Wednesday, 02 May 2012 16:50

CIOs, legal working relationship could be better

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There's a need for company CIOs and chief legal officers to work closely together and communicate more effectively, particularly when it comes to the identification of underlying legal/IT issues and the development of better solutions, according to a new joint report by one leading analyst firm and a legal publishing company.

A survey of 70 enterprise Chief Legal Officers (CLO), deputy CLOs, general counsels and division general counsels by analysts' Gartner and legal publisher ALM, found that while CIOs are considered to be important contributors to corporate strategy and policy, they need more in-depth interaction with their IT department.

According to Gartner vice president and fellow, French Caldwell, the survey showed that communication was the key variable in the success or lack of success of the CLO/IT relationship. "When CLOs have substantive conversations with CIOs more than once a month, CLO satisfaction with IT is higher. Among CLOs who communicated with their enterprises' CIOs more than once a month, 76 percent reported having changed their legal strategies and 82 percent their corporate policies after conferring with CIOs."

By contrast, among CLOs who communicated with CIOs less than once a month, Gartner and ALM found that just 44 percent changed their legal strategies and 56 percent their corporate policies after conferring with CIOs. Caldwell says this indicates that CLOs who communicate frequently are having more in-depth conversations with their CIO counterparts, 'enabling the identification of underlying legal/IT issues, and the development of better solutions.'

"It is clear that maintaining a high level of communication between the CLO and CIO is a main ingredient of the legal department's IT investment, and its satisfaction with the services IT provides," Debra Logan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, says.

Logan says the fact that 51 percent of the CLOs surveyed reported that they have conversations with CIOs once a month, at most, indicates a 'lack of communication between the two roles in a significant portion of the population,' and she stresses that this is a serious problem because 'increased CLO/CIO communication helps clarify the legal department's IT needs, provides the IT department with better guidance for legal support and keeps CLOs informed of IT capabilities."

Gartner says that with an improved understanding of the CLOs' business needs, CIOs are able to provide thorough and effective solutions for CLOs, which can increase overall IT satisfaction and enable better-informed decision making. 'For example, the CLOs in the survey indicated that their enterprise IT departments currently handle routine IT applications such as email and remote support satisfactorily, but they were not as satisfied with the IT departments' implementation and support of high-business-value, legal-specific technologies such as e-discovery and litigation support. Gartner views this as a significant finding, because the CIO role is evolving and must continue to evolve to support other C-level executives in initiatives that may not be readily identifiable as a direct IT responsibility, Logan cautions.

And, Caldwell says that 'complicating improvements in satisfaction with legal-specific technologies is a lack of formally organised IT support for the legal department," adding that "when asked in what way the IT department most frequently supports the legal department's ongoing IT needs, most CLOs responded that it is done in an ad hoc fashion.'

Caldwell cautions that, it seems, that few organisations have dedicated legal IT support teams and as legal technologies become more complex, 'this lack of support will be problematic, and should therefore be a priority for CIOs.

'It is clear that CLOs and CIOs need to work together more closely to achieve their enterprises' synergistic business goals. Regular, substantive communication is crucial in enabling the IT organisation to support the legal department effectively. A strong CLO/CIO partnership, also involving the CRO and CCO, with regular, in-depth communication and collaboration, will enhance the business value of legal technology investments," Caldwell concludes.

Logan points out that the quantity of electronic data businesses generate every day forces IT departments, and by extension the CIO, into a prominent information governance role, and that the survey reinforces the fact that protecting critical information is a very important business concern, especially for legal departments.  'The top three CLO technology investments cited in the survey '” email encryption, privacy management and database encryption '” show a strong focus on data protection. For this reason, IT must adapt to satisfy increasing legal department demands for data storage, protection and archiving capabilities.'

"As everyday activities become increasingly digitised and performed online, legal departments see a growing need for sophisticated tools and support to assist in data/document identification and collection for legal, regulatory and risk management purposes," Logan says. "Besides the technology investments, a priority is being placed on risk management and compliance consulting. This finding indicates that CLOs have concerns over the effectiveness of risk management and compliance programs, and it reinforces the importance of legal and regulatory information governance programs."

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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