oxley business reform legislation passed in the heat of last summer’s scandal plague. Among its requirements is a means by which employees can file complaints in a secure fashion.
Keen has had a variety of roles with Digital Equipment Corp., Cray Research, Information Builders, and Navidec over the years. He also helped design and deploy business information solutions for such companies as BellSouth, Volvo, Glaxo-Wellcome, and E3 Corporation.
LTW asked Keen to talk about the concept and development of SuggestionBox.biz.
What is the primary focus of Passing Lane Technologies?
PLT, Inc. was founded in February of 2002 with the initial purpose of
developing and deploying SuggestionBox.biz. Other business services are contemplated, but for now the full focus of PLT is the successful launch of SuggestionBox.biz.
How is it funded? Who are the investors, if any?
PLT is privately funded but investors are not ruled out as a future
Who developed the idea for SuggestionBox? What triggered the idea – passage of Sarbanes-Oxley?
I’ll have to plead guilty of coming up with the idea, but it has been refined and improved with ideas from a number of contributors. The final product was a team effort.
The initial idea was a result of the corporate scandals following the collapse of Enron. It seemed to me that much of the corporate upheaval at that time could have been avoided if employees had had a way to anonymously report wrongdoing.
On the other hand, just when candid employee feedback was most needed, it was being choked-off by the increase of company internal network monitoring and surveillance. The answer seemed to be a trustworthy third-party confidential employee communications service. My investigations led me to conclude that the need was common and widespread and that no such service as I contemplated existed, so I embarked on creating one. This was in February of 2002.
In July of 2002, after we were well into development, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law. SOX contained a provision which required that a mechanism like SuggestionBox.biz be implemented in all US public companies by April 26, 2003. This was simply a serendipitous event that served to further motivate our team to
complete development, which had encountered the inevitable delays that occur in complex undertakings.
Once the basic need and solution were defined, the concept was extended to encompass positive employee ideas as well as wrongdoing. The service was designed following the paradigm of a suggestion program because suggestions programs are friendly and familiar to businesses and also have a legal history going back a century.
How many people are working directly on this project?
A team of five people worked over a period of nine months to design and develop SuggestionBox.biz.
Will you function as an ASP and host client information or license
software to run on an enterprise?
There is no current plan to act as an ASP or to license the software.
In order to maintain the trust of employees we think that the service must be an independent third-party with no connection to subscriber’s internal systems.
Have you received any queries from potential customers? Running any beta tests?
Two companies are currently running beta tests of SuggestionBox.biz. A marketing survey revealed a strong level of interest in our concept and more than a handful of companies are considering subscribing when we launch on April 9.
Our technology platform is highly scalable but we want to grow in
controlled stages. The service is designed to eventually serve thousands of companies.
Do you believe this software will encourage more people to be
Yes, but keep in mind this is internal whistleblowing. It allows
companies to address whistleblower’s concerns before they feel compelled to contact outside authorities; like the FBI through their new whistleblower’s hotline. This is not to say that the service is intended to hide crime. We believe that the use of our service will help prevent crime by making potential offenders fear being reported, and that wrongdoing will be reported at an earlier, less serious stage, possibly before it rises to the level of criminal culpability.
Great name. Great concept. You must be excited about your prospects.
Thank you. We are excited and optimistic about our prospects, but we
also realize how difficult it is to launch any new concept. We hope the coincidental SOX requirement mentioned above will give us an initial boost and help get us that first few inches off of the launch pad.
We are also actively seeking reputable subject matter experts to endorse our approach and encourage companies to use it. Long-term use of our service promises to yield significant benefits to companies. It will provide them with a continuous, transparent view of company operations not previously possible.
Of course, a little press coverage will help, also.