Collaboration Data Challenges Before Litigation (And How Technology Can Help)

| May 2 2023

Collaboration data is essential for many businesses in the digital age. However, determining how long to keep records on communication tools like Slack and Teams has become a challenge due to legal cases. Companies must balance regulatory requirements, business needs, and records hygiene when managing collaboration data. To help with information governance, many organizations are turning to technology. This article (which is part two of a four-part blog series) investigates the challenges faced by companies when using chat applications and how technology can assist with managing collaboration data.


Collaboration Data Challenges Before Litigation

Clients often struggle with determining a reasonable retention period for workplace collaboration data before a legal matter arises. This challenge has become more prevalent in court, causing headaches for both legal teams and IT departments. Fortunately, an increasing number of companies are now implementing retention policies and schedules for workplace collaboration tools to mitigate this issue. 

A recent survey by Hanzo found that 55% of respondents had a collaboration data retention policy throughout their organization in 2021, which increased to 65% in 2022. However, determining the retention period for communication tools like Slack and Teams presents challenges for companies. Unlike email, these tools have unique retention settings that may depend on the company's license. By default, all messages and files are retained for the lifetime of the workspace, but users can still edit and delete posts. Companies can set different retention periods based on their licenses, allowing messages to be automatically deleted after a specific timeframe.

Balancing record hygiene, business needs, and regulatory requirements can be difficult. Some companies may seek exceptions to retention policies for certain channels or projects, but if a majority of employees require exceptions, the policy may not be feasible.

When setting up chat applications, companies should take various factors into consideration. These include:

  • Whether the application will be solely for business purposes or include social aspects as well.
  • Whether anyone can create a channel or if there should be strict administration over the creation of channels, including who can create them and how many can be created.
  • Balancing the company's values, such as maintaining an open and collaborative culture versus the risks of having too many channels that can be used against the company during litigation. Companies that are highly regulated may require even tighter controls.
  • The risks involved in allowing third parties outside the company to use the application.
  • Whether in-house counsel can utilize the application to provide legal advice.
  • Finally, companies must provide initial and ongoing training on the proper use of channels, retention periods, and the communication privacy allowed under the license.

How Can Technology Help With Information Governance

Technology can be useful in various areas, particularly in digital pattern recognition, leading to smarter workflows and better decision-making around policies.

  • Technology can help identify and extract information from conversations and attachments, such as social security cards, credit cards, and driver's license numbers, which can then be tagged and managed, allowing people to take action, such as deleting the channel or archiving it for compliance purposes.
  • Additionally, behavior and sentiment analysis tools can uncover negative changes in the mood of a project or channel, should there be an investigation, making it easier to locate
  • Technology is also becoming better at understanding complex information, such as public and private health information and database connection strings. 


In today's litigious environment, it is crucial for companies to establish a reasonable retention period for workplace collaboration data. When implementing chat applications, there are several factors that companies must consider. However, technology can be helpful in managing collaboration data, identifying important information that requires tagging and action, and improving workflows and decision-making. As the demand for technology increases, companies should embrace it to assist with information governance and make informed decisions about retention policies.


For further collaboration data insights, best practices, and more

Download Hanzo's latest guide: 

Ediscovery Best Practices for Slack and MS Teams from Information Governance Through Litigation



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