This agricultural lending company has a century-long history of providing financial services to farmers and rural businesses throughout the U.S. It encompasses dozens of customer-owned cooperatives, and provides over $200 billion in loans and leases, accounting for over a third of the total credit needed by U.S agriculture.
When the project began, the client was using an enterprise content management system (ECM) for files and emails. They were frustrated with having to pay particularly high annual maintenance fees for what they considered to be limited functionality, and grew more frustrated when their decision to expand the number of files in their ECM was met with a price increase that they found to be unreasonable. Furthermore, their eDiscovery process was constrained by incomplete email and files management.
Finally, these issues were compounded by consistently unresponsive customer service and support from their vendor. Primarily for these reasons, when it came time to renew their contract, the client's Director of Enterprise Content Management decided to open discussions with other vendors.
Initial discussions with vendors were focused around conventional enterprise content management: standard records marking and management of their most important files. After hearing variations of this approach from multiple vendors, the organization tentatively settled on a combination of solutions that would provide them with a pure manage-inplace approach.
Although initially the client was simply looking to replace their ECM, they became interested in ZL Unified Archive® (ZL UA) as a comprehensive information governance solution that has the capability to solve several of their data management issues.
Unified Information Governance
ZL's solution offered both manage-inplace and archiving of enterprise content, and the ability to manage all aspects of information governance. The combination of manage-in-place and archiving would enable the organization to perform fulltext indexing of all enterprise content without the need for export, along with the ability to seamlessly archive select documents. ZL also offered the flexibility to add components to their information strategy without having to force various solutions together, which was a big differentiator for the organization. Ultimately, this unified approach would enable email, file and SharePoint archiving, legal hold, and end-user journal search all within a centralized system.
In their previous system, files only came under management after they were moved to the ECM. Because there were no automated processes in place, the end-users had been asked to manually drag business records to their ECM for classification and policy management. However, an administrative review revealed that employees were unable to consistently follow this procedure request, resulting in incomplete records management.
In comparison, the advantages of using a singular architecture for managing the entirety of enterprise content included comprehensive management of all enterprise files and emails, solving records management issues associated with ECMs. ZL’s unified architecture also provided a virtually instantaneous enterprise search, increased enduser functionality, and a streamlined eDiscovery process.
Finally, ZL’s scalability meant that increasing data volumes would not be limited by cost or architectural factors. ZL’s ability to provide a centralized, unified solution that could be customized to fit the customer’s precise needs ultimately led this organization to select ZL UA.
ZL also recognized the need to establish procedures for email and file management, and to build out a formalized framework for eDiscovery. In initial discussions with the client, it had become clear that there were flaws in their eDiscovery process that would need to be fixed. For instance, issues arose because of limitations in the organization’s Exchange policies, in which end-users were only able to save emails for a limited period. As a result, if they wanted to keep an important email they would have to drag it to another location. This workaround expanded the scope of the organization’s discovery workload and created headaches for their legal department, because they had to manually search file shares to simply preserve email messages.
Finally, their eDiscovery system lacked a true preservation process: rather than archiving documents once they were placed on hold, IT would simply restrict access privileges. This process left room for error, and was not entirely defensible.
For this particular case, ZL accommodated the organization’s environment by providing the legal department with the ability to search across enterprise file share and SharePoint sites—in addition to emails—which had been a major gap in their eDiscovery process. The ability to discover all enterprise data with a sophisticated and customizable search engine, within a singular platform provided an efficient eDiscovery process and eliminated the need for workarounds.
Additionally, by using a unified managein-place and archive hybrid, the organization’s legal department benefitted not only from full-text indexing of all content—as opposed to only documents ingested by their ECM—but also gained the ability to archive documents relevant to legal cases, allowing for fully defensible preservation. This solution positively served the workflow of end-users as well: Because of ZL UA’s email journaling and stubbing capabilities, users would be able to restore important emails to their inbox once they had been archived, thus making it unnecessary to save them to file shares moving forward.
ZL UA ultimately enabled the organization to centralize search and retention functions for its email and file systems. Under ZL UA, the organization was able to regain control of its records management strategy.