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People, Process, and Technology: A Familiar Refrain, but Still Critically Important

CLOC: Corporate Legal Operations Consortium

Last week I attended the 2017 CLOC Corporate Legal Operations Institute. CLOC organized an excellent event, with high-quality content presented by a diverse group of perspectives from across the full corporate legal ecosystem.

CLOC , The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium

The Critical Importance of People, Process and Technology

One theme that emerged in many of the programs is a tenet familiar to us at DiscoverReady: The importance of integrating “People, Process, and Technology” in the design and execution of a solution. That phrase feels so familiar, in fact, that I’ve wondered if the expression has become cliché and lost some of its powerful meaning. But based on the content at the CLOC Institute, I’m reassured that the concept remains critical.

In one of the first sessions of the conference we heard about exciting developments in the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) to solve legal problems. But to work in practice, AI solutions require experts who can design and implement the solution (people); an effective service delivery model (process); and AI tools tailored to the problem being solved, and which deliver fast, accurate, and useful results (technology). Similarly, in discussions about the powerful, innovative enterprise legal management tools now available to corporate legal departments, panelists emphasized that these technology tools are basically useless—and a waste of money—without the right people and processes to support them.

In the final session of the event, Mary Shen O’Carroll, Head of Legal Operations at Google, placed the legal operations role at the intersection of people, process and technology—but she observed that “at the end of the day, it comes down to people.” Mary offered an interesting analogy to illustrate her point:

Think about the ride sharing companies like Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. They are so often talked about as disruptive technologies … but really, the technology is fairly simple. The process improvement is brilliant, but also not that complex. The real breakthrough for them was probably more subtle … It was figuring out the human element. They had to find the answer to: “How do we persuade people to get into the cars of complete strangers? Without thinking that they are going to be robbed, kidnapped or murdered?!”

Based on our experience at DiscoverReady, we share this view. For example, at the core of our pioneering managed document review solution you’ll find repeatable, documented, defensible process. And we incorporate powerful, effective technology tools into our review workflows to maximize efficiency and accuracy. But without the right people, we cannot provide a successful review. We need our experienced review managers and review teams to apply their substantive expertise and sound professional judgment. We need our skilled project managers to guide the project and deliver the work product on time and on budget. We need outside counsel who are engaged in the review and willing to provide thoughtful feedback. And we need in-house legal professionals committed to reasonable, proportional litigation discovery.

Or, in the context of our work for clients to identify and remediate sensitive data in large unstructured collections, even the most sophisticated analytics tools available cannot effectively carry out the workflows without experts to guide the project. Consultants knowledgeable in statistics, for example, must assess the results of the tools and determine if the measurements of recall and precision meet reasonable expectations. Subject matter experts familiar with the organization’s data must help us understand what types of sensitive data create risk for the company. And information governance professionals must work with various stakeholders in the company to address the findings and improve governance policies and practices.

So, we’re going to keep talking about “People, Process, and Technology”—and we’re going to maintain our focus on people. While it might sound familiar, it’s with good reason.

Maureen O'Neill