Do organizations really have formal information disposal processes…I think NOT!


Do organizations really have formal information disposal processes…I think NOT!

Do organizations regularly dispose of information in a systematic, documented manner? If the answer is “sure we do”, do they do it via a standardized and documented process or “just leave it to the employees”?

If they don’t…who cares – storage is cheap!

When I ask customers if they have a formal information disposal process, 70 to 80 percent of the time the customer will answer “yes” but when pressed on their actual process, I almost always hear one of the following:

1.    We have mailbox limits, so employees have to delete emails when they reach their mailbox limit
2.    We tell our employees to delete content after 1,2, or 3 years
3.    We store our records (almost always paper) at Iron Mountain and regularly send deletion requests

None of these answers rise to an information governance and disposal process. Mailbox limits only force employees into stealth archiving, i.e. movement of content out of the organization’s direct control. Instructing employees to delete information without enforcement and auditing is as good as not telling them to do anything at all. And storing paper records at Iron Mountain does not address the 95%+ of the electronic data which resides in organizations.

Data center storage is not cheap. Sure, I can purchase 1 TB of external disk at a local electronics store for $150 but that 1 TB is not equal to 1 TB of storage in a corporate data center. It also doesn’t include annual support agreements, the cost of allocated floor space, the cost of power and cooling, or IT resource overhead including nightly backups. Besides, the cost of storage is not the biggest cost organizations who don’t actively manage their information face.

The astronomical costs arise when considering litigation and eDiscovery. A recent RAND survey highlighted the fact that it can cost $18,000 to review 1 GB of information for eDiscovery. And considering many legal cases include the collection and review of terabytes of information, you can imagine the average cost per case can be in the millions of dollars.

So what’s the answer? First, don’t assume information is cheap to keep. Data center storage and IT resources are not inexpensive, take human resources to keep up and running, and consume floor space. Second, information has legal risk and cost associated with it. The collection and review of information for responsiveness is time consuming and expensive. The legal risks associated with unmanaged information can be even more costly. Imagine your organization is sued. One of the first steps in responding to the suit is to find and secure all potentially responsive data. What would happen if you didn’t find all relevant data and it was later discovered you didn’t turn over some information that could have helped the other side’s case? The Judge can overturn an already decided case, issue an adverse inference, assign penalties etc. The withholding or destruction of evidence is never good and always costs the losing side a lot more.

The best strategy is to put policies, processes and automation in place to manage all electronic data as it occurs and to dispose of data deemed not required anymore. One solution is to put categorization software in place to index, understand and categorize content in real time by the conceptual meaning of the content.  Sophisticated categorization can also find, tag and automatically dispose of information that doesn’t need to be kept anymore.  Given the amount of information created daily, automating the process is the only definitive way to answer ‘yes we have a formal information disposal process’.

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Defensible Disposal and Predictive Coding Reduces (?) eDiscovery by 65%


Following Judge Peck’s decision on predictive coding in February of 2012, yet another Judge has gone in the same direction. In Global Aerospace Inc., et al, v. Landow Aviation, L.P. dba Dulles Jet Center, et al (April 23, 2012), Judge Chamblin, a state judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia’s Loudoun Circuit Court, wrote:

“Having heard argument with regard to the Motion of Landow Aviation Limited Partnership, Landow Aviation I, Inc., and Landow & Company Builders, Inc., pursuant to Virginia Rules of Supreme Court 4:1 (b) and (c) and 4:15, it is hereby ordered Defendants shall be allowed to proceed with the use of predictive coding for the purposes of the processing and production of electronically stored information.”

This decision was despite plaintiff’s objections the technology is not as effective as purely human review (their objections can be seen here).

This decision comes on top of a new RAND Institute for Civil Justice report which highlights a couple of important points. First, the report estimated that $0.73 of every dollar spent on eDiscovery can be attributed to the “Review” task. RAND also called out a study showing an 80% time savings in Attorney review hours when predictive coding was utilized.

This suggests that the use of predictive coding could, optimistically, reduce an organization’s eDiscovery costs by 58.4%.

The barriers to the adoption of predictive coding technology are (still):

  • Outside counsel may be slow to adopt this due to the possibility of loosing a large revenue stream
  • Outside and Internal counsel will be hesitant to rely on new technology without a track record of success
  • Additional guidance from Judges

These barriers will be overcome relatively quickly.

Let’s take this cost saving projection further. In my last blog I talked about “Defensible Disposal” or in other words, getting rid of old data not needed by the business. It is estimated the cost of review can be reduced by 50% by simply utilizing an effective Information Governance program. Utilizing the Defensible Disposal strategy brings the $0.73 of every eDiscovery review dollar down to $0.365.

Now, if predictive coding can reduce the remaining 50% of the cost of eDiscovery review by 80% as was suggested in the RAND report, between the two strategies, a total eDiscovery savings of approximately 65.7% could be achieved. To review, lets look at the math.

Starting with $0.73 of every eDiscovery dollar is attributed to the review process

Calculating a 50% saving due to Defensible Disposal brings the cost of review down to $0.365. (assuming 50% of documents to be reviewed are disposed of)

Calculating the additional 80% review savings using predictive coding we get:

$0.365 * 0.2 (1-.8) = $0.073 (total cost of review after savings from both strategies)

To finish the calculations we need to add back in the cost not related to review (processing and collection) which is $0.27

Total cost of eDiscovery = $0.073 + $0.27 = $0.343 or a savings of: $1.0 – $0.343 = 0.657 or 65.7%.

 As with any estimates…your mileage may vary, but this exercise points out the potential cost savings utilizing just two strategies, Defensible Disposal and Predictive Coding.