ILTA’s 2021 Technology Survey Highlights Need for Information Governance

By Nick Inglis

ILTA’s 2021 Technology Survey captures many of the rapid changes in the eDiscovery space today. While each of these trends separately can be managed with individual workarounds, together, they serve as a clarion call for Information Governance.

Many of the changes reflected in ILTA’s 2021 update were trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid shift to a largely work from home (WFH) environment.

The first trend noted in the report is that of “simplicity and quiet” – a push that may be a counterpoint to a lot of the chaos and confusion that legal professionals experienced through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Legal technology solutions that are preferable now minimize disruption and easily add to the law firm technology solutions’ stack.

Formal policies needed for Teams use

Governance policies for Microsoft Teams remain an ongoing challenge. With the shift to WFH, many organizations installed Microsoft Teams since licensing already included it in their existing Microsoft enterprise agreement.

Of the Teams challenges, “Over 50% of firms don’t allow externally shared documents through Teams. Almost 40% don’t enforce encryption of externally shared documents, leaving only 8% who enforce encryption through Azure Information Protection.” Seeing that law firms are the leading target du jour of hackers and ransomware criminals today, the fact that only 8% of firms are enforcing encryption through Azure Information Protection is shameful.

Law firms must do better at protecting their information assets and their clients’ information assets, companies that have entrusted them with their corporate information.

Continued migration to the cloud

Other trends cited in the report include the continuing shift from “cloud-averse” to “cloud-first” as law firms open up to cloud solutions with an increasing array of functions. The most significant advances in this area have come in Time and Billing solutions, Microsoft SharePoint, Document Management or Enterprise Content Management solutions, HR Information Systems, and Email Archiving.

The most notable change, though, I think, is one that was listed in the report but not cited as the proactive solution available for many of the other challenges cited. The disparate symptoms that our information weaknesses exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic are less frequently treated as individual challenges but are finally seen as a collective deficiency. This report shows that for the first time for many law firms, these issues are finally seen through their proper context – as symptoms of the most considerable information challenge – establishing your proactive plan to establish consistent Information Governance.

IG is top concern for CIOs

As the report says, “Every CIO we’ve talked with in the last year has listed IG as the top issue keeping them up at night.” The top issue keeping them up at night isn’t security or privacy; it isn’t over-retained information or system stability; it isn’t information security. It’s all these challenges met together as a strategic approach. Ensuring Information Governance is what is finally being recognized as the strategic solution to each of these challenges.

“One thing is certain – we can’t go back to how things were before the pandemic. We have to take a forward-thinking approach and be proactive.”

Many law firms may not understand that the proactive, forward-thinking approach is Information Governance. All legal professionals should continue to harken to IG as a strategic imperative that must exist and be robust in your law firm or the law firms your organization has contracted.

IG continues to rise to the top of the legal technology issues list because most of the issues cited in this year’s Technology Survey could be improved or solved with Information Governance. Law firms must begin thinking holistically and proactively about their information strategy and invest more into their information capabilities proactively.

Full IG programs needed

While ILTA’s conclusions point law firms toward early technology adoption, I think there’s a more important lesson to be learned from this year’s Technology Survey – we have a lot of technology but are still lacking. Still, many law firms aren’t utilizing their best technologies to their fullest because they haven’t adequately planned or established an Information Governance program.

Early adopters and advanced law firms have begun to find avenues to “productize” their Information Governance capabilities, offering services around IG to their clients. It’s clear that many firms are still wrapping their heads around these capabilities and must begin investing more heavily in this area to compete.

As ILTA concludes this year’s report, “History has shown that the early bird gets that worm.”

If your firm needs some best practices for how to get started with a complete Information Governance program or is looking for solutions to help further automate your existing processes, learn more about how IPRO can help.