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Information governance in consulting workspaces software

In the consulting industry, effective information governance controls are critical to realizing the benefits and mitigating the risks of consulting workspaces software like Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams has revolutionized the way consulting firms manage projects and client interactions, enabling consultants to move beyond traditional tools like email for daily collaboration and communication.

With the introduction of Microsoft Copilot to enterprise customers on November 1, 2023, the consulting workflow is set for another transformation. This AI-driven tool can aid consultants in tasks like drafting initial project outlines and summarizing the information in their inboxes.

However, without robust information governance measures, the deployment of these advanced tools can compromise their intended efficiencies and pose significant ethical and security risks.

In the following sections, we explore specific scenarios in which the use of consulting workspaces software along with Microsoft Copilot might present challenges, and discuss how firms can effectively navigate these risks.

Modern consulting practices create the risk of a shadow DMS and version control issues

Envision this scenario: Your consulting firm is handling a major project for a high-profile client. To ensure quality and consistency, your firm has a comprehensive best practices guide for project execution. A senior consultant retrieves this document from your firm’s document management system (DMS) and shares it with a junior team member.

However, the junior consultant overlooks a critical update in the project approach. This crucial update was in the best practices guide but not in the version shared by the senior consultant. The most recent and accurate version of the document was actually in a Microsoft Teams channel, having been updated and shared there. The best practices document wasn’t checked back into the DMS — a not uncommon oversight, given the increasing tendency of consultants to work directly within Microsoft applications.

Although the senior consultant eventually identifies and corrects the mistake, the situation leads to a hurried revision of several project documents.

Furthermore, the firm faces a daunting realization: It’s unclear where the most current versions of other essential documents are located. Some might be in Microsoft Teams, others in the DMS. The team must now review all Teams channels to identify documents that should be in the DMS.

Effectively, the Microsoft Teams platform has become an unintended shadow DMS because it doesn’t synchronize with the firm’s official DMS. To transfer documents from Microsoft Teams to the DMS, consultants must manually download files to their computers, then upload them to the DMS.

As working habits evolve and Microsoft facilitates smoother transitions across collaborative platforms like Teams and Word, more content is being created and stored directly in Microsoft applications. The tedious process of transferring the latest document versions back to the DMS is increasingly seen as an unnecessary step by busy consultants, leading to documents often remaining in Microsoft Teams.

Intapp Workspaces makes it easier for your consultants to return documents to their DMS by integrating your DMS with Microsoft Teams. This allows consultants to check documents into and out of the DMS directly from Microsoft Teams, eliminating the need to manually transfer files between systems and enhancing collaborative efficiency.

Information governance controls are vital for preventing confidentiality breaches in consulting

Intapp tools play a crucial role in helping your consulting firm prevent inadvertent breaches of client confidentiality.

Consider this situation: A complex challenge arises on a significant project, requiring niche expertise. A lead consultant decides to involve a colleague known for their specialized knowledge. In the interest of swift collaboration, the lead grants this colleague access to the entire project team. Unbeknownst to them, certain aspects of the project are confidential and should not be shared broadly, leading to an unintentional breach of confidentiality.

Such incidents can be effectively prevented with Intapp Walls. This tool ensures that no one is added to a project team if doing so would create a conflict or confidentiality issue with the work being undertaken by that team.

Intapp Walls safeguards confidential data in consulting

With more and more consulting firms utilizing Microsoft SharePoint as their primary DMS, the introduction of Microsoft Copilot to Microsoft’s suite is generating considerable excitement. This AI tool can access Microsoft SharePoint files a user has permissions for, aiding in the creation of initial drafts for documents and presentations.

However, this capability of sourcing information, when coupled with imprecise permissions, might lead to confidential data being inadvertently exposed and surfaced. Therefore, establishing accurate permissions in foundational Microsoft applications — especially SharePoint — is crucial.

As Microsoft notes: “Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 surfaces only data that users have at least view permissions for. It’s vital to utilize the permission models in Microsoft 365 services, like SharePoint, ensuring appropriate user or group access to content within your organization.”

But how confident are you that your SharePoint permissions are accurate and align with access rights and confidentiality requirements in other systems? A SharePoint DMS in a consulting environment often features complex permission structures at various levels — site, library, and document. These permissions can change, with site administrators sometimes granting access to new team members.

It’s conceivable that a consultant might erroneously allow access to information that should remain confidential. If other consultants then utilize Microsoft Copilot, the AI could access and reveal this sensitive material.

A breach like this could significantly impact your firm’s reputation and client trust. Given the heightened focus on data privacy and security, such an oversight could have far-reaching consequences.

This risk can be mitigated with Intapp Walls, which employs a policy engine to set up and continuously oversee permissions in Microsoft SharePoint and Teams. This ongoing monitoring ensures that permissions are not incorrectly assigned. The policy engine rules are shaped by client requirements, industry regulations, and other pertinent standards.

For Intapp Walls to effectively enforce these policies across client and project teams in Microsoft SharePoint and Teams, it needs clear identification of which workspaces correspond to specific clients and projects. Intapp Workspaces addresses this by ensuring consistent application of client-project metadata when setting up Microsoft SharePoint sites and teams.

Maintaining compliance with client retention policies in consulting can be a complex task without robust information governance controls

Imagine your consulting firm is managing a large-scale transformation project that involves multiple departments and offices. You set up a primary team for the overall project and additional teams for various segments of the initiative.

However, due to the lack of standardized naming conventions for teams, different offices end up naming these individual teams differently.

At the project’s conclusion, when it’s time to compile all files and data related to the project, you encounter a challenge. Your firm has a policy of retaining all client-related records for a specified duration post-project completion. But, due to the varied and unclear naming of the teams, collating all the relevant files and data becomes a daunting task.

To prevent such scenarios, establishing and enforcing naming rules for teams can be effective. These rules could mandate that team names include the specific project number/code. An alternative solution is leveraging Intapp Workspaces, which integrates with your financial management or project intake systems. This integration automatically incorporates accurate client-project codes when teams are created.

These client-project codes act as metadata that enable you to easily gather all files and data related to a project.

Moreover, in the event of any legal inquiries or compliance audits related to the project, having an organized system with client-project codes simplifies the process of placing legal holds or reviewing specific project data.

Intapp Workspaces and Intapp Walls help you avoid potential human errors

All the information governance issues and ethical risks discussed above could be avoided with the right policies in place and adherence to those policies. But the right consulting workspaces software can serve as a fail-safe in case any of your professionals forget to follow a policy or make a mistake with permissions.

For example:

  • Intapp Workspaces makes it easier for your team members to move documents back into their DMS, helping you avoid version control issues that could hurt your project’s work product.
  • Intapp Workspaces also helps your firm provision each team within Microsoft Teams and all SharePoint sites with identifying project codes. These codes help you track and retain all data relating to particular projects.
  • Going forward, these project code tags will also support future uses of Microsoft Copilot and AI tools that depend upon these tools distinguishing between different projects.
  • As a complement to Intapp Workspaces, Intapp Walls helps your firm avoid unintended confidentiality breaches.

The emergence of AI in consulting, particularly with tools like Microsoft Copilot, highlights the urgent need for robust information governance. But Intapp Workspaces and Intapp Walls offer more than just governance. They streamline consultants’ access to all project-related information and tools, including essential documents and communications, through a single interface. This feature enhances efficiency by eliminating the need to switch between multiple applications.

If you’d like to learn more about how Intapp can help you thrive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape, please contact us to see our software firsthand.

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