The Top Six Trends in eDiscovery

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I recently discussed trends in the eDiscovery field with Sarah Brown, corporate communications director at Exterro. We agreed on six trends that will be particularly strong in 2011: project management, cloud positioning, social media, interdisciplinary teams, interoperability, and in-house eDiscovery.

Project Management

Workflow-based project management has suffered from some confusion in the marketplace. eDiscovery users tend to confuse project management with case/matter management, which is a very different ball of wax. Matter management is the realm of the lawyers, while project management involves the IT and legal departments because it manages workflow through multiple eDiscovery processes. This is particularly true with the initial collection phase, which is increasingly in IT’s court. Professional project management will likely come from attorneys with project management expertise, or from project management professionals with eDiscovery expertise. We see legal project management as a specialized skill set that will become more in demand.

Impact on IT: IT will see more professional project managers for eDiscovery. They may work closely with them on interdisciplinary teams and will be impacted by project management deadlines for IT tasks such as collection. IT professionals may be interested in pursuing further education and experience at eDiscovery project management.

Cloud Positioning

The cloud was all the rage in 2010, and that has continued in2011. I never liked the term ‘cloud’ since it is largely market-speak for traditional Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Application Service Providers (ASP). However, I was unable to push back the tide and must now adopt the cloud terminology.

I am seeing is a more down-to-earth view of what the cloud is to eDiscovery: a software and/or storage delivery model that is useful in some, but not all, environments. Cloud-based software delivery has been around for some time as SaaS. But cloud-based storage of responsive data is more challenging. If a company or law firm is archiving data to the cloud, or is uploading a data set for hosted eDiscovery services, they must be very certain that the cloud computing environment is physically and electronically secure. We do not recommend public networks such as those from Google and Amazon. These companies are technologically sophisticated, but rarely (or never) offer SLAs — even to major customers.

Impact on IT: Private clouds from established eDiscovery vendors are generally secure, but IT should do due diligence before uploading data. Help the legal department to understand the nature of the cloud-based service: software delivery, data storage for eDiscovery services, or a combination.

Social Media

The idea of requiring eDiscovery in social media has been a threat to attorneys for years. Facebook and Twitter are the usual suspects but there are others, such as SharePoint collaborative data that is not managed within the controlled environment of the document libraries. The latter is easier to accomplish than the former with new SharePoint tools coming into the market. But Facebook and Twitter are very different, since content is not owned nor controlled by the business.

When an eDiscovery order includes searching company employees’ posts, the business has a problem – it cannot preserve external social media content nor search it with impunity. Companies don’t run into this every day, of course. In many cases the burden of dealing with social media organizations such as Facebook is non-proportional to the scope of the matter, and judges will either not require it or will accept an undue burden argument. But this issue will crop up more and more as employees conduct or comment on business using social media sites.

Impact on IT: Drive to establish defensible policies on employees’ use of social media sites. If the company has SharePoint, consider investing in tools that let you search collaborative content, not just the document libraries.

Interdisciplinary teams

Joint IT and legal teams have been a best practice for eDiscovery for several years. In practice, however, only a few companies have established them, since it is difficult to facilitate collaboration between two such different groups. But as the risks of poor eDiscovery increase, the idea of interdisciplinary teams grows more compelling.

eDiscovery is an exceptionally complex process involving people, sub-processes and technologies. This complicated process impacts attorneys, IT, records management, governance and compliance; making it extremely important for teams to develop a repeatable eDiscovery workflow model. This is a big project, but once done the company will have an effective process for dealing with continuing eDiscovery matters.

Impact on IT: Help drive the push to interdisciplinary teams. These teams collaboratively develop plans and technologies for data mapping, foundational information management, collection and preservation, analytics and processing, data movement for review, and more. There is an initial large investment of time, but once the policies are in operation the eDiscovery process will be far more streamlined.


Interoperability can be a big challenge for the eDiscovery workflow. Large data sets are continually loaded and off-loaded between eDiscovery stages. The process is non-linear as data is frequently added to and shifted between eDiscovery applications.

These steps and stages threaten data loss, cost significant time and money, and are poorly defensible. Tighter integration improves this scenario by easing data movement between the stages and applications. eDiscovery vendors tend to do this in two ways: 1) develop or acquire software to complete a process-wide platform of their own, or 2) improve APIs and connectors between their software and other vendors’ offerings. There is some pressure towards single-vendor platforms, but not every vendor can do this — and not every customer wants it. Certainly a place remains for highly interconnected multi-vendor products.

Impact on IT: If your company has not invested much in eDiscovery, consider purchasing a vendor platform that already integrates multiple stages. If you have existing investment, then look to point products that are highly integrated with your existing eDiscovery technologies.

In-House eDiscovery

In-house eDiscovery remains a strong trend, but a complicated one. First, very few companies are prepared to throw resources at a soup-to-nuts in-house eDiscovery process. Several stages, particularly review and production, are better suited to external firms with the specialized resources to accomplish them. But corporations are very interested in bringing collections, early analytics and processing in-house. They are also interested in using early document analysis to shrink data sizes at the review stage, and even to review small matters in-house while throwing larger matters over the wall.

Corporate culture and the legal department’s resources also come into play here in deciding how much of the eDiscovery process to bring or keep in-house. Certainly service providers and law firms want to see outsourced eDiscovery, and they can if they enable the corporation to maintain control and visibility into the process. This is why smart service providers and law firms are offering far more control, visibility and cost management to their corporate clients than they used to. They are also more inclined to match review platforms to the corporation’s preferences.

Impact on IT: In-house collections is impacting IT more and more. Consider installing archiving software and systems for better recoverability, along with software that searches collaborative applications such as SharePoint, FileNet or Documentum.

Christine Taylor is an Analyst with The Taneja Group, an industry research firm that provides analysis and consulting for the storage industry, storage-related aspects of the server industry, and eDiscovery. Christine has researched and written extensively on the role of technology in eDiscovery, compliance and governance, and information management.

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Christine Taylor
Christine Taylor
Christine Taylor is a writer and content strategist. She brings technology concepts to vivid life in white papers, ebooks, case studies, blogs, and articles, and is particularly passionate about the explosive potential of B2B storytelling. She also consults with small marketing teams on how to do excellent content strategy and creation with limited resources.

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