Should Law Offices Take Note of Microsoft’s New Office 365 Information Governance Tools?

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“Files on Shelf”, Image by bandi

Alan Rothman

An increasing numbers of law offices across a widening spectrum of practice areas are looking to apply advanced technology based upon deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their operations.  Now we can add information governance to this group if applications.

Microsoft (MS) has recently announced their own entry into this sector with an announcement on their Office 365 blog in a post entitled New Office 365 Capabilities Help You Proactively Manage Security and Compliance Risk, dated February 10, 2017. The limited release of a preview of these tools may indeed signal the arrival of something truly new and different for many law offices and their clients. Let’s take a brief look here and summarize what MS is saying in their announcement, why learning more about them might be helpful to law offices and their clients, and then raise some additional question.

These new tools for Office 365 are called Advanced Data Governance. They are intended to “help customers manage the exploding volume and increasing complexity of corporate data”. AI and machine learning methods are being deployed in this new tool set by MS in their efforts to help enterprise clients with their data retention that would lead to improved company-wide compliance. This includes the capabilities to “classify, set policy and take action” on critical information and make recommendations.

This new tool set includes the means to:

  • Import and classify data from your own or third-party organization archives.
  • Make policy recommendations supported by machine learning about “your data, classifications, industry” and other categories.
  • Retain only what is is important to the organization by using a range of classification criteria. Integration with other systems enables users to activate retention “based upon events” they define.

Essentially, MS Advanced Data Governance intends to preserve high value data and purge redundant or obsolete data through the integration of machine intelligence.

Follow up questions:

  • Can this system be somehow be encoded with a company’s official document retention policy? If so, how is this done? That is, can information governance policy be reduced to a set of rules whereby the machine intelligence capabilities of this system can adequately implement them and react to any new information governance questions that arise?
  • Will this new system enable organizations to reduce the number of staff hours devoted to records maintenance and information governance?
  • Is this system robust enough for law offices and corporate general counsels’ offices? If so, does it adequately scale for all different size firms and offices?
  • Does this system have the capacity to handle document retention policies across a potential range of domestic and foreign jurisdictions where rules might vary?
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