Before there was a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, most companies relied on typed records, carbon copies and hand-written notes to store data and valuable information. If the boss needed to check an employee’s work history, he would simply ask his secretary to pull the file folder from the wall of four drawer, steel filing cabinets. The system worked pretty well before we had computers and the digital world replaced the paper world.
Today, almost every document has been copied, scanned or otherwise reduced to a digital record. IT managers are charged with the responsibility of designing systems to create, store and access that data. They, along with the executives and managers who run the company, must be able to account for that data whenever it is needed. Electronic data may be stored on the hard drives within an organization or it could be out there in the cloud.
What is Information Governance?
Ask 50 different IT managers for their definition of information governance, and you’re likely to get 50 different answers. A good definition for it is one that includes a system that assigns responsibility and accountability to all aspects of gathering, storing, organizing and distributing data in a useful way that can add value to an organization. Stated another way, it is the control and management of a company’s digital data. Data may be stored both internally and externally. Data should be secure, but easy to retrieve, able to be shared and presented in a logical form.
What is eDiscovery?
Rapidly expanding use of electronic information and digital data in recent years led to a number of amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 2006. Standards were set to help assure that electronically stored information (ESI) would be available when properly requested as part of the legal litigation process. Discovery is a long-standing part of our legal system that allows both plaintiffs and defendants to fact-find and use the information that is discovered to support their legal position.
Taking traditional data gathering methods, and modifying them to gather information from its digital or electronic form, is the essence of eDiscovery. Attorneys and others who make eDiscovery requests can seek information from a number of sources. Email, social networks, audio and video, internally generated data and numerous other sources are all fair game to be pursued in the quest for valuable and relevant information.
What Happens when Information Governance meets eDiscovery?
The convergence of information governance and eDiscovery can either be a civil meeting of two concerned parties or it can become a more adversarial relationship. Attorneys are usually involved for both the party seeking eDiscovery and the organization that has control of the information being requested.
Problems can arise when information is hard and expensive to retrieve. Problems can arise when information is deemed to be too sensitive or of no relevance by the entity that is being asked to provide the information. There are questions about how much information should be made available and who will bear the cost of providing the information.
Information Governance and eDiscovery are still in their infancy. New issues are still being discussed and debated. While many rules and standards have been agreed upon, there is not much case law to make any real definitive conclusions. As more and more companies start to rely on electronic data, the urgency of both information seekers and information providers to work together will increase.