(Photo: Microsoft Office 365)
Seventy percent of Fortune 500 organizations use one or more of Microsoft's cloud offerings, meaning many corporations are currently migrating or have already migrated their data to the cloud on the Microsoft Office 365 platform. An undertaking this big takes planning with as much lead time as possible.
If you're contemplating taking the step, are in the process of implementation or have already taken the leap, here a few things to take into consideration at each step of the way.
1. Close the Gap Between IT and Legal: Sometimes decisions on data management and storage might come from the IT department or from the C-levels of the organization, and legal may be the last to know. Be sure to push your way into the conversation as early as possible.
2. Communication Between All Stakeholders is Vital: A move like this is an opportunity for the legal department to lessen the amount of data, update security, and work with business units. But unless the users speak up, no one knows what is needed.
3. Identify Where Data is Located: The first step to any good e-discovery process is to understand where your data is located. While making the move to O365, it's a great opportunity to do just that.
4. All-In or Staggered Approach: When you begin the process, your organization must decide if they want to go all-in or stagger data migrations. There are pros and cons to each—this is where open communication between all stakeholders comes into play.
5. Clean House Before the Move: Just like moving from one house to the next, when you migrate data, it makes sense to clean as you go. If you don't, O365 simply becomes another data source in your organization.
6. Prioritize IG Initiatives: Companies who decide to move all their data en masse often think they will deal with information governance after the move. Then, because O365 offers potentially unlimited storage (if you're willing to pay for it), they never bother with IG practices.
7. Microsoft's IG Tools Won't Save You: Microsoft is releasing data governance tools sometime in 2017, but even with these tools, someone still has to go through and analyze everything. So again, the best approach is to clean as you go.
8. User Data Saved in Multiple Locations (Beyond Office 365): One benefit of O365 is that everything is synced in one place. But remember that people are creatures of habit and will still save data in other places and on other devices (laptop, desktop, fileshare, social, mobile, etc.). Be sure to put policies in place to monitor, search, collect, and process data from data sources outside Office 365.
9. Understand What Tier of Office 365 has Been Purchased: Different tiers have different levels of e-discovery capabilities, and organizations may not be willing or able to buy the top tier, or they may choose to buy the top tier for a portion of the company. The lower the tier, the more you will need to rely on outside technologies to respond to e-discovery requests. In fact, for many companies, this may be more cost-effective.
10. Track Automatic Updates with Notifications: A big change when moving to Office 365 is getting used to the automatic updates. Sometimes IT knows about an update but doesn't tell the legal department. Sometimes IT may overlook the notice. Users can sign up for Microsoft First Release, which gives notice of any updates in advance, so there is time for IT and legal to plan before they're put in place.
11. Default Settings Must be Continually Monitored: An example of why this is important: A company thinks that the default setting for data retention was set to 60 days before emails were deleted. The problem: Automatic updates from Office 365 may automatically adjust data retention policies to a different time period, i.e. "infinity."
12. Again, Another Reason to Check Default Settings: Default settings can affect who has access to the data. It's important to note that the default can be set to "all admin" which means anyone who is a system admin, including outside contractors and consultants, might have access to the entire company's data.
Office 365 is a new e-discovery tool in your e-discovery arsenal, but it isn't an "all-in-one" answer to every one of your needs. Remember to ask your e-discovery technology provider how they work with Office 365 and what functionalities their software has to help incorporate Office 365's e-discovery capabilities with the e-discovery software you are currently using. And take the time to consider all of the aspects mentioned above—from your team's processes to data management to knowing exactly how the technology will works both on its own and with your current system. Otherwise, the benefits of making the switch will be lost.