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Garbage In, Garbage Out


When you look at eDiscovery blogs, comments and articles, all the emphasis seems to be placed upon the review activities over to the right of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model.  Technology Assisted Review, Machine Learning and Predictive Coding, Reusable Review all make the news and are all focused on speeding up the final stages of eDiscovery and reducing its cost.  What seems to be frequently overlooked is the huge amount of effort spent on the left hand side of EDRM, finding the data and feeding into the review process.

Why is this so?

I’ve been working in and around the computing industry for a long time, and when I started out one of the first phrases I heard was “Garbage in, garbage out” or GIGO to give it its acronym.  This was drummed into programmers from the outset, to make sure that they tested their programs at each step to verify their processing.

Everyone involved in eDiscovery activities should bear this principle in mind.  If the data that is being fed into the review stage is incorrect or incomplete, it doesn’t matter how clever your tools and applications are.  GIGO.

Locating and extracting large volumes of data can be complex and time consuming, and as with any complex system, mistakes happen.   That’s why it is critical to invest the time and effort into creating documented processes and controls to verify the data collected is correct.  And it is unreasonable to assume that an IT department can do this, in addition to their day to day task of keeping mission critical systems operating.

Each and every eDiscovery case should be treated as a project, which means that a Project Manager is needed to define activities, assign resources and track progress. Within the project, there will be business processes defined to control the extraction of data and controls to verify that the data meets the requirement and resources are made available so that all the tasks complete as scheduled, to meet any external time constraints.

Documented collection processes are the equivalent of the old developer’s programs.  We can verify the results at every stage to ensure the correct results flow into review.  And using a project approach should reduce costs and timescales.

Everyone does this already, right?  A quick show of hands out there?  Good, I’m pleased for you.

In truth, some companies with a long history of litigation and eDiscovery activities do have this approach.  Here at Innovative Development our consultants have developed and implemented this form of control and continuous process improvement at a number of global enterprises.  There are many companies out there that haven’t, that still react to eDiscovery requests on an ad-hoc basis and for whom GIGO is an unacknowledged truth.