Stephanie Tess Blair and Tara S. Lawler
Stephanie Tess Blair and Tara S. Lawler ()

Most organizations have exploding volumes of data scattered throughout the company in various data sources: email, hard drives, shared drives, SharePoint, structured databases, wikis and the cloud. Information governance is the framework that can help an organization and its employees to organize, maintain, use and dispose of information across an enterprise in a manner that meets the organization’s goals and obligations.

It is not the records management discipline of years ago concerned with storing endless amounts of paper in a warehouse. Information governance is, in contrast, a discipline that addresses creation, use, storage, search and retrieval, security, retention and disposition of a company’s information assets. Information governance, however, cannot be implemented in a siloed fashion; rather, it requires a holistic approach to manage information across the entire organization.

Using E-Discovery Analytics

A concept that has emerged over the last few years in response to the explosion of data in litigation is technology-assisted review. Manual review—in the face of ever-increasing data volumes—was falling short. The new assisted technologies achieve greater efficiencies in the e-discovery process by streamlining document reviews and allowing attorneys to identify the most relevant data quicker and more efficiently. So can technology that can be aimed at large volumes of data and stratify its relative importance to a litigation matter help in the information governance struggle? We believe it can.

These two concepts—information governance and technology-assisted review—can help an organization to manage data volumes. A successful information governance program should utilize existing proven technology tools to magnify the power of human decisions about information value through automation. Assessing and categorizing information for business value, risk, knowledge, privacy and retention across an entire organization cannot be achieved by brute-force reviews, but rather by applying smart technology trained in the business subject matter.

Utilizing Technology

Imagine that you have put a defensible litigation readiness program in place inside your organization. You have reams of checklists, preservation forms and even automated legal hold tools. As part of that program, you issue legal holds and conservatively overpreserve. The result? A growing collection of legal hold data for a variety of matters. From a risk-management standpoint, keeping those data volumes can open the company to even more potential liability. But the daunting task of having to review the entire collection to know what to keep and what to discard can keep even the most well-intentioned company from tackling it.

Using some of the tested technology-assisted review tools can make the task a little more manageable. If we can train these tools to know what is or is not important in a litigation or merger context, is there really anything different in training them to understand what to keep and what to discard? Based on the results from several pilots on a variety of tools, the answer is no. Companies can achieve substantial information reduction by using these now well-accepted tools.

So how would it work? Similar to a litigation undertaking, the information in the data store, such as email archive data, is put into one of these tools. Counsel and responsible information governance personnel at the company can stratify the company’s retention obligations into a few logical retention period buckets. The expert can then train the tool with actual company documents and teach the tool what kinds of information should go into each retention category. The result is a stratified categorization by subject matter of all the data in the store. Recent pilots have seen as much as 60 percent of the information store qualify for immediate disposition. Reduction in the storage costs associated with such significant volumes, as well as the downstream reduction in litigation review costs, combined with the reduced risk from not overpreserving, clearly demonstrate the return on investment for these projects. The process can be used to target a variety of ever-increasing stores, such as email archives, file share data and information on backup tapes.

While there is still much work to be done to address the real-time information governance needs within an organization, the advanced technology tools that have emerged in the e-discovery realm over the past few years can have substantial impact on an information governance program. With more tools in their toolkit, organizations should consider using these analytical tools when developing and implementing an information governance program.

Tess Blair is a partner in and leader of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ e-data practice, resident in Philadelphia. Tara Lawler is a senior attorney in the firm’s e-data practice, resident in Philadelphia. Laura Kibbe is of counsel in the firm’s e-data practice, resident in New York.