by Tim Clauss and Alisha DiGiandomenico
As information governance (IG) professionals it’s our job to balance two seemingly opposite organizational goals: tap information for its value, while simultaneously mitigating the potential risk that information carries. But in an increasingly regulated environment where dollars are stretched thin and technology is always evolving, how can we make sure that we are setting our law firm on the right course? How do we set ourselves (and our future selves) up for success?
Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed explores how communities can collapse when they fail to manage resources appropriately. The parable of the stories he relates about ancient civilizations is clear: to be short sighted is to be short lived. It is human nature to focus on short term goals in the pursuit of easily attainable success, so how do we retrain ourselves to think differently and lengthen the yardstick by which we measure ourselves? To apply this lesson to the world of information governance is to see clearly that we must act in someone else’s best interest.
Even though consequences may seem too far in the future to care about today, firms will only reap what they sow. Here are a handful of ways we’re seeing law firms tend to their past failures in order to improve their harvest:
- Increasingly firms no longer employ records staff, but instead recruit information governance professionals trained in multidisciplinary fields. “Records” denotes something physical; “Information Governance” encompasses all forms of data, including those you can’t touch. As we disposition our way out of the physical world, maturing from Records to Information Governance helps your team grow with the initiatives of the firm.
- Not so long ago the renegotiation of offsite storage vendor contracts focused on lowering the dollar amount of the firm’s warehouse footprint. We must now reflect the new realities of the makeup of information, and instead broker mutually beneficial agreements that emphasize the firm’s priority of permanently removing boxes with contents eligible for destruction.
- Progressive products should meet your firm where you are today and have a clear plan for how to guide you into the future. We are seeing more products provide solutions that act as governance engines to control overall IG policies, instead of simply as systems that manage the location and status of files. As a result, law firms have the opportunity to create a central location to apply a singular policy, regardless of repository, with interactivity for decision makers.
- As firms continue to automate the creation and storage of their data, IG and IT specialists work together to get random collections of information under control. No longer are firms tolerating a Wild West approach to fileshares and client data dumps that permit data to remain unmanaged. Instead firms are investing in software to scan and review data without proper classification, as well as tools on how to make decisions regarding that data after it has been discovered. Ultimately this is leading to a push for increased acceptance rates of existing management tools, including new and innovative automation and artificial intelligence concepts.
- Data itself is also changing location; we are seeing a movement away from on-premise software tools that are being replaced with software as a service (SAAS) offerings. The electronic storage of information should be reviewed for storage costs in the same way physical item storage was in the past, as a reduction in overall holdings can represent a money and risk savings.
Each of these treatments are being employed at law firms large and small, at macro and micro levels. None are easy to start. But to begin these large and complex undertakings is to look ahead for your firm – and for the future you.