A Roadmap For Document Collaboration In A Mobile World

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 11:25

The Editor interviews Matthew Brown, Vice President of Product Management, Workshare.

Editor: Welcome, Matt. Please tell us about your role at Workshare.

Brown: I head up the product management team and am responsible for managing all of Workshare’s products and our product roadmap. I have been at Workshare for over 10 years and have a deep understanding of the legal and professional services industry, which we’ve been servicing since 1999.

Editor: You mentioned a product roadmap, and I noted that your website presents a grid of products and the many ways that they interact. Is that what you’re referring to?

Brown: Yes. We have a collection of products that solve the needs of professionals in terms of how they share and collaborate with other people for the purpose of turning documents around more securely, efficiently, and easily.

Editor: For legal and compliance requirements, what are some of the challenges you have seen with file sharing, file synchronization, BYOD, and downloading unauthorized apps?

Brown: Fundamentally, the work of professionals hasn’t changed over time. But technology has, and so has the use of technology – way back from the typewriter to mail and, more recently, into email. Lawyers are becoming increasingly mobile and using more of the corresponding devices, so they face newer challenges in being able to access information, work on content, and effectively service their organizations or clients.

One of the challenges we’ve seen from the technology standpoint is that personal mobile devices are being brought in for use in the workplace. These devices are not under the control of IT; further, people are downloading or purchasing their own applications, which often are not authorized by IT. The company has no control over the fact that some of the world’s most sensitive content is being handled with these applications and tools.

End users are driving the need for a better way of working with new technology and solving these issues, but this causes friction with IT, which does not want to allow use of these applications in the work context. We’ve seen these challenges in connection with file-sharing and file-synchronization tools, and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, among others, also is driving people to download these applications. The friction with IT seems only to be growing as we are now hearing a new phrase, “bring your own service,” which clearly points to the growing use of applications based on end-user decisions.

Editor: Please expand on this friction between end users and the IT department. How might this translate into issues for the legal department?

Brown: The paramount concern for corporate counsel, and really for lawyers generally, is to provide excellent service to their clients and client organizations. So naturally it is important to have the ability to be accessible online and always available to respond to issues as they arise, regardless of where the attorneys are geographically located. Further, the ability to quickly turn around documents or work product for cases and other time-sensitive matters is important because it can help legal departments and law firms maximize productivity and better control costs. So they are turning to these new mobile technologies to be able to achieve those goals.

On the other side, you have the IT and compliance departments, which support the idea of being productive and responsive, but which also need to protect the company’s intellectual property and secure the confidentiality of documents and information that the legal department works with. IT and compliance want to control the flow and security of information and to know where this content is at all times. We’ve all read in the news media about how damaging data leaks can be, so there is a real and understandable friction between the objectives of the IT and compliance groups on one hand – and the productivity and cost goals of the corporate counsel on the other.

Editor: You mentioned file synchronization earlier. Can you tell us what that is?

Brown: It is safe to say that a typical lawyer will have a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop, and at least one desktop computer, perhaps at home but maybe another at work. Given the proliferation of different devices, attorneys increasingly want to be able to access all their information from any one of those devices at any point in time. In order to do this, they need tools, such as those that Workshare offers. Now the process of making their information universally available is what we call synchronizing among these devices. It’s also very important for them to be able to get access to this information right at their fingertips, both online and offline, which indicates the need for tools that allow for convenient document sharing and controlled personal access.

Editor: You mentioned compliance as a critical concern in the area of information management. Please give us an example, and tell us how Workshare can help.

Brown: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a U.S. law and a key compliance area in terms of controlling sensitive information, such as metadata that is attached to documents. Metadata is data about the document/file – who created it, when it was created, what changes have been made since the original draft, what comments were made during editing, etc. Metadata is not normally seen when someone looks at the document in its publishable form, but knowledgeable professionals can gain access to the descriptive data about the document. If one can access the metadata, one can gain knowledge that the owning organization would not want to be known externally. In spite of being “hidden,” this data can still be accessed and submitted as evidence in certain U.S. courts.

Workshare provides functionality to set and implement policies around locating, controlling, and managing sensitive information and, critically, around removing it as necessary. We also cover data security issues with functions like encryption and controlled access, which are aimed at avoiding potential mistakes when distributing documents to people who shouldn’t be receiving them. And just to return to my example, this functionality only becomes more important in the high-stakes area of FCPA and other legal compliance standards, such as healthcare.

Editor: Let’s talk more about the challenges of document management. We’re hearing a lot about companies that want to establish data retention policies and manage big data.

Brown: Many organizations have invested heavily in document management, which involves substantial controls around retention policies as well as security and access rights. We have seen the advent of tools – both across and outside organizational boundaries – for file sharing or synchronization, meaning that content resides on numerous mobile phones, tablets, or other devices. As a result, there is a need for more extensive control within a company’s document management scheme, and this is where we can see the deficiencies of the consumer-based apps that IT and compliance departments rightly deem unauthorized. Specifically, the security functions within these apps don’t extend the realm of document management, including retention policies and security protocols, out to file sharing and mobile access.

Another challenge involves facing the reality that most lawyers do their work digitally, and while they traditionally have used email, the files they are generating have grown in size and complexity, which has prompted the need for an alternate method of sending documents while preserving confidentiality. They need to find a technical, digital solution for sending information – almost like a secure FedEx. And once again, the free, consumer-based apps that people are downloading cannot handle all critical aspects of this process. Workshare’s products are designed specifically for this purpose.

Editor: Do you also get involved in the receiving side of this process?

Brown: Yes, very much. Our customers range from corporate counsel to the largest law firms in the world. We are centrally involved in the exchanges of information between the law firm and corporate counsel, and we perform our core tasks of tracking, auditing, securing, and authenticating those shared communications from both perspectives.

Editor: What are some of the existing solutions in the marketplace that help solve these challenges?

Brown: There is a vast array of file-sharing and file-synchronization tools out there, but these really have been driven by the consumer market for purposes such as sharing photos with friends or commenting on photos and personal information. These tools do not solve the enterprise challenges we’ve been discussing. They do not enable the enforcement of corporate policies or provide the required security protocols, and they do not integrate with the business applications that corporate counsel use and are accustomed to. Finally, they do not allow document sharing from any device and in such a way that documents are put back into the right company systems when the user is finished working on them.

Workshare’s applications are very much focused on providing these essential business capabilities – a frictionless collaboration process and a delightful user experience. The latter is increasingly important as technology has now come into the home, and end users really expect products to work as easily as they do in their personal lives.

Editor: Now let’s talk about productivity and the related trends you are seeing.

Brown: I mentioned that users are looking for a better, easier, and more secure way of doing their work, which connects directly with productivity and efficiency and, in turn, drives down legal and business costs. Effective document-collaboration technologies facilitate all of this, not only in streamlining the sharing of information but also in providing visibility into the case or matter being worked on, as well as in consolidating that work in one convenient area.

I’ve covered the trends around mobility, and we expect these to expand going forward. We’re also seeing greater focus on communication – with colleagues throughout the organization and certainly with clients, customers, and partners. Increasingly, these business interactions are happening on social networking applications. As an example, Facebook has traditionally been used to connect with friends and family, but the trends we’re seeing show that this activity is moving into organizations that are looking to replace email with better methods of communication.

Social media enable users to find people easily and see what roles they play in an organization. From a legal perspective, users can find experts, knowledge, and people who may be relevant to a particular case. And all of this really does drive productivity and the delivery of better services.

Trusted by over 60 percent of Fortune 1000 companies for over a decade, Workshare provides enterprise file sharing and synchronization solutions in mobile, desktop, and online environments that offer users the flexibility and rich collaboration features that they want combined with the tight security and policy enforcement foundation that IT absolutely requires. Workshare will continue to build further functionality to its application, reducing the use of unsanctioned tools. Start a free trial today at https://www.workshare.com/products/workshare-platform/trial.

Please email the interviewee at matthew.brown@workshare.com with questions about this interview.