In early February 2010, the Legal Tech event in New York City showcased roughly 200 vendor offerings most of which address one or more pieces of eDiscovery workflow or activities represented by the Electronic Discovery Reference Model EDRM. In talking with scores of buyers and vendors along with catching presentations and panels over a three-day period, three major themes emerged from these discussions:
- Legal is driving technology purchases and with it information management (IM) and information governance (IG) practices.
- Vendors who are primarily IT focused want to appeal more to legal and vendors who have heretofore appealed to litigators want IT to embrace their solutions.
- Point solution vendors are broadening their capabilities to address more EDRM-defined functions, while many larger vendors are adding functionality or additional products to their suites.
Why is legal driving the technology bus?
Despite the best efforts of records management directors, and to some extent IT, too often litigation teams drive technology purchases because they have the budget and, to their credit, they understand the legal process and the workflow as well as the costs and risks associated with non-compliance or poor preparation for activities associated with legal holds, early case assessments, electronic discovery, and disclosure to name a few. Legal teams have experience with poorly implemented, inadequate or expensive solutions and services that do not meet their needs.
Round pegs in square holes
Vendors, in their haste to meet the legal team’s requirements, have created or repurposed a plethora of solutions, many of which were developed to meet content management, storage management, enterprise search, or message archiving requirements. While many good products now exist for the eDiscovery and overall litigation space, these solutions too often exist in an information governance vacuum because they create interoperability nightmares and the need for their own repositories, search engines, and customized connectors to existing file stores, data, and content repositories. While this scenario leads to more business for system integrators and consultants, it creates more difficulties for IT, and can lead to functionality gaps, higher costs, and potentially increased risk.
The case for records management
During Wikibon’s Peer Incite call on February 16th, records management (RM) professionals discussed how enterprises that rely on proven RM solutions, practitioners, and RM maturity models can dramatically lower their eDiscovery costs and risks. Don Martin, senior archivist for the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., described how his TRIM RM solution from Hewlett-Packard allows his staff of doctors and nurse practitioners to quickly review thousands of patient records of various formats and record types as well as centrally manage policy to meet HIPAA and other regulations while efficiently indexing, scanning, and classifying records.
The needs of litigation teams have spawned many new and useful tools to manage the deluge of unstructured content and other forms of electronically stored information (ESI) that burden the ediscovery process. While the legal community has done a reasonably good job of defining the tasks associated with delivering ESI to comply with litigation requirements, overall, vendors have delivered too many point solutions that do not interoperate well, conform to enterprise architectures, or leverage existing technology assets as well as they could. Legal needs not only to drive vendor innovation and work with IT departments but also consider proven RM solutions, practitioners, and their best practices in order to improve governance, decrease risks, and manage costs.
Action Item: More vendors need to build and promote solutions that support good information management and governance practices while moving away from point solutions that do not leverage, or interoperate well with, existing technology assets.