Proactive vs. Reactive eDiscovery: Which is best for you?

Having a good eDiscovery solution is one of the cornerstones of an effective information governance strategy. However, this is one area that many businesses still struggle with every year. According to a recent AIIM article, very few companies feel that they are prepared for the kind of full-scale eDiscovery activities that a court order might demand. In an age where the ability to search and collect electronic documents becomes more important with every passing day, this area still represents a huge challenge to many organizations.

Over my last few months here at Sherpa, I can point out a dozen customers who called in with essentially the same scenario:they were facing litigation and were ordered to provide information on a very tight deadline. Lacking any eDiscovery solution already in place, they turned to one of our products, Discovery Attender, to help them quickly search and collect data from email stores and file shares.

In one customer’s case, they were required to provide information to their attorneys by the end of the week. Being forced to react to an urgent request exposed the cracks in the customer’s (non-existent) eDiscovery planning. To help expedite their request, they purchased Discovery Attender and were scrambling to collect data from their older systems. Under mounting pressure from theirhigher-ups, they required Sherpa’s technical assistance in figuring out how to craft an effective searching strategy.  Happily, we were able to assist them in meeting their deadlines, but it was a frustrating case for the customer and one that only could have been averted by adopting a more proactive approach.

Being proactive means that customer is prepared for these kinds of requests. Policies, personnel and procedures could have been in place without a court deadline breathing down their neck. They would have avoided cost, time and stress by having a team identified, tools established and a list of what questions needed to be answered before litigation reared its ugly head. The proactive approach would have established how much of the process can be handled internally, the training of personnel, the testing for solution interaction with the rest of IT systems and best practices for efficient eDiscovery searches. Readiness, in essence, means shaving away some of the huge costs and much of the stress associated with eDiscovery.

The proactive approach would also allow for better integration of a chosen eDiscovery solution into the company’s overall approach for information governance. EDiscovery solutions – like those targeted for retention, compliance and records management – should be an integral part of any well-established IG program. Having the time to discuss how any piece of software would fit into a company’s existing strategy isn’t something that can’t be done in a reactive mode.  Questions need to be answered such as:

  • Can existing resources be leveraged?
  • Where is critical data stored?
  • How is data deleted?
  • What is the scope of the chosen product?
  • What areas are covered by this solution (e.g. email, file shares), and what areas remain difficult to access (e.g. backup tapes)?
  • Who owns the data?
  • What policies are already in place?

Any eDiscovery solution must fit the overall needs of your company or it might add burdens to other departments, which could in turn increase liability or redundancy.

With all this in mind, taking the time to be proactive about implementing an eDiscovery solution is the best course of action for just about everyone. Industry leaders recommend it and best practices demand it, and Sherpa’s customer examples support this conclusion.  As Sherpa’s own Marta Farensbach states, “Your best chance at handling critical events with minimal liability or disruption hinges on effective information management, proactive policy creation and a well audited electronic discovery process.”

 

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