5 data management trends to watch in 2024
As 2023 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on the trends that shaped the data management landscape throughout the year. In our recent webinar, presented by ACEDS, Shannon Smith, Onna’s Chief Technology Officer, spoke with:
- Warren Kruse, Vice President of Data Forensics and Preservation at UnitedLex
- Anna Simpson, Senior Director of Product Management – Compliance and Governance at Box
- Tom Stephenson, Vice President of Community and Legal Operations at Legal.io
The panel discussed the key developments that influenced data management in 2023, their predictions for 2024, and strategies for aligning data management with emerging trends in the new year. Read on to explore the five data management trends that legal, compliance, and IT professionals should prepare to address in 2024.
1. Turning the buzz around AI into practical solutions
According to a July 2023 survey from Forrester, 62% of AI decision-makers are experimenting with or expanding their use of generative AI solutions. Smith predicted that this trend will continue into the new year, as more organizations move beyond the experimental stage and begin finding ways to adopt and leverage AI to enhance their productivity, efficiency, and decision-making. Simpson agreed that organizations will move beyond the buzz around AI into real-world applications; as she put it, “The potential for productivity gains from AI will simply become too valuable for organizations to ignore.”
Legal organizations are also becoming more proactive about deploying AI. Between internal discussions and conversations with legaltech providers, organizations are actively looking for more practical applications of AI. Kruse remarked, “It saves a lot of money when you’re proactive in having these discussions versus when it is too late. If you aren’t talking about it, people are using this tech without your knowledge.”
The panel also agreed that generative AI is making the potential of AI more accessible. Now the challenge is for organizations to harness the value of AI more broadly beyond simply using generative AI to create content. Smith said, “There are some longstanding AI algorithms that can help with data classification or intelligent tagging so we can understand what data is in each individual source.”
2. Managing the convergence of legal technology
In 2024, the panel expects many legal technologies to converge as solutions address the addition of new devices, data formats, and communication types. Kruse remarked, “In the eDiscovery world, we used to collapse large email threads into something that could be reviewed once rather than looking at 12 copies of the same email. That was easy. But now communication threads are becoming frayed.” Conversations that used to happen entirely via email are now dispersed across multiple data channels, he explained. “Text messages, Slack, chat apps: if there’s an app, there’s a new way to share information on it. The amount of data is mind-boggling, and the number of devices that contain potentially discoverable data changes minute by minute. It’s a never-ending battle to get the data that’s needed.”
Between email, cloud apps, mobile devices, and IoT devices, eDiscovery professionals must now manage numerous types of data — and new app versions and providers are emerging all the time. Organizations need to understand the unique risks of their vertical and the risks of noncompliance. “From an eDiscovery perspective, if an event does occur, you have to ask what’s reasonable in the discovery process,” Kruse advised. “You need to understand how your employees are communicating and collaborating, and you need a strategy to capture, collect, and retain content in case you need it. It’s also important to understand where your business sits in the regulatory landscape.”
Smith observed, “Some organizations are coming to us and asking about the best ways to give eDiscovery access to their data. Getting into those conversations has been exciting. In the past, innovation has come first while governance lags behind. But newer productivity tools are trying to mature in that area.”
3. Rethinking data management with support from legal operations
In 2024, legal operations will continue influencing business decisions, but the narrative will shift. Rather than focusing on doing more with less, legal teams will be searching for ways to leverage legal technology to boost productivity, identify strategies for cost savings, and strengthen resource allocation.
Kruse urged organizations to focus on data governance. “Now is the time for organizations to re-evaluate their data retention and management practices. Storing unnecessary data can incur significant costs. Legal operations will play a critical role in finding the right balance between alternative legal service providers, legal tech providers, clients, and law firms.”
As Smith noted, “Data management is often focused on reducing or mitigating risk and adhering to privacy regulations.” That’s motivated many organizations to discard data quickly to decrease the risks and costs associated with its processing and storage. But, he continued, “Conversations are now shifting; organizations want their data to work for them and help drive business decisions.”
Stephenson pointed out that this trend is already underway in corporate law departments and will continue in 2024. “Organizations will shift into using more legaltech tools to manage workflows and improve efficiency. They will begin using data to support budgeting and reallocating budget to make sure their data is benefiting the business.” He mentioned that while in-house budgets have remained flat or have been cut, these tools and data will help organizations optimize their spend and start running their legal departments more like a business.
Further, Stephenson said, two-thirds of corporate counsel are bringing more work in-house. He predicted that in-house counsel will find a suitable balance between alternative legal service providers, legal technology providers, and law firms. What will help, he said, is understanding the data that organizations already have. “When corporations don’t know what information they have on file, they go to outside counsel for additional opinions and decisions. But if they could get to the data they own, they could make a smarter decision about whether they need to do more research.” While different file versions and dispersed data storage make it difficult to understand corporate data, Stephenson suggested that as organizations make their data more effective, they’ll be able to keep more work in-house.
4. Addressing the data generated by a remote/hybrid workforce
The panel expected that the shift toward remote and hybrid work models, accelerated by recent global events, will persist as the new norm. As new collaboration tools and models arise, organizations must adapt their data management strategies to account for the dynamic sources of data generated in these environments.
The challenge lies in understanding and governing the various types of data arising from collaborative efforts in remote and hybrid workspaces. For example, chat messages and different versions of collaborative content need to be accounted for in data governance and eDiscovery planning. Organizations also need to anticipate how they will govern audio and video data gathered from remote work tools and how to incorporate this data into their eDiscovery processes.
5. Grappling with market uncertainty and unpredictability
Rapid technological advancements and evolving regulatory landscapes will continue contributing to market instability and uncertainty. Many organizations will struggle with the challenges of adapting to new tools, technologies, and compliance requirements. Smith emphasized the importance of understanding the risks associated with emerging technologies such as AI and the need for a proactive approach to data management.
Simpson noted that the key for organizations is understanding the data they have so they can govern it appropriately, especially given the surge in global privacy legislation. There are more than 130 global data privacy regulations today, with more U.S. states introducing privacy legislation every year. “In the EU, AI can be used in compliance with the GDPR, but there are some gaps, particularly for data controllers,” she explained.
Additionally, she continued, the European Commission received approval from the European Parliament and the Council on the Artificial Intelligence Act (“AI Act”) earlier this month. “The Commission is taking a risk-based approach to how AI should be regulated: minimal, high, unacceptable, and specific transparency risk.” The new law, she predicted, will lead the way in creating global standards for AI, much as the GDPR did for data privacy.
Kruse commented that organizations cannot overlook their data governance practices. “People still store too much data. They have to start looking at data retention and data management. Do you need to save everything? If not, you’re going to spend a lot of money you don’t have to.” On the other hand, data management can’t just focus on the risk side of the equation. Simpson added, “Yes, governance is about mitigating risk, but it’s driven by protecting value. If you can unlock the value and know where your data is, there’s an opportunity to monetize the different use cases.”
Catch the full conversation on-demand now
As we transition into the new year, we expect the information landscape to continue its transformation thanks to new AI applications, remote and hybrid work models, and market shifts — all of which will only accelerate our data management needs. The keys to success lie in being willing to adapt, keeping the lines of collaboration and communication open with your legal and technology partners, and striking a strategic balance between delivering value and mitigating risk.
To learn more about these trends and see our 2023 data management wrap-up, tune in to the full session on-demand now.