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Enabling Automated Information Technology with Advanced Artificial Intelligence

Van Richardson: Enabling Automated Information Technology with Advanced Artificial Intelligence


December 14, 2021


The emergence of remote working amid the COVID-19 pandemic has created dramatic shifts in how organizations communicate, collaborate, and operate. With the massive volumes of data and knowledge within organizations today, finding, sharing, and mining critical knowledge for reuse – especially when working remotely– is time-consuming and can drain productivity. Modern organizations understand that the benefits of effective knowledge activation extend beyond empowering their workers for greater efficiency – also translating into delivery of higher quality services for clients. iManage is an innovative company that helps legal and professional services organizations and their knowledge work professionals work more productively. Van Richardson leads the Enterprise Information Technology and Workplace Solutions for the company.


A Successful Provision of Cloud-Enabled, Advanced AI Solutions

CIO of iManage, Van Richardson explains that iManage’s cloud-enabled, secure, platform for knowledge work enables organizations to uncover and activate the knowledge that exists inside their business content and communications. Advanced AI and powerful document and email management can create connections across data, systems, and people. Crucially, iManage solutions can build connections based on the context of the content, which fuels deep insights, informed business decisions, and collaboration. Underpinned by best-of-breed security, the company innovates to solve complex professional challenges and enable better business outcomes for its global customers.

In a nutshell, iManage helps legal and professional organizations work more productively, smarter, and securely, focusing on ‘making knowledge work,’ recognizing that knowledge is the engine that drives performance, outcomes, and value to the customers.


A Multi-Talented Leader

Van has been working in the IT sector for more than 20 years and has led the department of Enterprise Information Technology and Workplace Solutions. Everything that involves internally supporting the company’s global business is within his responsibilities. He also provides technological support to the engineering organization to enable efficiency in their work.

Van’s mandate is wide-ranging. His areas of responsibility within the organization include infrastructure (network, datacenter, cloud, servers, and systems), global service delivery (service desk and end user support), corporate IT security (firewalls, encryption, system hardening, policies and procedures), collaboration (Office 365, Zoom, VoIP), business applications, data, and business intelligence. Within these domains, his biggest priorities are the security of the company’s endpoints, protecting data in flight, and end-user training. 

Van received both a bachelor of science, with a specialization in business, and an MBA, with a specialization in information technology, from Capella University. Currently, Van is pursuing a Doctorate in business administration, with a specialization in information technology, from the University of Phoenix and expects completion by 2022. Overall, Van’s education has been a blend of business and IT, which has served him well in his current role.


The Journey Towards Becoming a Successful CIO

Van describes the technology initiative he led to make the organization entirely remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a purposefully orchestrated and collaborative effort. In preparation for successfully addressing the new work paradigm, he met with business stakeholders and teams to understand the requirements. He also implemented systems, processes, and tools to handle the new way of working. The company coordinated with its vendors within various geographic regions to ensure it had the appropriate technical resources to handle the organization’s needs. Van led virtual ‘IT Café’ sessions to aid the workforce in getting used to working remotely throughout the pandemic. Based on the work, the team was voted Team of the Year by the company’s global organization. 

As described by Van, the company had 5 video collaboration tools and 4 instant messaging platforms. This complexity added major confusion to the workforce, and there was a growing need to reduce the friction. Van met with business leaders across the organization and took pulse surveys on use cases and user sentiment. Within 3 months, the company consolidated to 1 tool in each area, reducing the number of video tools by 80%, and the number of messaging tools by 75%, which helped to deliver greater efficiency, collaboration, and user satisfaction.

The likelihood for teams wanting to use tools that they are familiar with – which are oftentimes cloud or SaaS products – is increasing. Team members want to use the same tools that they use at home and in their personal life. So, Van implemented a SaaS management tool that allows him to integrate with SaaS providers and look for utilization. It gives Van a view into duplication, as well as a view of spending that is being expensed. This allowed him to standardize on common tools, eliminate costs to credit cards that aren’t in line with the standard, and implement processes to manage the onboarding of new tools within the enterprise.


Using Smart Communication to Combat Covid-19 Challenges

On the IT front, one of the first things Van did when the initial stirrings of COVID-19 were being reported was to conduct some initial assessments of the company’s systems – including video conferencing, IM, VPN, remote access, and other key technologies – to make sure that they operated as expected and would be fully performant. According to Van, these third-party tools have been invaluable, but the company is also well-positioned to support remote working and collaboration, simply by the nature of its core product offering – iManage Work 10.

With iManage Work 10 emails and documents from disparate sources can be organized, managed, and stored in one repository as a single source of truth that is available from any device, any location at any time. The SaaS platform provides access to critical document and emails with best-in-class security and governance, allowing organizations to be more agile, collaborative, and responsive to business demands. These capabilities aren’t only game-changing for customers, who increasingly want greater flexibility in endpoints and mobility, but for iManage users as well.

As the company has transitioned to making remote working ‘business as usual’ during these unusual times, communication has been key: educating the workforce about the tools that are available to them and how they should use them. Everyone needs a little education when the normal routine is upended. Van’s role as CIO is understanding what the people need and then working collaboratively to deliver on that. Like People Ops or Finance, IT impacts everyone in an organization.

Van emphasized that the IT team provides the foundation for everyone to get their jobs done. When the company has done its job properly, its ability to react to situations like COVID-19 or to turn on a dime from office-based work to working from home can take place much faster because the company has done its homework and has prepared in advance. That’s how the company, as an organization, can ensure that everyone stays safe in the face of the current COVID-19 challenges, even while it maintains a focus on what drives it as a company.


‘Right Decision at Right Time’ Makes a Successful Leader

According to Van, a leader must make informed decisions. He also notes that he learned early on that leaders can spend too much time looking for the right answer and miss the opportunity to course-correct immediately. Over the years, he has learned to use his experience and business expertise to quickly make decisions and delegate as needed. Van asks, “Who wants to be the leader of the ship and immediately hit resistance?” He described that he has learned that business stakeholders are more willing to support IT initiatives if they understand the reason for the direction. Better yet, they want to be a part of setting the course. If done successfully, they will be the company’s champions while the leader focuses on meeting the goal.


Innovation as a Tool to Bring Positive Changes

Van stated, “Whether it was leading the IT team at ITT, Grubhub, or my current home at iManage, innovative technology enablement has been and continues to be a passion of mine.” He shared that he focuses on bringing his diverse expertise to support fast-paced and energetic environments. Van has a passion to develop and lead successful teams, and most importantly, he has a passion to learn. He looks forward to continuing to be an agent of change, a force for innovation, and a positive example for everyone he interacts with.


Automation at the Top of Future Prospects

In Van’s words, “I have no shortage of priorities for the coming year! Automation is at the top of the list.” According to him, anything that can be automated should be automated. This includes routine tasks, like the systems’ deployment, as well as an intelligent response to threats, and service request management. Van’s other priorities include continuing to rationalize corporate applications by removing duplication and finalizing standard offerings, ensuring a secure and safe return to the office once the pandemic has receded, and finalizing a corporate move-to-Cloud strategy. Van believes that being a technology leader requires a unique perspective that focuses on transparency and partnerships with the business. 


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