Best Practices for Data Search, Aggregation and Security in a Global Pandemic

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In this special guest feature, Kelly Griswold, Chief Operating Officer at Onna, takes a look at what would happen if we were able to access data and use it to create meaningful conclusions about teams and other workflows throughout the organization. Kelly has 10+ years of experience working with external counsel and internal legal teams. In previous roles at Axiom and Knowable, she’s worked alongside clients to implement parts of the ACC Maturity model and has a unique view of the challenges that legal teams and law firms face when it comes to implementing new technology for legal operations. Kelly is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Onna, the world’s first Knowledge Integration Platform. At Onna, she works directly with corporate clients and partners, like Slack, Dropbox, and Facebook, to make data accessible, useful, and private, for use cases like Compliance, Information Governance, and more.

In a world where a global pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, data has become largely unstructured fragments of knowledge tucked away across the various applications we use. These disparate pieces of data offer a crucial view into the status of the organization as a whole, but are often trapped in a web of interoperability waiting to be discovered. What would happen if we were able to access this data and use it to create meaningful conclusions about teams and other workflows throughout the organization?

The reality of fragmented knowledge

A recent Okta study found that large companies use an average of 129 different apps to power their workflows, that’s a 68% increase from just four years ago. This number continues to rise as employees working remotely strive to stay connected to their colleagues and customers. As the number of apps keeps increasing, so too does the complexity of having to manage and be in control of all of the information stored within them.

Many sales and marketing teams collaborate over Slack, keep information in Salesforce and various shared drives (Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, etc). Customer success teams may use these systems while also leveraging a ticketing system like Zendesk. An engineering team might have documentation in Google Drive, code in Github, and manage workflows in Jira. When the legal department needs to find contracts they’re typically scattered across contract management systems, shared folders, emails, and some are even stored on individual desktops. Add in the applications used by all the other business functions (finance and HR, among others) and it’s easy to see how the layers of information across enterprise systems are becoming increasingly complex.  

Recent surveys estimate that employees are spending upwards of 25% of their time searching for information needed to do their jobs. The estimated value of improving this by even a third? Between $250-$300 billion.  

The huge number of apps that have been developed in recent years have delivered incredible capabilities that are empowering businesses across the globe, but have also created new challenges that require new solutions. Companies will increasingly rely on technology to break down these newly created silos, integrating all of a company’s information so departments and employees can manage their data. This is way more than just ‘enterprise search’ — this is about giving people access to their personal and company data so that they can control it. 

The importance of unified information

In today’s app-driven working environment, knowledge needs to be unified across cloud computing services. A connecting layer needs to be created across workplace applications to transform disparate data into a powerful, searchable asset.

Increasingly complex governance requirements married with the proliferation of largely unstructured sources of data, is creating the perfect storm of risk. By being able to understand the context and content of what’s being stored, you not only have a platform for optimizing productivity, but one that’s essential for controlling risk.  

Moving forward: guidance for organizations in a uncertain future

During uncertain times like these, feeling confident that you can control and protect your data can feel especially daunting. When considering best practices, knowing what data you have is a critical first step. Data stored across multiple apps and cloud services needs to be discovered and categorized. This provides visibility into what information your stakeholders and employees have access to, where it’s located and its level of sensitivity. Having this knowledge as a foundation will help you to adopt the correct internal processes to keep it safe. 

The second step is to address key questions that will uncover the story of your organization’s data and how to keep it safe. Questions like: How do various teams aggregate data?; Are different tools or vendors being used across business areas?; Are employees unknowingly sharing sensitive data across different apps that may be insecure? Brainstorm if there are ways to consolidate tools and unify processes that might be more secure and cost efficient. Make a plan. Document it. Socialize it with the stakeholder you’ve identified as critical to execution.  

Integrating the data that exists in apps across your business not only improves your organization’s ability to access and protect its proprietary knowledge, it improves the efficacy of the applications themselves elevating the ecosystem as a whole.   

It is true that we’re all facing an unprecedented set of challenges as we settle into “the new normal”, but when we look forward to the post-Covid world it won’t be the same one we left behind. As we endeavor to comply with ever-increasing regulations, we’re also redefining the way we work, communicate and collaborate. Businesses are recognizing the need to regain control of the knowledge inside their organizations and, in doing something about it, they set themselves up to be more competitive, productive, responsive and to better manage risk. 

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