The frustrations of e-discovery

11 Jun 2009 View Comments
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Brian Hill

As escalating volumes and types of information drive swelling e-discovery costs, many firms are exploring how information retrieval technology can support critical steps in the e-discovery process. Manually reviewing documents represents the largest direct cost associated with e-discovery. To control this expense and mitigate legal risk, businesses are re-examining strategies, processes and technology investments.

Currently, few companies report having a holistic approach to e-discovery. Forrester’s research suggests just 23 per cent have an end-to-end approach to gather and filter data. And two-thirds consider their e-discovery strategy reactive rather than proactive.

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We asked if firms were confident that, if challenged, their organisation could demonstrate that its electronically stored information was accurate, accessible and trustworthy. Fewer than one in five was very confident.

Several factors account for this lack of confidence. These include large and growing volumes of content; diverse applications, tools, and file types; undocumented, disorganised data architectures; increased litigation and rapidly changing case law; and a fragmented vendor ecosystem.

Although a variety of electronically stored information can be relevant to e-discovery, most litigation to date has focused on email, loose files, and employee desktops. Other content types will become increasingly important for e-discovery.

To illustrate, 18 per cent of respondents reported plans to add voicemail access by e-discovery this year. The survey highlights that structured content in databases and line-of-business applications will be increasingly important to e-discovery.

Search and retrieval technology can play an important role in easing e-discovery cost burdens. However, a relatively small percentage of the decision-makers Forrester surveyed use enterprise-grade search tools for e-discovery purposes today. A larger proportion use operating system (OS) search, native search within applications, and desktop search tools.

Complicating the limitations of basic OS and desktop search, information retrieval to support e-discovery faces several key challenges. Expanding international requirements complicates e-discovery support for many firms.

IT leaders report facing increasing challenges in meeting foreign language requirements and different ­ and sometimes conflicting ­ demands for e-discovery with numerous national, regional, and local regulatory and privacy requirements.

Given these challenges, many firms simply outsource a range of e-discovery processes to third parties. The significant expense associated with heavy reliance on service providers, however, is increasingly leading many organisations to bring certain e-discovery steps in-house to cut costs.

Currently, a single, unbroken search and retrieval infrastructure is not realistic or feasible. Most firms use a mix of point solutions at different stages of the process.

These fragmented applications, however, can contribute to e-discovery headaches. In fact, survey respondents cited synchronising e-discovery, records management, and archiving efforts as being highly problematic.

Poor internal communications, disjointed applications, and ad hoc efforts make e-discovery a painful process, while effective information retrieval applications can bolster business e-discovery efforts. But without appropriate focus on the people and process aspects and application rationalisation, organisational success at mitigating
legal risk will be limited.

Brian Hill is a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Read the blog at:

Please visit for several complimentary reports made available to Computing readers by Forrester Research

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