BakerHostetler’s new Digital Transformation and Data Economy Team (DTDE) is presenting a four-part webinar series in May where attorneys will cover legal implications surrounding COVID-19 for business leaders. Panelists, including in-house attorneys and industry experts, will discuss how companies can determine where opportunities and vulnerabilities lie in managing, protecting and leveraging digitization and data assets.
In the May 6, 2020 webinar, “Positioning for What’s Beyond the Horizon: What Digital Transformation and the Data Economy Mean for You,” the panelists provided insight into how companies and individuals are reacting to COVID-19. They discussed how hiring trends indicate the larger role digital transformation and the data economy will have, both now and in a post-COVID-19 world.
How have hiring practices changed because of COVID-19?
Richard Hsu: Virtually all interviewing is now over video, which requires more attention to nonverbal cues and body language and more scrutiny by the hiring companies.
Janine Anthony Bowen: Companies are looking at innovative ways to recruit, interview, and hire in the remote environment post-COVID-19. This can include technology for analyzing the social media of potential hires, and even the use of AI to analyze videos of remote interviews. The regulatory landscape (dealing with issues around consent and potential bias) for use of technologies such as AI is reemerging as the hiring environment may require that companies accelerate adoption of these tools. Employers should consider the pending and active legislation when designing their hiring practices post-COVID-19. States like Illinois, Maryland, California, and others are in the forefront of this movement.
Alicen Blair: The NFL Draft is a good example of how hiring and recruiting has gone digital. This is a very involved, expensive, and public recruiting activity. In April, the NFL Draft included over 250 picks. Overnight, the NFL had to transform this high-profile, complex process to be completely virtual.
What hiring trends are you seeing, and why are they relevant?
Alicen Blair: Digital and supply chain roles have been and continue to be in high demand. At the executive level, the spotlight is on chief data officer roles. Companies need digital experts in the boardroom. Data protection and data privacy continue to remain important, and strategic data experience is vital for the future.
Richard Hsu: Hiring for lawyers has slowed down dramatically or even stopped for many practices; however, privacy and data protection lawyers continue to be a desired skill because of the increased importance of data during this pandemic.
Jeewon Kim Serrato: Especially because of new legislation like GDPR and CCPA and the strategic role data plays in today’s economy, data privacy and data ethics are receiving C-suite-level attention. The industry is continuing to better understand how to harness the power of their own data. You’re either collecting, buying, selling, or using data. Recent hiring trends show that businesses are paying particular attention to the “what,” “how,” “when,” and “why” of their data, which will help them identify opportunities and pitfalls.
These trends show an increased emphasis on data and digital solutions, as well as privacy. What does this mean for business strategy?
Janine Anthony Bowen: Companies are looking for ways to pivot by offering new services to new customers and more services to their existing customers in new and untraditional ways. COVID-19 will be accelerating the pace of this innovation, as some businesses have been caught flat-footed without a thoughtful digital strategy. They are using data, IP, and technology as the foundation for those efforts. Businesses will have to understand the strategic perspective (as opposed to a one-off or myopic view) when negotiating transactions for digital solutions for their customers.
Chad A. Rutkowski: Data provides an opportunity for businesses to pivot. Companies that have taken their data and related innovations seriously are poised to persevere, and possibly thrive, during this storm. For example, companies can use data it already had, like consumer preference data, as a launching point for licensing or [for] evaluating whether to pursue new business avenues.
Jeewon Kim Serrato: The privacy concerns can seem daunting and can restrict certain business activities, but you still can and should leverage your data to the maximum as part of your business strategy. In fact, we are often counseling companies how data can be used to perform better analytics and create revenue. It is important for a company to know not only how it will navigate the legal and regulatory frameworks but also what customers expect and how the use of the data aligns with the organization’s goals. Data for us is about data quality, data integrity and data ethics. It’s important to get it right so that companies can build better products and have meaningful engagements with their customers.
What positives have come out of COVID-19, and how do you see these changes playing out post-COVID-19?
Alicen Blair: The biggest one I’ve seen so far is a decrease in the resistance to remote work. COVID-19 has shown executives who were highly skeptical of remote employees that this is a workable solution. Companies can provide more flexibility for their employees, opening up the possibility of hiring beyond the commuting distance to their facilities and decreasing the overhead associated with office space.
Janine Anthony Bowen: Digital strategy is now top of mind with many companies. COVID-19 has forced companies to give serious thought to their digital approaches to enable their internal business processes and to offer new products and services to their customers.
Chad A. Rutkowski: There is a surge in adoption of open innovation. Informal grassroots data sharing is happening among frontline doctors, and that “in the trenches” sharing has led to more formal sharing at the corporate level, particularly when it comes to treating and developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The Open COVID Pledge facilitates this open innovation, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. For example, it is unclear now how (and to what extent) will IP used to minimize the impact of COVID-19 be licensed one year after the pandemic ends.
Jeewon Kim Serrato: Many companies and specific industries are thriving during COVID-19, and new data sets are being collected and used in innovative ways right now. Businesses that are embedding controls and governance programs to protect their data assets now will have sustained growth post-COVID-19. Chad and I have had many interesting conversations about the benefits of structured data versus the potential uses for unstructured data.
What is the biggest lesson COVID-19 can teach businesses?
Alicen Blair: The fastest-learning organizations and the people who have the ability to reinvent themselves will come out on top.
Chad A. Rutkowski: Data and advanced technologies can enable companies to pivot during difficult times. I expect we will see big advances in technology and data analytics. As we’ve already seen, companies and individuals applying preexisting technology, like 3D printing, to solve new problems, is a good sign of things to come.