12 February 2015

Gleanings from LegalTech NY

It’s easy to get lost in the LegalTech glitz.  There are sumptuous breakfasts, hosted Happy Hours, and late night parties.  On the show floor, there is flashy signage, free cappuccinos, beauteous bootblacks, and ingenious swag.* The conference sessions, despite a penchant for hyperbole, are where the rubber meets the road (to coin a phrase).

At the very end of LegalTech New York, on Feb. 6, ARMA International delivered a three session track on Information Governance (IG).  Nuix sponsored it.  The presenters/panelists ranged from consultants to practitioners to government experts.  Their comments ranged from pithy to profound.  Here, I report to you not what was expressly stated by the speakers, but what I gleaned and interpreted, and what I think you, gentle readers, will want to know. 

1.    IG came to prominence during the Great Recession of 2008.  In a down economy, corporate leaders recognized they could not afford the redundancies, inefficiencies, data loss, risks, and sloppy management that IG addresses.  For some organizations, cutting bloated budgets (perhaps for the storage of advocates of “Keep Everything Forever”) was a survival tactic.  For others, IG offered a competitive advantage, lower risk, and better compliance with ever-more stringent regulations.  CEOs lowered their tolerance of departmental fiefdoms and silos of information.
       The bosses asked probing questions like, “Do Legal and Records each need their own IT staff, or could corporate IT staff meet their needs, improve operations, and save money?”  IG validated their suspicions and offered improvements.
       With the economy improving, the fuel driving IG could run out.  I’m betting not.  The cat is out of the bag.  The ROI is so compelling that organizations seeking excellence will seek IG.
2.       The two hottest issues in IG (and beyond) are Big Data and Security, both for money reasons.  As panelist Alison North stated, corporations are trying to monetize every last bit of data for profit, competitive advantage, and cost-justification of their huge IT investment.  Similarly, the cost of security breaches is so high – and goes beyond money – that many businesses and governments are pouring resources into prevention of data theft, denials of service, etc. 
Of course records management through IG plays a major role here.  Applying a retention schedule and legal holds to Big Data is the antidote to mega-storage and legal risk.  Most Big Data has a short shelf life, and defensible disposal is a key component.  So here’s one for RIM.
The numbers tell the story for Security as well.  Experts such as panelist Andre McGregor, FBI Special Agent for Cyber-security in New York, agree that there is no sure defense against system intrusions by “bad guys”.  However, the value of the target can be minimized through appropriate records retention and disposal.  A smaller target may have lesser value, should a security breach occur.  But IG has other contributions to make, including enlightened policies.  
F    For example, why do my dental and vision insurance work off my social security number?  If they used their own identification numbers and were hacked, well, the intruders are welcome to get their teeth cleaned on my dime.  But if they are hacked and get my SSN, there is a lot more at stake.
3.       Interestingly, there was consensus that the weakest link in cyber-security is human behavior.  Two strategies combat that.  One, of course, is education/change management.  Changing behavior is difficult and imperfect, but helpful.  The second is automation, that is, taking the human factor out of the equation.  Even the best-trained staff members make mistakes, and automation should help lower the errors.  However, automation has been known to be vulnerable as well, so pick your poison.  There is no sure antidote to cyber-security toxins.  One way to mitigate the exposure and possible damage is through an effective IG program that reduces risk and softens the blow, whenever it comes.

Information Governance appears to be on the rise, even when it is not called IG. [See the PositivelyRIM post of 11 Feb.] The need is there.  Theorists, practitioners, and organizations like the Information Governance Initiative are increasingly active, promoting the benefits.

The rapt attention paid by the capacity crowd at the IG track suggest a market that is hungry for Information Governance’s advantages.  The substance enjoyed by those at the sessions outweighed the otherwise ubiquitous LegalTech glitz.

*The no-prize for the cleverest swag goes to Recommind for their complete game of “Cards Against Lawyering”.

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