Information governance is the first stage of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model for good reason. EDiscovery is faster, easier and cheaper for companies that proactively manage their data.
Information governance maximizes value and minimizes risk
In its simplest formulation, information governance is the active management of business information to maximize value and minimize risk. An effective information governance strategy recognizes that these dual purposes may sometimes be in tension, and attempts to balance them in light of business needs.
Data has to be managed from end-to-end of the information lifecycle. Categorizing information when it’s created, placing appropriate restrictions on access and use, disposing of unneeded data and auditing for legal and regulatory compliance are typical initiatives. Business continuity planning and disaster recovery are two other critical components of good information governance.
Comprehensive information governance policies and procedures are an important tool. These should be responsive to the organization’s overall business needs and goals. Finally, ongoing employee education and training is essential. An information governance plan is only as good as its implementation.
Three infogov objectives that directly benefit eDiscovery
Information governance has three overarching objectives:
- Effectively and efficiently manage information for business needs.
- Implement IT systems and processes for information storage, access and security.
- Comply with legal and regulatory obligations, including data retention.
Furthering these objectives has the significant added benefit of better eDiscovery outcomes from identification through review.
1. Information management dovetails with identification.
Information is one of a business’s most valuable assets. Accordingly many information governance initiatives are designed to extract maximum value from data for operations and strategic planning. Examples are data classification, indexing for searchability and use assessments. The ultimate goal of such projects is to cut through the data noise so employees can quickly locate and access the information they need.
Similarly, identifying relevant data sources is a top priority in litigation. Immediate identification of the most important documents and communications is key in effective early case assessment. A company with good information governance has its (data) house in order before disputes arise. This speeds identification because the client can readily point out relevant repositories and quickly locate key files.
2. IT implementation facilitates preservation and collection.
Corporations are drowning in data. Not only are data volumes enormous, there is an unprecedented proliferation of data types and tools. Robust IT infrastructure and adequate staffing are essential for information management. This includes enterprise systems for documents and email; mobile device management; hardware and software management such as asset inventories and updates; network management and data security; and user helpdesk support.
Proactive IT implementation makes eDiscovery much easier. First, it means the company already knows where its data resides. Data mapping is foundational to identification, preservation and collection. Second, a company with good information governance has existing processes and tools in place to manage access to information for business use and security. Access is a prerequisite to collection.
3. Compliance reduces the downstream costs of processing and review.
Compliance obligations vary greatly from one industry to the next; however, all businesses are subject to some legal and regulatory requirements to maintain information beyond its immediate business value. Compliance is complementary to value-driven information management. Both seek to identify data that must or should be retained, determine how long to keep it and track its storage and disposition.
Defensible disposition of unneeded data has immediate organizational benefits. It’s a risk management tool; for instance, data deletion limits the potential scope of a security incident. Deleting data reduces unnecessary data storage and management costs. Perhaps most important, culling obsolete data makes it easier to find the useful information.
Data destruction also has significant downstream benefits in litigation and regulatory investigations. Data volume correlates to cost in processing and review. Simply put, more data equals higher eDiscovery expense. Companies that want to cut costs in future legal matters should focus on defensible disposition as part of compliance.
In-house counsel can have the greatest impact on eDiscovery by focusing on pre-litigation information governance. Information governance is good for business. It’s also an invaluable opportunity to reduce the time, cost and aggravation of eDiscovery.
Helen Geib is General Counsel for QDiscovery. Her deep knowledge of eDiscovery law and practice was gained over many years of experience, first as a litigator in an Am Law 100 firm and subsequently as an eDiscovery consultant. Helen has published numerous articles on topics in eDiscovery and legal technology. She is a member of the bar of the State of Indiana and the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and a registered patent attorney. She serves as chapter director of the Women in eDiscovery Indianapolis chapter, which she launched in 2017.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or to substitute for legal counsel, and does not create an attorney-client privilege.