Many of us remember that old parable of the Grasshopper and the Ant. In short, the ant worked hard to collect food during the summer, while the grasshopper procrastinated until winter was already eminent.
Aesop’s fable is readily applicable to the world of litigation, particularly in terms of electronically-stored information (ESI). Many organizations rely on what we’ll call ad hoc, eDiscovery, waiting until litigation is pending to inventory, analyze, cull and gather relevant information. While every organization is different, these efforts are often carried out under intense time pressure, at excessive cost, and with incomplete results.
Instead of waiting for winter, other organizations take a proactive approach to managing their ESI, taking stock of all the different types and sources of data within the enterprise and, ideally, governing all of it within a centralized framework. In so doing, the data is made useful for not only eDiscovery purposes, but also any other endeavor that involves accessing, collecting, and analyzing enterprise data.
These pursuits—eDiscovery, analytics, compliance, records management, to name a few—can indeed be carried out without central management of information, and it goes without saying that many businesses are taking an ad-hoc approach to their data. However, this route exposes organizations, especially large, complex, or regulated organizations, to unnecessary risk and expense, including missing, unaccounted, duplicated, and incomplete data.
At the end of the day, the last-minute, “batten down the hatches” approach to eDiscovery can (and ideally should) be replaced by a proactive approach. Once ESI is properly managed, the enterprise will always be ready: to face surprise litigation, to perform analytics on corporate data, to respond to investigatory requests, or to tackle any other contemplated use of ESI.