Monthly Archives: March 2018

The key to employee retention? Goals!

If you’ve managed people for any amount of time, you know that engaged employees are the key to a successful company. There are plenty of tips and theories for creating and improving engagement, but I want to focus on one in particular- goal setting.

Let’s start with the basics. Do you set professional goals for yourself? Do you ask your team to set goals? Are your team’s goals aligned with the company’s objectives? Hopefully, you work in a transparent and communicative company that openly shares business goals and objectives, but if you don’t, take the initiative to share what you can with your team. Next, start the process by working with each person on your team to create S.M.A.R.T. goals, ultimately improving their chances of success. Finally, help the employee understand how the completion of their individual goals ties into the overall success of the company.

Creating meaningful workplace goals is one way to encourage and nurture engagement in highly valued employees. Ensure you have a scheduled follow up plan to meet with each individual to provide encouragement, answer questions and remove obstacles if necessary. This step will help the employee feel valued and accountable to the process.

For the employee, there are numerous benefits to goal setting in the workplace. Engaged employees need challenges and development beyond their normal job duties, and goals are one way to achieve this. Goal setting can help career path opportunities, providing a future the employee can see and work toward. A leader being invested in their team’s success leads to trust in management and personal accountability, with the bonus effect of feeling personally connected to the company and department’s success.

For the manager, goal setting for yourself and your team assists with performance management. When it comes time to write team reviews and self-assessments, you’ll have plenty of material to use as examples. Engaged and happy employees are more productive and have high morale, and who wouldn’t want a team with those traits? You’re also encouraging your team to grow, develop and create a career path with the company. All these benefits lead to the biggest one of all- employee retention. The worst feeling is getting a resignation of a valued employee handed to you because they felt they had no future. You realize too late that you didn’t spend enough time with that individual to help them see how valued they were. While we can’t prevent attrition entirely, we can use the tools we have to create a workplace where employees grow, thrive and want to work.

This is why eDiscovery needs AI

You can’t talk about eDiscovery without also discussing Artificial Intelligence and its potential impacts on the industry. Some people hear the term and jump to Sci-Fi movies and robots taking over, but it’s much more nuanced than that. You may be wondering how your job will be affected by this new technology. Or maybe you openly embrace technological enhancements. Perhaps you’re in the ‘just ignore it’ camp. You might even have “Skynet becomes self-aware” flashbacks. Whichever bucket you fall in, the fact remains AI is a subject that isn’t going away anytime soon. In many industries, including legal, AI and machine learning is already a thing. While there isn’t a squad of robots running review protocol just yet, smart companies are already leveraging this technology. Here’s a look at just two areas benefitted by embracing the AI movement.

eDiscovery:
AI is already hard at work transforming how discovery is done. Gone are the days of attorneys sifting through boxes of documents. Thankfully, that time-consuming process has been replaced by electronic options. As these solutions evolve, we’ve seen the benefits of AI implemented through machine learning capabilities. Slogging through documents looking for that elusive needle in the haystack is now aided by software solutions with features like near-duplicate detection, email threading, and predictive coding. The benefits are obvious- less time spent on the tedious tasks equals more time to spend on meaningful work, which equals cost savings in the long run.

Workforce:
Understandably, the implementation of technology that does the tasks formerly completed by a human worker can cause some uncertainty and anxiety. There are certainly many theories out there about replacing the entire workforce with an army of robots, but that’s just not realistic. At least not anytime soon. There are just some roles, especially in the legal industry, that a human will always be the preferable choice. Let’s look at this common scenario. You’re a seasoned attorney with a large litigation case. The discovery files are in the many terabytes range. Back in the day, you’d have to employ, train, and provide a workspace for who knows how many junior attorneys to complete this task that would likely take many months to finish. You would have to rely on your training and the employee’s competency to locate the required documents needed for the case. There would be challenges- answering questions, employees calling out sick, performance issues. You must manage the project, the case, and the people. Sound familiar?

The solution is not a robot that will replace all the humans, but technology that assists the humans. Instead of eliminating jobs, you’ll be improving job quality by freeing up time from menial, time- consuming tasks for value-added services. The people you have doing review will be more efficient and productive. Rather than digging through documents only to see the same content numerous times, Technology Assisted Review will locate those documents through machine learning features. For the product manager, using technology to assist with identifying and sorting concepts from documents, can arm you with information that will help you make the most of your review time. The project is more efficient, deadlines are met, below budget and everyone is happy. Doesn’t that sound better?

Look, technology won’t go away just by squeezing your eyes closed, so it’s best to be ahead of the game and embrace it. Learning about the direction, benefits and limitations of AI can eliminate a lot of the fear and ambiguity surrounding the topic. Artificial Intelligence is not waiting for us in the future- it’s here. How will you use it?

For information on how Ipro can help you embrace machine learning technology, click here.

Video File Formats – What is best?

One of the many powerful tools available for use in litigation is video. Video can be used to tell a story, depict a day in the life of someone, see the actual event happening, see a witness’s demeanor during examination, substitute for a witness who cannot attend the trial in person, impeachment and the list goes on. From the early days of 8mm film, followed by VHS tapes to today’s digital video, this tool is an essential part of almost every trial.

When an attorney used 8mm film, VHS tapes or LaserDisc, the setup and use was straightforward. Someone would hook up the player to a projector or TV and when they needed it, they pressed the play button. Pretty easy. Once digital video came into the mix, things started to get complicated. While you still hook up to a projector or TV and press the play button, digital video has some potential complications that can add a degree of difficulty you really don’t need at trial.

Digital Formats:
One of the most common digital formats and the focus of this blog is MPEG. MPEG is an acronym for Moving Pictures Experts Group. This group of authorities set the standards for audio/video compression and transmission of the digital files that everyone “abides” by. These standards set the compressed data format to a standard video compression specification. Creation of these digital files requires software known as a “video codec” that includes an encoder that can compress the video into a smaller file size and a decoder that will decompress the files for playback. More on video codecs later.
The original MPEG standard that was first developed and released in 1993 was called MPEG-1. This standard is still very much in use today and has continuously been recommended, especially in litigation, because MPEG-1 doesn’t require anything special to make it work. Using an MPEG-1 video compression algorithm, a 120-minute video would be compressed to about 1.2 GB. MPEG-2 is a standard that has been adopted by most of the movie producing companies because of the higher visual quality of video available during playback. The compression algorithm of MPEG-2 would take a 120-minute video and compress it to about 4GB – 8GB, but with a much higher quality than MPEG-1. With the eruption of the internet, MPEG-4 has steadily become the standard of choice thanks to its high level of compression while maintaining a high level of quality during playback. One of the many reasons that MPEG-4 has become popular is that its compression algorithm will compress a 120-minute video to about 300MB and maintain a very high quality. Choosing a video format essentially becomes a comparison between power, speed, storage capacity and fidelity or quality of the video and the requirements to play the video, i.e. video codecs.

Issues:
When it comes to working with digital video files, the number one culprit that causes issues is the video codec. If you have ever had audio play, but not the video or had some MPEG files play but not others, it is because the video codec is incompatible. Video playback software that came pre-installed or was installed after the fact may install their own codec and you can have multiple codecs installed on the same computer. When this happens there are potential conflicts and it is unknown what codec will be used with what video. The problem is consistently found when dealing with MPEG-2 video files and less of an issue with the other MPEG formats. There are several packages commercially available that can be used to determine what codecs are installed and what may or may not be conflicting.
A secondary issue when dealing with digital video that may be encountered is that not all digital video is created equally. Just because the format is MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 doesn’t mean that it is compliant or compatible with the player. One thing to verify is if the video was created using a constant bit rate or a variable bit rate. Another possible area to check is if within the file format, standards or “parts” have been included. For example, MPEG-4 Part 8, is video formatted using a method to carry the content on IP networks. Another would be MPEG-4 – H.264 or Part 10 that supports video resolutions up to 4096×2304 or 4K UHD. Making sure that your video codec supports constant or variable bit rates and parts or variants to a format will help alleviate some of the potential issues you may encounter.

Conclusion:
When it comes to working with video files and having issues, find out who/what created the video, if there are any non-standard or non-compliant issues and what video codecs are installed on the computer. Taking these steps to resolve any issues beforehand is critical to a smooth presentation and keeping your focus where it needs to be at trial.

I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Hint- It’s your fitness tracker.

Cheesy 80’s song reference aside, privacy in the age of smart EVERYTHING is a serious concern. While it’s convenient, helpful, and even seductive to have all this technology at our fingertips, or wrists as it were, we would be remiss not to consider what we’re giving up in exchange.

Consider the situation recently experienced when a user discovered her entire jogging route was made public for strangers to view at their leisure. As a single woman who often ran in the early morning or evening hours in an urban setting, this is beyond alarming. Or, the unintentional national security risk unleashed when Strava published a global heat map that identified secret military outposts. Not good. Many fitness trackers have a social aspect that encourages users to interact with others, great for motivation and comradery. The tradeoff? You’re giving up your location information. It can also provide your full name and picture. It wouldn’t be a tough leap from there to figure out another user’s patterns, routes, workplace, and residence. That’s pretty high on the creepy scale.

Another common trend popping up is insurance and wellness programs encouraging the use of fitness wearables, often offering discounts or points for achieving specific activities. Many people are excited to sign up for these programs as a way to motivate themselves to live healthier lives. But what if the insurance company uses that data at a later date to determine you are not as healthy as they would like and raises your premiums? Or, the seemingly helpful suggestion of programs and tips to help you meet your goals but penalizes you if those goals are not met. What if you find your car insurance rates going up based on your driving habits derived from a fitness wearable? Is this still a good tradeoff for clocking your daily steps?

The law is paying attention too. Fitness trackers are being used to prove injury after an accident in the form of reduced activity, or in some cases, to prove insurance fraud when the tracker shows activity that doesn’t match the person’s injury claims. It can also be used to identify your whereabouts when a crime was committed- a potential alibi or smoking gun, as the case may be. In one situation, a woman was charged with making a false crime report after her Fitbit contradicted her timeline. With unclear guidelines on what is protected and isn’t, it seems the data from your wearable can and will be used against you in a court of law.

In response to these privacy concerns, some companies have made improvements. Fitbit, for example, voluntarily complied with HIPAA in order to partner with corporate wellness programs. Also, many companies have changed their default settings to opt-in rather than opt-out as was the case before. These are positive changes in a world where personal privacy is at a premium.

It’s clear wearables and other technologies such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are only increasing in popularity, so what can you do to protect yourself? You can start with one of the most obvious but often avoided tasks- read the fine print. Understand the privacy policy of the tech you’ve adopted and what the company can and cannot do with your data. Participating in a workplace wellness program is great for the culture, health benefits and friendly competition, but before handing over your wearable data, learn what the policy is and what it means to you. Understand where your information goes and what you can do if there is an adverse impact. Check your privacy settings on wearables with social components to ensure you’re only sharing information you’re comfortable with and do your research before buying to understand what you’re getting.

Once you’ve done all that, there’s only one thing left to do. Get up and kill that daily step goal.

Do Your Numbers Survive the Tank?

With almost all marketing associated with eDiscovery, Law Firms, Providers and Software companies alike tout that an advantage of using Acme Company is “Efficiency,” but how are people measuring efficiency? A year ago, at our Ipro Innovations conference, we had a breakout session where we posed the question “Do you know your cost per GB?” Of the 40 or so attendees at that session, not a single person raised their hand. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone was surprised by that non-reaction. Yet here we are claiming “I am the most efficient person in all the land”.

For those who know me, I am an avid fan of the show Shark Tank. I am always impressed by how well prepared the “Pitchers” are with being able to regurgitate their numbers- cost per unit, cost to ship, if we can get a bigger Purchase Order we can use a manufacturer that will drop the price per unit by $0.32. Why can’t our industry do the same? Do we care? Is the pricing model too convoluted? Is it impossible to calculate all the factors? Project Management, Software, Hardware, Storage, Technicians, to name a few. Everyone states that pricing is a “Race to the Bottom,” so there is more pressure on companies involved with hosting to be as aggressive as possible on pricing.

But if efficiency is truly important and a market differentiator, shouldn’t it be emphasized from the top down? When speaking with Chief Officers, Directors and others involved with the bottom line they are interested in how to become efficient. Experience tells us, that’s where the discussion stops. When a company is looking to evaluate a new solution, tool or workflow, the details are usually handed off to an analyst of some sort to go through a spreadsheet of some “374” line items of features they must test. Rarely in my experience have I seen a spreadsheet like this contain something associated with “efficiency.” More importantly, if the analyst decrees that the solution they are evaluating doesn’t have “27” items they want then that solution is deemed a non-solution. But wait, what if a solution allowed you to gain 32% more efficiency overall and those items deemed as non-starters only pertain to 6% of your projects. Does the 32% efficiency on the 94% outweigh the 6%? Do you have a way to calculate that information? Shouldn’t it be weighed? Does the analyst have any guidance as to how to measure that?

I was talking to a CTO just a few weeks back after Legal Week in New York, and we were both lamenting the perception that our industry is so unique we can’t treat our businesses like others outside our industry. Business is business is business, and if you don’t know your numbers, how can you make decisions on pricing, staffing, ROI, TCO? How do you teach your staff about the importance of efficiency? Data sizes are not going down, but pricing is. Wouldn’t the ultimate goal be to do more with the same? With outsiders starting to take an active interest in the direction of eDiscovery maybe it’s time to start paying attention to more than the top line revenue and EBITDA alone. And for some, how do you get an offer from one of the Sharks?

A day in the life of Ipro Support

Ipro Tech’s Support team is more than just a group of people doing a job. We collaborate, encourage each other, and have fun along the way. Our support team is there when a client needs us whether for a complicated challenge or just to answer a quick question. Our work starts and ends with a simple phone call, but much goes on behind the scenes to deliver that level of service. Here’s a peek into the day to day reality and what it takes to get the job done.

As a team, we operate from 5 AM to 7 PM MST/AZ, so our shifts are sprinkled throughout the day to maintain coverage of all phone queues. Our team is made up of Technical Support Engineers, Escalation Engineers, and a select number of elite members, now referred to as the SWAT (Special Workflows and Technology) team.

While our team isn’t massive, we are sized well to handle the volumes, consistently maintaining around 2 dozen support representatives in the phone queue. The work climate is relaxed, but focused, with bouts of intense troubleshooting weaving through the open air of the department. Many times, clusters of team members huddle around a computer to help a peer troubleshoot a client’s challenge because we all want to learn and contribute our knowledge. Even the newest members of the Ipro Support group become well acquainted with the entire team after only a couple weeks due to the amount of interaction and collaboration. We each share our experiences to ensure the best outcome for our clients.

Everyone plays a part in keeping the team operating smoothly and we all wear many hats. There are hats for maintaining the test rack environments, moderating the Ipro Community forum, training team members to take on more responsibilities, creating useful software utilities, updating organizational tools, or just being an install guru or software expert. It is important to our team to ensure the customer is comfortable and knowledgeable about the software and always know we are there to assist with any level of question.

We arrive for work, hop into the phone queue, build comradery as we rely on each other, play with Sparky when she trots around, and enjoy Pizza Thursday and Popsicle Friday together. We work past scheduled hours, meet on weekends for extra training, and generally have a good time working in a call center that really doesn’t feel like a call center at all.

It takes someone special and talented to be a part of this team. It isn’t always easy, but we learn so much along the way and love sharing our knowledge with our customers. We are committed to the success of our customers and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure an awesome Ipro experience.

When Free Speech, Social Media, and Employment Collide. What are the Rules?

The rights of Americans are constantly in the news lately. Often the discourse questions if the rights supersede any potentially damaging effects, such as gun control and Second Amendment Rights. But this article is about The First Amendment, how it relates to social media use in the workplace and what are the rights of both the employee and employer. According to Pew Research Center, approximately 1 in 7 Americans use some form of social media, about 69% of the population. In other words, that’s a lot of people. The likelihood that some of those users are in the workplace is a given. With the prevalence of smartphones, smart watches, and a tablet or laptop in everyone’s hand, the chances that an employee completes their workday without accessing any social media platform is slim. So, what are the legalities concerning this ever-growing trend?

In 2017, you may have heard the story of an anchor on ESPN who received a highly publicized suspension for her Twitter activity in which she posted controversial remarks about the president and commentary about the disciplining NFL players for Anthem kneeling, but did she break ESPN’s rules? What about an employee who posts on social media complaining about their boss, their coworkers, or the work environment? Is there a difference? Yes and no. Some of what we say on social media is protected, some are governed by an employer’s policy, and some of it is fair game. Let’s take a look at each.

In the case of the ESPN employee, she works for a high-profile company that sponsors sporting events. Speaking out in any way that suggests a boycott or otherwise could be seen as a direct negative implication to her employer. That type of commentary is decidedly different than complaining the women’s restroom is always out of toilet paper. The ESPN employee may be bound under the company’s social media policy that she not publicly engage in dialogue that could be detrimental to her employer. Breaking that policy gives the company the right to take disciplinary action.

What does the law protect? The First Amendment doesn’t apply in all cases of social media use, but there are regulations that protect some of what people post. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOC), if an employee goes online to express concerns about illegal activity, such as discrimination, it is absolutely unlawful to retaliate against that employee by taking disciplinary action. Doing so can result in a lawsuit. For public sector employees, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) dishing about wage details and other job conditions is also protected. Another important factor is considering how the employer learned of the employee’s social media activity. The employer has to be given access in a way that is freely accessible. For example, if the employee “friends” their boss on Facebook or follows coworkers on Twitter who share the post with the employer, then it is an acceptable method of accessing the information. If the employee uses company email or a business computer to tweet, the boss has open access to it and a legitimate right to view it. Also, any publicly accessible information, such as Glassdoor.com, can be viewed by employers.

The more we talk about the different scenarios the more convoluted it can be on both ends. But there are ways to simplify things. For employers, ensure there is a clear and specific social media policy in place located in the employee handbook and discussed with new hires. Ensure the policy complies fully with federal, state and regulatory laws. It’s also helpful to have an electronic policy in place regarding business resources for personal use. Clear policies can help clarify the blurred lines between work and personal life. To avoid legal but uncomfortable posts from friends and colleagues, consider a personal policy of limiting social media interactions with colleagues to LinkedIn, which is designed for professional networking.

For employees, be aware of your company’s policy on social media use. Depending on your personal use, consider limiting friendships with coworkers to LinkedIn. If you have particularly strong views on politics, religion, or other polarizing topics, think before you “follow”, “friend” or “connect” with coworkers on social media. Depending on your role and company, evaluate whether what you’re about to post is in your best interest or could come back to bite you later. A good rule of thumb is to visualize your post splashed on the front of the Wall Street Journal. If that idea makes you squirm, you probably shouldn’t post it.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Social media can and does have many positive uses, such as employees posting about fun work events, great culture, or job openings. Sites such as LinkedIn are great networking tools amongst professionals in the same industry for keeping up with trends, education opportunities, and networking events. Employees posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter about their great job and company is always good PR. When it comes to smart social media use, the important takeaway is ensuring both employer and employee understand the rules.