With a new administration in the White House, we can expect big regulatory changes to come soon. Onna’s Scott McVeigh shares what organizations can do to prepare now, particularly in terms of information governance.
With the massive distractions from the coronavirus pandemic and a reduced focus on regulation and what was viewed as red tape during the last four years of a Trump administration, too many companies have taken their eye off the compliance ball. As a result, investing in compliance processes internally has been put on the back burner. But with a Biden administration in place, we can anticipate increased legislation and compliance demands. This means that, as we (hopefully) approach the beginning of the end of the global pandemic, it’s not a question of “if” new regulatory policies will come into play in 2021, it’s a question of when.
For business leaders across the globe, attention will need to shift post-crisis into making sure your team has the ability to maintain transparency and stay compliant. The focus will be on legal teams to make sure the business is prepared.
1. Start by Asking the Right Questions
General counsel teams know that maintaining smart information governance is the gold standard of effective businesses. It allows you to keep your house in order and prepare for the unexpected. As we enter 2021, successful organizations will not just allow litigation to come knocking, but instead be proactive in how they approach upcoming legislation. How? Start by asking the right questions now:
- How am I gathering my data across multiple apps?
- Do I have the ability to put a policy on this data?
- Do my legal teams have the resources they need to gather knowledge in a matter of hours (not days) if needed?
Companies that have proactive tools in place to gather information now will prove to be better armed for tightened regulation in the new year.
2. Addressing the “Data” Elephant in the Room
Internal legal and compliance teams are in a unique place as we enter 2021. With the rise of remote work and the shift away from a single enterprise collaboration tool, data is now spread across hundreds of external applications. The landscape of data governance for legal teams has totally transformed: It has become more intricate than ever before. Data is siloed, unstructured and increasingly harder to locate as teams work remotely. Without the right tools, extracting this data is time-consuming and inefficient.
These inefficiencies also directly lead to the increased compliance risk and the potential for governance missteps in an organization. To combat this challenge, these teams need technology that can identify, find, manage, organize and control unstructured data. Tools like this empower compliance and legal teams with the ammunition they need to succeed long term.
3. Unstructured Data in Particular Presents New Challenges for Compliance and Legal Teams
Reviewing large amounts of traditional data can be challenging, but when working with unstructured data, these issues are even more amplified. According to IDC, the volume of unstructured data is set to grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes (or 175 billion terabytes) by 2025. To be specific, unstructured data means anything that does not fit into a traditional data field, such as video, .png files, chat archives or images. For legal teams scrambling for litigation assets or important evidence, this can mean critical time being wasted searching across various sources. Imagine being tasked with the tedious assignment of searching through massive amounts of unstructured data to provide evidence for a new piece of legislation in 2021. By relying on a laborious, manual process, the risk of missing a critical piece of documentation is very real.
Failing to have a strategy in place to manage this unstructured data also poses the risk of sensitive knowledge being shared or manipulated externally. As existing team members collaborate across multiple apps each day and new employees are onboarded remotely, understanding the flow of sensitive data can seem daunting to say the least. Especially for smaller legal teams with a limited amount of time or visibility.
4. Investing in Compliance Teams
Investing in specialist technology that empowers compliance workforces to get information faster will prove to be a critical market differentiator in the next year. While 2020 took a toll on the economy in the U.S., C-suite teams need to recognize head on that investing in legal spend is critical to being able to defend the organization. As the lifeblood to the overall health of a business, these departments hold the keys to the entire enterprise. Legal teams for example, are the custodians of contracts which govern all business relationships across the organization.
Consider this perspective: Would you not invest to defend your intellectual property? Prepare against a class action? You would, because the risk is just too great. From that lens, companies should view knowledge discovery specialist technology as a massively important asset for a company to have.
The businesses that embrace this new reality will prove more readily equipped for success as we enter a tumultuous 2021. Why? Because as the chaos of data increases internally throughout organizations, legal teams will have more information than ever before to sift through. Being able to organize that data in a way that can be served for greater business utility can elevate the general counsel from a reactive focus to a proactive, value-generating function for the business.
Embracing this understanding early on will prove to be a market differentiator for brands in the next year. For any organization, not being prepared for new legislation could mean game over. In a remote-work ecosystem, an organization’s data is now governed by multiple external collaboration apps. Having teams that know how to navigate these siloed, unstructured oceans of data will be the key differentiator between brands that rise above and those that fall behind.