Each e-discovery step overlaps with compliance objectives and involves many disparate groups of people, sets of data and parallel processes. This process is marked by collaborative problems, expanding budgets, tight time frames and chaos. Few companies have a handle on all the information, constituents and knowledge needed for success.

Even small gaps in e-discovery can result in operational inefficiency, fines, sanctions and reputational damage. By taking the time to assess e-discovery process gaps and build compliance and repeatability into their processes, enterprises can proactively — and effectively — address e-discovery requirements, even when requirements keep changing.

Information in large organizations is segmented, duplicated and often stored in several locations. Documents rarely contain metadata and often lack ownership control. To close information gaps and keep costs in check, create a data map. With a data map, your organization will be able to answer the following questions:

  • Where is your electronically stored information (ESI) stored?
  • Is your ESI replicated? Where and how?
  • Do you have clear, written records retention policies? How are they enforced?
  • Is compliance monitored? How?
  • How do you cross-reference your list of expired records with a list of active legal holds to avoid data spoliation?

"A company no longer has the luxury of waiting until discovery is required to understand what ESI they have, where it is and whether the information may be considered inaccessible," said Corey Reitz, senior e-discovery analyst at Sandia National Laboratories. "A comprehensive, automated solution that tracks and analyzes data sources is mandatory."

Many constituents must work closely together if the right data is to be preserved at the right time by the right people and if the preservation, collection, deduplication and review processes are to go smoothly.

Duplicated efforts can lead to inefficiency, and miscommunication can lead to high costs and missed deadlines. Without a centralized way to track these communications, e-discovery can become inefficient and expensive. Many companies manage communications through spreadsheets, but an automated solution with automatic time and date stamps is the best option for organizations seeking persistent compliance.

A thorough gap analysis will help your organization to determine how to reduce redundancies and streamline the entire e-discovery process, thus, transforming it from a point-tool frenzy to a streamlined, repeatable and defensible process.

"Nearly every legal team that handles more than a negligible amount of litigation should consider automating some or all parts of their processes, particularly where e-discovery is involved," said Sal Mancuso, litigation support manager at Wilkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

Tracking and reporting on the legal team's processes can also help to reduce redundancies. You can't track what you can't measure, so it's important to constantly and consistently monitor your process so it can be continuously improved.

Project management tools and techniques will effectively address process and collaboration gaps. The majority of e-discovery costs are in time — time taken by internal legal, IT and records management teams, billable hours from high-priced outside counsel and time taken by business unit owners. According to a study by Exterro and Huron Consulting Group, litigation costs per matter can be reduced by about 35% with the implementation of a comprehensive legal project management solution.

A project management approach delivers the ability to predict the volume and location of data for review, enables early case assessment, reduces duplicated efforts and simplifies the tracking process. It facilitates collaboration between all parties and enables companies to meet deadlines. And finally, it's important to evaluate your processes against real metrics, like billable hours.

BOBBY BALACHANDRAN [bobby.balachandran@exterro.com], president and CEO of Exterro Inc., brings solutions in legal hold, discovery management and ESI data mapping to the legal industry. His strong background is reflected in Exterro's Fusion solutions, which allow legal and IT teams to mitigate risks and control costs for legal processes.