At Hanzo, we’ve been talking about Slack and other collaborative communication platforms for the last few years. These dynamic, channel-based applications allow colleagues to stay connected regardless of where or when they’re working. As such, tools like Slack were enjoying steady growth as they gained traction in the workplace as a replacement to email.
Then came the coronavirus, which abruptly forced businesses to close their offices, sending employees home to work for at first weeks, then months, and now an indeterminate (and seemingly interminable) period of time. That overnight shift caused an immediate uptick in organizations’ use of Slack—and that, in turn, has had wide-reaching ramifications regarding information governance, ediscovery, and internal investigations.
In our July 9 webinar, Internal Investigations in the Age of Collaboration and Remote Work, our Vice President of Product, Brad Harris, moderated a conversation about how businesses should prepare to leverage Slack and other collaboration tools in their internal investigations. Here are some key highlights from that discussion.
Recent Growth in Slack Use
Even companies that were already partially or fully remote have seen an increase in their Slack use in 2020. Kyle Kelly, a Senior Ediscovery and Litigation Support Specialist at Coinbase, remarked that his organization was “taking the pandemic in stride.” Still, he said, “We’ve seen more Slack use, from both a collaborative perspective and a social perspective. Whereas people used to use whiteboards, we’re now using Slack. It’s also taking the place of some of that human interaction that’s missing—the hallway conversations that no longer happen.”
Stacey Blaustein, Counsel for IBM, echoed Kelly’s remarks. “We already used collaboration tools, so it’s pretty much been business as usual; in fact, in terms of productivity, the staff at IBM have been at least as productive or even more so, because none of us are wasting time commuting. That said, with some tools, people who didn’t already use them have had to get on the bandwagon a little more quickly than they might have otherwise.”
As organizations expand their use of Slack, the importance of sound information governance policies becomes even more acute. Kimberly Quan, Global Head of Ediscovery and Digital Forensics for Juniper Networks, described her approach. “We’re going through all of the exercises we should about how people want to use it. What sorts of guardrails should we put up? How can we encourage people to use the technology, while making sure they do it right?” . Kelly agreed, stating, “We have year-round training, and not just on best practices. We have to let people know what good corporate hygiene involves. We also focus on transparency and consistency from leadership all the way down.”
Interested in learning more about How Legal can leverage Slack?
Check out Hanzo's upcoming webinar, Slack for Legal Teams on July 29, at 1 pm ET, featuring a discussion on how Legal teams can leverage Slack to improve team operations and gain insights into proactively governing Slack data to meet preservation obligations and mitigate risk .
Using Slack in Internal Investigations
When it comes to internal investigations, Blaustein noted that “having Slack doesn’t change the process, but it does mean that there are more venues where you might find relevant information. We really have to investigate and explore all those sources.” Nor are the messages themselves the only relevant information to be found in Slack. She continued, “There’s a greater utility in what you can get from Slack. Who posted something? Who deleted something? With all of Slack’s logs, audit trails, and timelines, you can create a comprehensive picture of what happened. Slack lets you really approach uncovering the story from many different angles, gathering as much intelligence as possible and putting everything in perspective.”
Quan outlined a similar approach. “With an investigation, you’re often trying to put together a story or a timeline. What occurred? What were the causes? We want to be looking at all the intelligence we can gain across different tools to, if not prevent activity, then at least recognize it when it’s happening.”
At the close of the webinar, we asked our speakers what critical lessons and takeaways they’d learned over the past few months. Kelly emphasized the importance of preparation. “If you weren’t prepared for this, it’s a reminder to be proactive in the future, so you’re more ready the next time something critical occurs. What worked? What didn’t? Look at the tools—especially your collaboration platforms—that really turned out to be important, so you can be better prepared next time.”
Quan noted that in her organization, Slack Enterprise Grid was a necessity. “We needed a tool to get information out of Slack so we’re not trying to parse JSON files.” Beyond that, though, she said, “I’ve started pushing back on my tech partners during all this. They’re producing great tools, but we don’t always know how to use everything in them. Share best practices, tell me what other clients are doing with your technology, and what else I should be trying.”
Blaustein concurred with both Kelly and Quan. She added, though, that it was critical for organizations to be able to extract and use information efficiently. “Whether you have the capability through your own IT or through a vendor, you need ready access to such information that can fill in the gaps in your story during an investigation.”
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