CIOs and Chief Legal Officers need to work together

Chief legal officers (CLOs) consider their enterprises’ CIOs to be important contributors to corporate strategy and policy, but they need more in-depth interaction with their IT department, according to a survey by Gartner and ALM.

In October of 2011, Gartner and ALM surveyed 70 CLOs, deputy CLOs, general counsels, and division general counsels. The survey was designed to increase the understanding of how CLOs use technology in the enterprise, the relationship between the CLO and CIO, and the types of projects CLOs engage in with CIOs.

“The survey results showed that communication is the key variable in the success or lack of success of the CLO/IT relationship,” said French Caldwell, vice president and Gartner fellow. “When CLOs have substantive conversations with CIOs more than once a month, CLO satisfaction with IT is higher. Among CLOs who communicated with their enterprises’ CIOs more than once a month, 76 percent reported having changed their legal strategies and 82 percent their corporate policies after conferring with CIOs.”

By contrast, among CLOs who communicated with CIOs less than once a month, just 44 percent changed their legal strategies and 56 percent their corporate policies after conferring with CIOs. Analysts said this indicates that CLOs who communicate frequently are having more in-depth conversations with their CIO counterparts, enabling the identification of underlying legal/IT issues, and the development of better solutions.

“It is clear that maintaining a high level of communication between the CLO and CIO is a main ingredient of the legal department’s IT investment, and its satisfaction with the services IT provides,” said Debra Logan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “The fact that 51 percent of the CLOs surveyed reported that they have conversations with CIOs once a month at most indicates a lack of communication between the two roles in a significant portion of the population. This is a serious problem because increased CLO/CIO communication helps clarify the legal department’s IT needs, provides the IT department with better guidance for legal support and keeps CLOs informed of IT capabilities.”

With an improved understanding of the CLOs’ business needs, CIOs are able to provide thorough and effective solutions for CLOs, which can increase overall IT satisfaction and enable better-informed decision making. For example, the CLOs in the survey indicated that their enterprise IT departments currently handle routine IT applications such as email and remote support satisfactorily, but they were not as satisfied with the IT departments’ implementation and support of high-business-value, legal-specific technologies such as e-discovery and litigation support. Gartner views this as a significant finding, because the CIO role is evolving and must continue to evolve to support other C-level executives in initiatives that may not be readily identifiable as a direct IT responsibility.

“Complicating improvements in satisfaction with legal-specific technologies is a lack of formally organized IT support for the legal department,” Mr. Caldwell said. “When asked in what way the IT department most frequently supports the legal department’s ongoing IT needs, most CLOs responded that it is done in an ad hoc fashion. Few organizations, it seems, have dedicated legal IT support teams and as legal technologies become more complex, this lack of support will be problematic, and should therefore be a priority for CIOs.”

The quantity of electronic data businesses generate every day forces IT departments, and by extension the CIO, into a prominent information governance role. Protecting critical information is a very important business concern, especially for legal departments, and the survey results reinforce this view. The top three CLO technology investments cited in the survey — email encryption, privacy management and database encryption — show a strong focus on data protection. For this reason, IT must adapt to satisfy increasing legal department demands for data storage, protection and archiving capabilities.

E-discovery requirements continue to be a driving force in the need of CLOs for effective IT solutions to manage, identify, preserve and collect electronically stored information. E-discovery software, enterprise information archiving and master data management are important investments to support preparedness for and responses to e-discovery.

“As everyday activities become increasingly digitized and performed online, legal departments see a growing need for sophisticated tools and support to assist in data/document identification and collection for legal, regulatory and risk management purposes,” Ms. Logan said. “Besides the technology investments, a priority is being placed on risk management and compliance consulting. This finding indicates that CLOs have concerns over the effectiveness of risk management and compliance programs, and it reinforces the importance of legal and regulatory information governance programs.”

“The 2011 Gartner/ALM survey makes it clear that CLOs and CIOs need to work together more closely to achieve their enterprises’ synergistic business goals. Regular, substantive communication is crucial in enabling the IT organization to support the legal department effectively,” said Mr. Caldwell. “A strong CLO/CIO partnership, also involving the CRO and CCO, with regular, in-depth communication and collaboration, will enhance the business value of legal technology investments.”

More about

Don't miss