Why Discovery and ECM Haven’t, Must Come Together (Enterprise World Preview)

I’m a tough sell on Information Governance.

For years I’ve made a point of challenging any tech provider, consultant, or corporate counsel promising that a comprehensive approach to information governance (IG), enterprise content management (ECM), and eDiscovery is realistic or imminent.

However, a recent experience forced me to confront my longstanding IG demons. I committed to a speaking engagement at the CIGO Summit 2017 without realizing that the session had been pre-titled  “The Vision of IG: Making it Real”.

Seeing that title on a webpage with my name next to it left me at a crossroads: I could either double-down on my hard-earned skepticism or finally embrace the vision.

In a way, I wound up doing both.

First, let me be clear: it’s not that IG projects aren’t ever successfully executed in major enterprises. Indeed, many such projects were described at the Summit by the professionals that led them. It’s just that such projects are typically one-offs—isolated, targeted efforts at data reduction, classification, and/or remediation. The overarching promise of comprehensive, proactive information governance for risk reduction, better fact finding, and hyper-efficient eDiscovery remains largely elusive.

So, where’s the flying car we were promised?

In my CIGO presentation, I described five reasons we don’t yet see comprehensive IG, discovery, and compliance across the enterprise:

1. The target is always moving.

It can easily take two years to work through the planning, design, and budget requirements for an IG project. By the time you have a handle on your project scope and execution plan, both technological and organizational changes (new data sources, collaboration tools, corporate acquisitions, and restructures) can render the best-laid plans outdated and obsolete.

2. Location, location, location!

Corporate data exists in an ever-widening range of silos, often under the administrative control of a range of organizational departments and leaders with separate budgets and overall agendas. Without a single, accountable director-with-a-mandate, it can be exceedingly hard to traverse data silos and make IG goals real.

3. The challenge of mass-scale indexing.

There’s a difference between indexing 500 gigabytes for a particular litigation and indexing 500 terabytes for everyday purposes. Bringing more analytics to the left side of the EDRM for culling, governance, and access is a worthy goal, but we have to acknowledge the computing and other resources required to achieve substantive enterprise IG.

4. All the analytics in the world won’t matter without humans.

While unsupervised machine learning can be extremely helpful, analytics-enriched content that receives no human interaction is like an unheard tree falling in the forest (if the tree also cost money when it fell). Tools like concept, sentiment, and phrase analysis have value when humans use them, and data gets governed when humans play a role in that process.

5. There’s an (arguably) understandable lack of political will.

The goal of any business is first and foremost to do business. Legal risk and cost are not only secondary considerations, they’re generally perceived to be associated with business success (and, thus, reasonably good problems to have). Besides, if a legal department could always be fully aware of all risk factors across the enterprise, wouldn’t it then be expected to address them all?

Yet there’s that vision thing.

Despite all these impediments, I see genuine progress being made by corporations and tech providers toward a more comprehensive IG, ECM, and Discovery strategy:

  • Corporations seem to be dedicating more resources for data reduction and remediation projects, triggered largely by high profile data security breaches.
  • Multinationals are increasingly scrutinizing their data sharing and retention practices, spurred by the impending May 2018 GDPR deadline.
  • ECA for data culling is becoming more flexible and mature, supported by the growing availability and scalability of computing resources.
  • Discovery analytics are being offered at lower, all-you-can-eat rates, facilitating a range of corporate use cases like investigations, due diligence, and contract analysis.
  • Tighter, more seamless and secure integration of ECM and discovery technology is advancing and seeing adoption in corporations, to great effect.

What OpenText is doing about it.

At Enterprise World 2017 in Toronto, I’ll be moderating Keeping Your Lawyers (Reasonably) Happy with Unified ECM & eDiscovery with panelists Bennett Borden (Partner and Chief Data Scientist at Drinker Biddle & Reath), Ethan Ackerman (Associate at Morgan Lewis), and Stephen Ludlow (OpenText ECM expert). We’ll explore how we can make practical, realistic progress on IG initiatives by bringing together ECM and eDiscovery across the enterprise.

We may not have our flying cars yet, but the vehicles we do have are showing increasing buoyancy. One of these days, they’ll surprise us.

Hal Marcus

Hal is the Director of Product Marketing for OpenText Discovery. A licensed attorney, Hal practiced as a Wall Street litigator before commencing a career in technology that now spans over 20 years. He writes about practical applications of artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced analytics, and business intelligence, particularly in the realms of information governance, e-discovery, and compliance. (Anyone with the name Hal is bound to have an interest in AI.)

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