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The MISA Ontario Membership Series returns with Sonny Hashmi from Box!

May 24, 2018  
Posted by: Jacqueline O'Hara
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Sonny Hashmi, Managing Director, Global GovernmentWe are a little more than a week away from the MISA Ontario Annual Conference 2018. What better time to launch our annual MISA Ontario Membership Series than with our first Partner interview? Meet Sonny Hashmi, Managing Director, Global Governmentfor Box Canada Inc.  Box is the leading provider of cloud content management. 


They launched their government offering in 2016 and officially joined our association in 2017. 

When asked, what was the most rewarding part of his job, Sonny replied:

“Helping Government partners and customers transform mission outcomes using modern technologies to better serve citizens”

While previous member interviews have focused on our municipal members, the importance of our partner members cannot be ignored.  Their support during our events is a huge contribution to our association and we thought it would be beneficial for all of our members to know what makes our MISA Partners decide to join our association. 

With that, let’s welcome Sonny to the first Membership Series of the year.

First question, why have you decided to support MISA Ontario?

Box has been supporting MISA Ontario for more than 2 years now. MISA Ontario has a strong history of facilitating information sharing and networking between those involved in the municipal IT industry. Box shares MISA Ontario's vision of promoting excellence in municipal ICT and we're honoured to be the Diamond sponsor of this year's conference.

I understand that Brian Walker from Box is already familiar with MISA Ontario.  How does he know the association?

Brian Walker began selling technology to the Ontario Public Sector in 1997 and has since developed deep relationships in all regions and larger towns and cities. He has attended the conference many times over the years.

MISA Ontario is well known for our conferences.  Did you attend any of our conferences before this one?

I was a speaker at the 2017 MISA Ontario conference. It was a great event for us to meet with municipal IT leaders looking to advance their digital transformation journey and to understand the issues municipal IT leaders are struggling to solve. This year, we look forward to sharing our findings through case studies and demos.

We are thrilled to have Box partner with MISA Ontario as our Diamond Sponsor. What helped you decide to not only attend our annual conference but partner with us as well?

It was an easy decision. During our experience last year, we heard how Ontario municipalities are facing ever increasing challenges to modernize mission delivery and engage with citizens and stakeholders through digital channels. That's where Cloud Content Management comes in. Municipalities are looking for a single place to collaborate, manage and secure all their content and processes — while maintaining compliance and adherence to standards and expectations of our Canadian public-sector customers. That’s how Box can help. 

Last year when you reached out to us, you mentioned that Box recently launched the “Box For Government” initiative.  Could you tell us please about it and how your content management approach in the public sector differs from the private sector?

According to Gartner, the amount of data organizations will be managing will grow by 800% over the next five years, and over 80% of this data will be unstructured. For our government customers, this data is an integral part of how they operate. From emergency management, public works, licensing & permitting, inspections, and law enforcement, as municipalities go digital, they will create, consume, collaborate on and rely on more and more unstructured content and data to fulfill their objectives. With Box for Government, we have built a modern, API driven, scalable cloud platform to help municipalities collect, create, manage, organize, operationalize and gain intelligence from unstructured data.

Our government solutions are specifically designed to integrate with all the technologies municipalities use daily, including Microsoft, AWS, ESRi, DocuSign, and over 2000 others. Moreover, our solutions are designed to meet the stringent and specific security, privacy and compliance requirements municipalities must comply with. Our solutions are also specifically designed to help municipalities collaborate with each other across agency boundaries on mission outcomes, as well as enabling field workers which tend to be a major part of how municipalities work today. These capabilities together empower over 10,000 municipalities world-wide using Box products and services.

The theme of our conference is Ambitious Communities. As professionals in the Information Technology sector, we are transforming the way we operate to improve our ability to meet the challenges of the communities we service.  What do you see on the horizon that municipalities should be aware of?

The expectations citizens have of their communities and government are changing rapidly. As with our private lives, citizens expect frictionless, digital experiences when they interact with their government, with a focus on digital experiences, integrated workflows, and contextual information. At the same time, municipalities are being pressured to reduce costs, and maintain legacy technologies that don’t lend themselves to the scalability and flexibility they need. Moreover, with the explosion of digital content and data being generated and ingested as part of government operations, municipalities are struggling to gain intelligence and insight from this data, and are challenged to protect and secure this data at scale. As these trends come together, municipalities must think about new architecture approaches to enable their mission operations, that are designed to be secure, scalable and intelligent from the start, as well as integrate across technologies, departments and user bases. That’s where technologies like those developed by Box come in.

For example, Box is working with the city of San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, to develop a mechanism whereby city council hearings can be recorded, collected into Box, and processed with Machine Learning to extract relevant topics of interest. These videos and associated metadata can then be published for the citizens to allow a simple keyword based search to locate the specific topics that the citizens care about. This program would improve transparency into government operations, and reduce the cost of operations. Similarly, in the District of Columbia, Box is a core platform that helps the law enforcement community including the Attorney General collect evidence, investigate and prosecute crime. The County of Santa Barbara uses Box for emergency planning and mitigation. During the recent forest fires and floods in the county, they were able to immediately onboard thousands of volunteers, coordinate shifts and assignments, collect situational awareness from the field, and coordinate across relevant agencies using Box, which helped them respond to the natural disasters quickly and effectively.

Do you find municipalities more open to cloud content management, or is there still apprehension of with cybersecurity threats?

Generally speaking, we have seen a major shift from “if” to “how” in our conversations with government agencies across the globe. Municipalities are realizing that the security, privacy and compliance posture of modern, enterprise grade cloud services often surpass the security posture of their internal operation, and cloud platforms allow municipalities to manage data at a scale that was not possible before. Cloud services also allow municipalities to gain unprecedented insights into how this data is being created used, shared and consumed. With global standards such as FedRAMP, US DoD SRG, UK G-Cloud and others, municipalities are gaining confidence that cloud services that meet these standards can be trusted to host their most sensitive data.

However, challenges remain for municipalities to think through how they would implement and manage these cloud technologies to mitigate risk, and most of our conversations today focus on deployment and operational models, security architectures, and analytics to help municipalities deploy cloud services in a secure and compliant manner.

How can municipalities benefit from the services you provide?

Municipalities choose Box because of its ability to support a wide range of business initiatives in a cloud-friendly, secure environment. Whether an agency is supporting a mobility initiative, finding new digital ways to connect with stakeholders and citizens, replacing legacy systems, or simply seeking a more user-friendly collaboration and document management tool, Box helps you securely access and share information at any time, from anywhere.

What would say to smaller municipalities who might feel that services you provide only benefit large municipalities?

Actually, the reality is quite the opposite. With legacy on-prem technologies and software, municipalities required a significant capital investment to implement, customize, secure, and operate solutions that helped them automate mission operations. Large municipalities were able to bear the cost of deploying and managing technologies like PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP and others that required large teams and significant upfront capital investments, and long implementation cycles. With modern cloud services, these barriers have largely gone away. With services like Box, an agency of a few dozen employees can gain the same level of security, compliance, privacy, inter-operability, and operational value, that municipalities of hundreds of thousands of employees would enjoy. Cloud services are designed to scale linearly and the cost investment is tied to value created, rather than an upfront investment for future value. Small municipalities have access to the same cost and capability benefits that large ones do because the cloud service provider is building for the aggregate demand across the market, rather than bespoke solutions for each individual customer.

I think that’s a great message to share with our smaller municipalities.  Now a change of subject to learn a bit more about you.  What TV shows, podcasts, apps, YouTube channels or websites are you are into?

I am addicted to information, however, my consumption model has changed over the years with the advent of on-demand, contextual information sources like blogs, twitter and YouTube. Professionally, I am very active on Twitter and engage with several communities to stay informed on current topics. I love the app “Flipboard” and have set it up so that topics of my interest constantly surface for me to consume quickly in the 5-10 minutes I get between things through the day. In my personal life, I have a few hobbies including cooking, riding motorcycles, and traveling, and follow several sources on YouTube.

Do you have a favorite quote?

One quote that I have always tried to live up to is “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.” By Ronald Reagan – Politics aside, I think it’s a good way to look at what intrinsically motivates you to work hard and achieve results.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I come from a military family, and consequently I lived in several different countries growing up, and have lived in several different states and cities after college. I consider myself to be a global citizen. I used to be licensed as a skydiving instructor. I enjoy playing video games (yes I’m a geek) and riding motorcycles over long distances. I am planning an 18,000 KM coast to coast and back motorcycle ride next year to raise awareness and funds for important non-profit causes.

Where can we find you at the conference?

Everywhere! We're thrilled to be engaged in many aspects of the conference. We'll be in the exhibit hall, on the golf course, as well as hosting and attending keynotes and sessions.

Fantastic, everyone who reads this article, make sure to ask about Sonny’s motorcycle skills!  Finally, Sonny it’s important to get the word out about us.  What would you tell someone who is thinking about being a MISA Ontario member?

MISA Ontario is the organization with their pulse on the issues challenging today's municipal IT leaders. With such a broad membership – associate and municipal, global and local, upper and lower tier, large and small, urban and rural - there is no shortage of potential ideas and opportunities.

Thank you very much for your time Sonny!  This was a fantastic conversation and we look forward to seeing you and Box at the conference! 

You can connect with Sonny on LinkedIn