Season 2 Episode 8
Welcome to Season 2 of the Law Firm Data Governance podcast, the data governance companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance. Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
Over this season, I’ll explore law firm drivers for data governance and the benefits of data governance. So whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or getting some support to get started with data governance, I hope this season helps set you up for success.
In this episode, I’ll talk about using data governance to accelerate digital transformation. And why digital transformation is an attention-grabbing use case to include in your business case for data governance.
Law Firm Data Governance Podcast
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Welcome to Season 2 of the Law Firm Data Governance Podcast. I’m CJ Anderson, founder of Iron Carrot, and I’m thrilled to be back with another season of the Data Governance Companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance. Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something that I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
Over this season, I’ll explore a law firm’s drivers for and the benefits of data governance. So, whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or you’re making the business case to get some help to get started with data governance, I hope that this season helps to set you up for success.
This is Season 2 Episode 8 of the Law Firm Data Governance Podcast. In this episode, I’ll talk about using data governance to accelerate digital transformation. And why digital transformation is an attention-grabbing use case to include in your business case for data governance.
I usually start these episodes with definitions, but I’ve covered the question of what data governance is in Season 1 Episode 1. So, I’m going to go straight into figuring out what digital transformation is.
One definition from the MIT Centre for Digital Business defines digital transformation as the adoption of digital tools and technologies that fundamentally alter the internal and external processes and functions of a business. These activities have a focus on three areas: Firstly, customer experience or client experience where the focus is on understanding the client, increasing revenue and the client touch points. Secondly, on operational processes. These include process digitization, employee enablement, and empowerment and performance management. Lastly, the firm’s business model might aspire to digital globalisation or new digital businesses, or a digitally modified business, or other phrases like that.
All of these activities rely heavily on having governed data to inform decisions or to form part of the new digital products and processes. And modern data foundation depends on data governance to have firm, wide, secure, good quality, discoverable data. And this enables the firm to become data-driven or insights-driven, supporting intelligent experiences both for employees and for clients. The business case for digital transformation is a separate conversation, but it usually includes operational strategies and data governance. Most firms, however, have had this conversation the other way around. They’ve got their innovation strategy or transformation strategy without actually having their data governance programme in place.
So, for that reason, data governance business cases most often refer to how particular portions of that firm’s innovation, strategy, or client experience expectations can be delivered through a digital transformation lens.
Digital transformation is a complex discipline that involves technological, procedural, and cultural change. Many elements of this are really well documented and working with exciting new technologies, inspiring cultural and skills change and connecting with clients are excessively discussed across all of that literature.
But a more straightforward approach to thinking about digital transformation is about rethinking how the firm uses technology, both to streamline internal processes, and to improve client workflows and revenue streams. This rethinking is usually in response to changes. Changes in client expectations, changes in how the lawyers themselves want to work, and changes in the size, shape, and capabilities within the business services teams. These digital transformations then, are expected to meet changing firm and market requirements. Since this involves making workflows more efficient by removing manual steps like processing paperwork, digital transformation prevents the bottlenecks of data and information. Digital transformation can also positively impact productivity and access to talent because it frees up people’s time.
Less frequently discussed in the literature is that good data governance underpins almost all aspects of successful transformation and can save your business money. Data governance is one of those unsexy but vitally important parts of digital transformation that nobody wants to think about or talk about until it’s almost too late. Firstly, data policies. Secondly, changes to the firm’s culture. Thirdly, tweaks/improvements to the organisational structure. Fourthly, the technology infrastructure and lastly, workforce development.
Although data governance is often behind digital transformation, by focusing on these pillars, data governance can catch up and support digital transformation innovations while protecting the firm’s IP and client information. Data governance business cases often draw a direct line between these five pillars and how they enable specific objectives within the firm’s digital transformation strategy. But sometimes it’s not that simple. There may be a drive for digital transformation without a formalised plan.
The usual drivers for digital transformation are simple. The firm wants to provide a superior client experience and react to client feedback on self-service data or transparency of costs. As a side note, this is sometimes called the digital experience or digital client experience. There’s also an element of empowering employees and optimising business operations. They’re in the mix to a greater or lesser extent depending on the firm and where it’s at. So really, in your business case, you can focus on the enabling element of data governance. Highlighting that the most valuable firm resource after its people is trusted data and information. And that understanding and managing your data is one of those aspects that will protect your business, your reputation, your client relationships. Not to mention the safeguarding your legal responsibilities and accountabilities, and potentially opening you and your firm up to exciting new opportunities.
Digital transformation is where it gets interesting. It’s where machine learning, artificial intelligence bots, the Internet of Things, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, and all the other buzzword bingo-type things get discussed. It’s also where the word innovation starts getting thrown in and abused, misused, and generally misunderstood. But if you focus on innovation meaning, operational efficiency or operational effectiveness, it’s easier to see how data, data governance, fit into the big picture of digital transformation. It sometimes helps to visualise it as a pyramid with data governance as the foundation layer at the bottom with digitization, then transformation, and then disruption stacked on top of it.
Successful digital transformation leans on centralised data, decentralised data governance and distributed ideation which focus on delivering solutions that aren’t siloed. Data governance, like digital transformation, is more about strategy, culture, engagement processes and enabling innovation. Having data governance first or at least alongside your digital transformation can help empower stakeholders to innovate, with a set of guard rails which minimise the risk of incoherent action and a resistance to change.
Technology is rarely the differentiator in digital transformation, although the right technology must be embraced. Data and analytics are more essential for insights and evidence-based decision making, and this puts a high priority on having quality trusted data – high priority on data governance.
Effective data governance which focuses on change management, transparent communication, and collaborative working alongside legal and regulatory compliance, can set the tone for helping the firm’s digital transformation activities. Your business case, in short, is that you want to ensure that the firm’s investments in digital transformation achieve results, by developing and effectively implementing a robust data governance framework to support the trusted use of data-driven platforms and services.
Thank you for joining me for this Law Firm Data Governance Podcast episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share, like and review this episode so that more law firm leaders like you can learn about data governance.
Join me next time for Episode 9: Better Decision Ready Data, and make sure you always catch new episodes by following Iron Carrot on social media, if you still need to. Please get in touch. If you’ve got any questions or topic ideas for future episodes.