The Rapid Transformation to a Remote Global Workforce
Updated: Aug 15, 2020
On April 15, 2020, Ari Kaplan published an interview with Bob Rowe and Jamie Berry, the CEO and litigation business unit leader, respectively, for Integreon, a provider of alternative legal services, on his Reinventing Professionals podcast. (This article is a transcript of the podcast - see podcast reinventing professionals).
Ari Kaplan: Bob, tell us about Integreon and how it is adapting to the current environment.
Bob Rowe: We are a global provider of legal and business solutions to law firms, law departments, and professional services firms. Our focus principally is in the areas of litigation, contracts, compliance, cyber, and administrative services. We have eight facilities across Asia, India, the UK, and the U S so we're doing well because of our global footprint and given the kinds of services we provide. This is a terrible crisis, obviously, but in the last couple of years in various countries and continents, we have experienced as a company, monsoons, typhoons, volcanoes, hurricanes, and political instability so business continuity has been a huge priority for this company for years. The pandemic, of course, is tragic and global in nature and so we have had to react rapidly and globally as opposed to some of these other issues and crises, which were more regional. We have 3,000 employees and 97% to 98% of them are now working from home so we have been fortunate.
Ari Kaplan: Jamie, Bob noted that thousands of Integreon’s employees are working remotely. What technologies and workflow strategies has the company leveraged to make these changes?
Jamie Berry: In addition to giving all of our people the ability to work from home, we were able to secure those environments to collaborate and provide them with an opportunity to be productive for our clients. From a workflow perspective, we expanded our secure remote review environment and continue to use watermarks within that secure environment to protect the confidentiality and security of documents that our reviewers are evaluating as they're working from home. It certainly has been a Herculean effort and it is really tough to understand how long this is going to be a part of our new normal. And, I'm not so sure if the industry itself can un-ring the bell. As a result, we all need to understand the best ways we can adapt to ensure that we're productive and have the technologies in place to collaborate in a secure fashion so that we protect the security and confidentiality of the clients that we're serving.
Ari Kaplan: Bob, from a leadership perspective, how have you managed to achieve this transition so quickly on a global scale?
Bob Rowe: A lot of teaming. We have a very large services footprint and a couple of different platforms as a company that we operate on depending on our client's needs. When this started breaking, it wasn't something as simple as, well, we all operate on platform X and have laptops, so let's all just go home and plug into our work from home environment. There were multiple challenges across the company that for us started in the Philippines as it is so close to China. It quickly spread to the U.S., then India, and then the UK in very quick succession. We held daily calls with the leadership team and had processes and procedures that we implemented locally, regionally, even on a country-wide basis. If someone had said a month before that our entire company of 3,000 employees would go from a standing start in our offices to securely working from home in a productive and hopefully a high morale environment, I think we would all have wondered if we could really accomplish that. The softer skills, such as patience, over-communicating, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and empathy were very important because while we are all employees, we have families, extended families, and school situations, among many other issues. Those softer skills were important to us as a leadership team. We committed to the company that we would lead by example with those skills and I think that went a long way towards executing on a coordinated basis.
Ari Kaplan: Jamie, how have you been able to safeguard the security of your files and the transmission of that material in this work from home environment?
Jamie Berry: Security not only matters for us, but given the business that we are in, it certainly matters for our clients. We not only have to protect our information from those on the outside, but also from people in the office that may inadvertently make a mistake without a nefarious intent. We are cognizant of this whenever we are designing new workflows. There are many technologies that are in play, but something as small as making people sign their non-disclosure agreements is important. We use biometric security to lock computer screens when document reviewers are sitting in a brick and mortar Integreon facility, but, even now, when they get up to grab lunch or teach third-grade math and forget to lock their screens, the webcam that is attached to that computer will recognize that there is no one sitting in front of the screen anymore and they will lock it. There is incredible biometric software that is in beta mode right now that can prevent reviewers from using their cell phone in front of the screens to eliminate unwanted photography and such.
Ari Kaplan: Bob, what specific challenges is the legal industry now facing and which of those do you expect to continue into the near future?
Bob Rowe: We are asking ourselves how long our various facilities will either be subject to shelter in place, have curfews, and otherwise be closed. When you start thinking about work from home over the long term, there are all sorts of logistical challenges with respect to computers freezing or breaking, and replacing that equipment. We are actually seeing increases in cybersecurity work, managed review, and business services. We need to figure out how to interview, hire, on-board, and support new team members in a virtual and isolated environment. We want to make those new team members feel like they are part of the team virtually. And from a client perspective, we cannot meet in person in the current environment. In fact, a lot of these issues are not just specific to the legal industry. We are facing those same challenges from our perspective as an alternative legal services provider. We're cautiously optimistic about business prospects and we're also hopeful this pandemic will land very quickly, but then again, the reality is we're planning for a long-term situation.
Ari Kaplan: Jamie, what advice do you have for companies that are still perfecting their work from home solutions?
Jamie Berry: I am constantly talking to peers, clients, and leaders in the legal industry to learn. Having a support structure that includes relevant leaders in the space, listening to their ideas, and recognizing that we all can learn from each other is critical. We'd like to think of ourselves as naturally resilient people, but we often as leaders anticipate that everybody else is like that and that's just not the case. Ultimately, innovation is people, process, and technology. We are innovating every day because the situation is making us innovate. If we focus on the people aspect of that innovation, we can learn a lot there. As part of that, be vulnerable. Don't be afraid to let your guard down, which can be as simple as turning your videoconferencing on. It doesn't matter if your dog's behind you or your child interrupts you. We're all in the same boat. Also, slow down. The world isn't going anywhere. Give yourself some time to think about creative, innovative solutions, and don’t rush to judgment. Similarly, rely on your teammates. We have to rely on delegating to the people we've hired to be part of our teams so that they can own and help design creative solutions, including the person that we just hired last week. Send them a survey and ask them about their onboarding experience and what we could do better from a collaboration standpoint. My advice focuses on the soft people skills that are of paramount importance during this time.
Ari Kaplan: Bob, where do you see the legal industry headed in light of the current crisis?
Bob Rowe: Some of the opportunities in the legal industry started well before this pandemic. The alternative legal services market has been an alternative to traditional models for decades. There is still an influx of capital that has created many opportunities for innovation. I don't that is going to change, but it will accelerate change in the industry and we are already seeing it in our discussions with clients over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, when the pandemic passes and people are able to go back to more of a business as usual travel schedule and go into offices, those mindsets will not evaporate and we will continue to ask how can we do things differently. From a business standpoint, we see a lot of opportunity.
About the Author
Ari Kaplan (http://www.AriKaplanAdvisors.com) regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at http://www.ReinventingProfessionals.com.
Listen to his conversation with Bob Rowe and Jamie Berry at Integreon here: https://www.reinventingprofessionals.com/the-rapid-transformation-to-a-remote-global-workforce/