Thought Leader Interview with Dean Brown of Ipro: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

Time for another thought leader interview on eDiscovery Today!  My latest interview was with the CEO of Ipro Tech, a global leader in eDiscovery technology providing integrated litigation, eDiscovery & information governance solutions!

As Chief Executive Officer of Ipro Tech, Dean Brown is an accomplished leader with a 25-year track record of working with high-growth software and service companies. He brings a collaborative leadership style, emphasizing both operational experience and a passion for customer-care. Prior to joining Ipro, Dean served as the Chief Product and Technology Officer for Open Education, a leading international education technology company. Prior to Open Education, Dean co-founded and led a technology startup, NextU, leading it to a successful acquisition by Open Education. Dean has also held senior leadership roles with Pearson and Thomson, focusing on technology and growth.

Dean, Ipro recently acquired NetGovern, which is a leader in Information Governance, Risk, and Compliance software.  What was the rationale behind the acquisition and where do you think the InfoGov market is heading?

As you know, our corporate customers have been struggling with the sheer explosion of data.  Every day we see it – for example, with threaded discussions like Slack or Teams, where just one of our customers is generating over 600,000 of those messages a day!  It doesn’t really matter the source, more and more we’re seeing data growth that’s almost exponential. So, as we looked at how best to help customers, we realized that we needed to focus further upstream and be proactive with good information governance practices. For those of you familiar with the EDRM process, Ipro has historically operated on the right-hand side of the model in areas like processing, review and presentation for trial.  But, because of  the continued expansion of enterprise data and  the need to integrate workflows to give more power to the teams on the ground, it’s important to have a clear understanding of  your organization’s data  universe, to  know how best to respond to matters, investigations and inquiries.  We felt there was a need and our customers were asking us to move further to the left.

We identified NetGovern as one of the leaders in the space – they bring direct and live connectors to the source data, whether it be Slack, Teams, Microsoft Office, file shares, you name it. They also bring incredibly advanced search and analytics tools as part of their compliance workflows with the ability to analyze and preview the data in-place. So, it really has become about how you help customers deal with data – specifically, massive amounts of data.  What data do you have? Where do you keep it? Who should look at it? What are you supposed to be doing with it?  All of those things then roll downstream into the traditional eDiscovery processes.  Efficient eDiscovery starts with great Information Governance.

That goes into the second part of your question: where is Info Governance going? I think the distinction between Info Governance and eDiscovery and Compliance is all blending, because it’s really all the same dataset or facets of the dataset that apply to each.  Let’s say as CEO of Ipro that someone accuses me of malfeasance.  The more Ipro has done upstream to know what’s in that data, and to think about retention schedules and data hygiene, the better Ipro can respond to that inquiry around my alleged malfeasance.  Is that Info Governance?  Is that Risk? Is it Discovery? It’s all of those. These processes are all blending together. And I think increasingly you’ll see IT, Chief Information and Security Officers and the eDiscovery/Legal Ops teams all collaborating much more closely, because at the end of the day, they are working with the same data. We want to facilitate that collaboration. 

Speaking of blending in, that’s a great lead into my next question. How do you think all of the recent data privacy developments have impacted organizations and their approach to eDiscovery?

This used to depend on your geography; however, we’ve already seen a number of seven figure judgments for violations of GDPR, and although CCPA is still emerging, every in-house counsel needs to pay close attention to data hygiene.  Each should be asking the “five W’s” of – What’s in your data? Why are you keeping it? Where is it? Who has access?  When are you obligated to retain or dispose of it?  If you have good data hygiene, it automatically lends itself toward better Compliance and eDiscovery processes. You potentially have less data whirling downstream into your eDiscovery workflows and you almost certainly have more insight into that.  We want to answer all of those questions by using technology solutions and help our clients stay compliant.

In addition to GDPR, CCPA and some of the other state data privacy laws that are emerging, some of the recent security breaches, even in our industry, have brought more people to the table. These corporate functions, whether they’re traditional IT, Security or Legal Ops, are being forced to come together.  Data governance, risk, compliance, security, and legal operations are becoming an integrated system.

Obviously, 2020 has been a challenging year with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting so many organizations. How has the pandemic and increased remote work impacted Ipro and how you provide software and services to your customer base?

It has certainly been a challenge.  We’ve been very lucky at Ipro. A couple of our staff members have been diagnosed with COVID. But, both cases were very mild.  So, from a family perspective, we have been very fortunate. Like many of our customers, we moved to remote work almost immediately.  Most of our functions were already blended in terms of office and remote – almost all of our staff was working at least part time from home anyway.  So, our ability to pivot to fully remote happened within two days. Our HR team is very, very good. They have been incredible about reaching out.  As you know, when everybody moves to remote you lose the kind of familial elements of talking at the whiteboard or chatting in the lunchroom.  We’ve had to overcompensate with opportunities like Zoom meetings, even as difficult as they can be sometimes when your kid crawls in your lap or your dog barks in the background. It’s okay – we understand.

So, I’ve been very proud of how Ipro has responded. We’ve seen zero interruption in our ability to provide our services and products to our customers. Not only that, but our services team has been called upon much more frequently to help our customers from a business continuity perspective, especially early in the pandemic. We had several customers who had issues with their own staff getting sick or just being unavailable because of the move to work from home.  And our services team was able to take some of that workload off their shoulders and allow them to rebalance to take a big deep breath and recover from being down a couple of headcount on their staff and use us to help with overflow.  We didn’t miss a beat and I couldn’t be more proud of the Ipro team for doing that because they’ve always been there to serve the customer.

We’re just getting started!  Part Two of my interview with Dean Brown will be published on Friday.

So, what do you think?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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