Office 365 and agile IG


To be successful with Office 365 and similar technologies, IG professionals must embrace Agile IG. This paper explains the Agile IG approach and how it can be used to survive and thrive in an O365 environment.

October 17, 201912 mins
A man and two women in an office looking at a laptop on a desk


If your firm is pondering the Office 365 or not question, you are not alone. And you are certainly in good company in the legal industry. But why is this MS upgrade different from those of the past? And why is there such a difference in views between firms that jumped in right away and those that remain hesitant?

A group of Information Governance (IG) professionals gathered at the Law Firm Information Governance Symposium (“LFIGS” or “the Symposium”) for two days in June 2019 to dive into the O365 debate and determine how to provide those struggling with this question with helpful guidance on how to approach the issue.

So, what’s the big deal?

If your firm is a Microsoft shop, there is a good chance that you are already paying for Office 365 (O365). Your firm may already be using SharePoint, Exchange Online, Teams or OneDrive for Business and/or any of the other dozens of tools available in Microsoft’s cloud. If not, your firm’s tech savvy users might already be using it at work, or, if you have prevented that, at home. Even if you have no vestige of O365 in your shop, your clients do, and may have already invited your lawyers or staff to collaborate on SharePoint or in Teams. But even if, like Neo in The Matrix, you have dodged all these bullets with the skill of a super ninja, it still won’t matter. So much of Microsoft’s resources are devoted to developing this platform, that eventually it won’t make sense to do anything but embrace O365.

So, what is an IG professional to do?

The good news is that there are a wealth of processes and systems designated to hold records content, such as your records system or document management system (DMS), most likely already in existence at your firm. So if you can simply make sure that O365 content eventually ends up in those systems, you are golden! The problem is that strategy only addresses a small part of the issue, because some of the constructs in O365 simply don’t translate well into static documents that can be stored in a records or document management system. And worse, any attempts to constrain the use of O365 tools will cripple the very features that make the tools so attractive.

To read other reports written by the law firm information governance symposium, please visit: SYMPOSIUM.IRONMOUNTAIN.COM

But, that’s okay. You have had to handle new systems before. Generally, IG principles still apply, so you only need enough time to engage in careful design with those implementing O365 so that you can give the proper guidance. Except, O365 projects rarely happen in a manner allowing for that kind of lead time. And due to the interconnectivity of O365, the implementation of a relatively simple part of O365, such as Exchange Online, can rapidly lead to the use and adoption of more complicated tools that present several IG challenges to which you don’t have answers. But even if you do find answers, O365 rapid changes means that today’s approach may not handle tomorrow’s reality. You may grow concerned that O365 will create unmanageable risk for the firm and advise strongly against implementation and adoption. But then you would be perceived as a roadblock and risk being excluded from the conversation altogether. What a dilemma!

Einstein allegedly1 said that “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” While this paper won’t propose the O365 dilemma is quite that dramatic, we do suggest that this new challenge requires a new approach. One where, much like an “IG MacGyver”, we use the tools available within O365 in creative combinations to facilitate whatever IG is obtainable given the time and technology constraints, and then work to continually improve in small increments. We must seriously consider where O365 will emerge in the document repository space and how it will integrate, interconnect or align with the DMS and other records systems—or how it won’t! It will require IG professionals to adapt rapidly, using a deep understanding of the technology and a willingness to embrace new levels of uncertainty. This paper proposes that to be successful with O365 and similar technologies, IG professionals must embrace “Agile IG.”

We set out the Agile IG approach and discuss how it can be used to initially survive and eventually thrive in an O365 environment. We walk through several IG processes and discuss how this approach can help deal with the uncertainty while finding ways to help the business mitigate risk.

But to start, you must become familiar with this new IG arena, perhaps gaining deeper familiarity with this tool than tools you have known in the past. And that requires a commitment to what we call deep learning.