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Microsoft’s Fluid Framework is Another Illustration of How Discoverable Data is Evolving

Written by Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today

In the Practical Information Governance: Balancing Risk, Compliance & Innovation session at Legalweek that I covered here, IPRO CEO Dean Brown provided a terrific example of how the evolution of data within the workplace is continuing to create new challenges for information governance and eDiscovery professionals everywhere – the “.fluid” file type created by Microsoft. I hadn’t heard of Microsoft Fluid before and was intrigued, so I decided to gather some information and write about it.

Microsoft Fluid Framework

Microsoft Fluid is a new framework in Office that enhances collaboration between teams, document sharing, and task distribution. This powerful tool is based on blocks of different components such as tables, graphs, or dynamic lists that can be edited by several users in real-time. It was introduced at the Build 2019 developer conference and the following year, Microsoft announced it would be open-sourced and the code for the Fluid Framework was published on GitHub in September 2020.

The Verge called Fluid documents “Google Docs on steroids” and stated: “The tables, graphs, and lists that you typically find in Office documents are transforming into living, collaborative modules that exist outside of traditional documents.” These “Lego blocks” are called “Fluid components”, and they can be edited in real time by anyone in any app. For example, you could create a table without having to switch to multiple apps to get it done, and the table will persist on the web like a Lego block, free for anyone to use and edit.

Last year, Microsoft’s Fluid framework began to arrive in Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Outlook, and Whiteboard. It was first made available to Microsoft 365 Enterprise users. It’s slowly being rolled across the Microsoft ecosystem.

Impact on Information Governance and eDiscovery Professionals

As use of the Fluid framework begins to pick up steam, the Information Governance and eDiscovery challenges associated with it will become evident as well. Just as the move to the cloud led to more hyperlinked files as “modern attachments” has changed the dynamic of document families in eDiscovery, the concept of a static “document” is becoming more diluted because of the trend toward more of them being created with these “Lego block” Fluid components. Static documents will become dynamic documents consisting of multiple components. That’s great for collaboration, but it makes discovery of evidence in litigation a whole lot more challenging!

As I mentioned in my look ahead to 2022, changing sources of ESI are continuing to force workflows to evolve and Fluid components are just the latest illustration of that.

From an Information Governance perspective, these Fluid components change the dynamic of in what silo the information resides. Instead of Office docs belonging to the Document Management silo, these Fluid components will move more information into the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) silo, which may have different considerations. For example, a static document may have a set retention period, but Fluid components that are used as building blocks in multiple documents may be more difficult to pin down from a retention perspective. On the plus side, the use of these building blocks may eventually reduce the amount of redundant data in organizations.

In short, the traditional idea of a “document” is continuing to erode and legal, eDiscovery and Information Governance professionals need to be prepared to handle the continuing evolution of how organizations manage information today – and tomorrow.

Conclusion

Who says you can’t learn something new and useful at Legalweek sessions! I learned something very useful in that session and it’s something that everyone else in our industry needs to know as well. Thanks, Dean!

And for more educational topics from me related to eDiscovery, information governance, cybersecurity and data privacy, feel free to follow my blog, eDiscovery Today!

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