The Importance of CIO and CLO Communication

Monday, December 3, 2012 by Eric Robinson

In a regularly scheduled IT Manager meeting:

CIO: Alright, so in a nutshell: this bring your own device thing, BYOD, will save us money because we don’t have to buy our employees new phones or deal with repairs?

 IT Project Manager: Exactly, and… the employees actually would rather use their new-fangled personal iPhones/androids/whatever for business use, meaning potentially more productivity and a happier workforce.

CIO: Are you telling me we can save money and make our employees happy?

IT Project Manager: Yes sir I am.

CIO: Well, what are we waiting for?!?

6 months later, when responding to a Request for Production of “missing” work-related emails once stored on an individual’s personal phone:

 CLO: This is not happiness.

Alarmingly, conversations (or lack thereof) between IT and Legal departments like the one shown above are painfully far from fiction. In Gartner’s survey, Chief Legal Officers Need Better Partnerships with IT, a significant 76% of participants responded that IT’s support of the legal department is done in an ad hoc fashion. Beyond this survey, informal surveys of IT and Legal resources have consistently pointed to a lack of communication and understanding of each group’s needs.

This is one area where legal departments simply cannot address problems as they arise—it would be like trying to tread water in Class V rapids. Rather, there needs to be a unified, proactive approach to legal technologies issues, problems and ultimate solutions. Starting at square one, for Legal and IT leaders alike, it’s critical to address the elephant in the room— the inherent tension between your goals:

Where IT sees  OPPORTUNITY, Legal often sees  RISK 

Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal—like the judiciary must check the legislature, legal must check IT and vice versa. But if communications fall apart or are non-existent, the organization will ultimately pay the price. Failing to unite CIOs and CLOs often leads to:

  • Inefficiencies when implementing new IT and/or Legal solutions
  • Increased project timelines and cost due to inadequate planning
  • Legal departments having a misguided expectation that IT is making decisions with full awareness of the legal considerations, implications and/or litigation needs of the organization
  • IT implementing a technology solution that threatens legal compliance that could result not only in unnecessary costs, organizational stress and public attention, but also in costly litigation-related sanctions for failing to meet legal requirements

The bottom line is that it is in the best interest of the organization as whole and Legal and IT individually to ensure that there are open and clear lines of communication between them. Arguably, CIOs and CLOs have an obligation to meet regularly to ensure an understanding of each other’s needs and requirements. In fact, Gartner concluded its survey by suggesting that CLOs and CIOs should meet at least once a month. Developing a joint strategy between the CLO and CIO ensures that potential risks are addressed and resolved early, before it’s too late.