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The trials and tribulations of IT consumerization

IT consumerization adds business value but comes with liabilities. Just ask the e-discovery industry.

CIOs, you are not alone. There isn't a corner of work that's immune from the consumerization of IT. Shoot, even lawyers -- the highly specialized ones toiling in the arcane industry known as e-discovery -- have now discovered their work day is profoundly different because of the ways their clients use technology. Simply put: Their business clients have blurred the distinction between personal and enterprise technology. And, in doing so, their clients, like yours, have taken the technology reins of the business into their own hands.

Linda TucciLinda Tucci

That's the thought that was ringing in my ears after talking with Dera Nevin Esq., managing counsel for electronic discovery at TD Bank N.A. A former civil litigator specializing in corporate and cross-border securities litigation, Nevin now focuses on large-scale legal discovery mandates, including the collection, processing, importation and exportation of data across provincial and international boundaries. She knows a thing or two about data governance including privacy legislation, an increasingly important of coverage at SearchCIO. And she knows about big data -- the easy aspects of it (Big happens!) and the hard parts (What good is it?).

The topic of my phone call with Nevin was ostensibly about the benefits and risks associated with using cloud computing for handling the data volumes associated with e-discovery. This legal term (as many CIOs are painfully aware) refers to the complex processes in the early phases of litigation related to locating, storing, securing, exchanging and searching the electronic data relevant to the case.

Not only is the technology buying decision changing hands from the legal professional to the business user, but the technology itself is changing how the legal process works.

Before we talked about e-discovery, however, Nevin really needed "to back up a bit." The thing I should know, she said, is that e-discovery -- mind you, a rather development in law born from the advent of electronic data -- is being rocked by IT consumerization. There are two chief consumers of e-discovery technology, she explained: Businesses, which get sued (all big businesses, in other words), and the outside law firms they typically hire to handle e-discovery. Over the last two decades, companies traditionally have looked to their outside law firms to pick the e-discovery tools. If there was a technology czar for e-discovery, it was that outside counsel billing beaucoup money per hour. Not anymore.

"Increasingly, the marketplace is moving to an environment in which the corporations might be making these purchasing and buying decisions directly -- and directing their external counsel into a specific technology," Nevin said. Sound familiar?

Not only is the technology buying decision changing hands from the legal professional to the business user, but the technology itself is changing how the legal process works. The e-discovery process is basically a time- and event-driven affair. An event -- a lawsuit -- triggers a request for information. The company being sued needs to preserve all relevant data, copy it and put in a case repository, where lawyers do with it what they do, as it moves into the court system. "And that made sense, because it has been law firms leading the process and organizing the project around reference points that make sense to them," she said.

For corporate counsel like Nevin, however, who oversee a portfolio of e-discovery cases, the traditional time-driven method of managing documents meant "going back to the well" many times over, copying and recopying the same information. Good for the lawyers' hourly receipts -- "Why do it once when you can do it many times?' Nevin said -- but not so good for the company. Sound familiar?

With a cloud-based system from the company Catalyst Repository Systems Inc., TD Bank records are bought in , then the case tag is applied against the record. "So a record could belong to multiple cases," Nevin said. "Instead of having a bucket and putting balls in the bucket, we have a series of balls saying, 'I belong to the following buckets.' We're adding fielded elements against a record within a database." Ahh, information governance! Regulating who is allowed to see what -- data security -- is managed by rights administration. Plus, all the attributes of the cloud -- its scalability, the ability to access the data from wherever -- offers the opportunity to see the totality of the data set.

Without delving into the details that only an e-discovery lawyer could love, there's another point the tech-savvy Nevin made germane to the consumerization of IT in the enterprise.

In the same way that collecting big data in the cloud doesn't automatically result in business value, enterprise-based e-discovery hasn't automatically resulted in better legal value. In fact, the opposite may be true. The analytic tools applied to the data are relatively immature, and the business people calling the shots on the technology really don't know much about using them, Nevin said. They assume the predictive analytics they're familiar with in their consumer lives (eTrade anyone?) should translate just as easily to the enterprise.

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Everybody knows that a knife cuts through various objects differently depending on the sharpness of the knife and nature of the object, Nevin said, but her profession is way behind the curve on figuring out how the enterprise technology handed to them by the business may bias a legal decision. If she takes the term AT&T, for example, and puts it through a database, "some indexes can handle it but some can't," she said.

Then there is the knotty issue of the ever-changing data itself. An e-discovery project, says the metaphor-loving Nevin, is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: "You never know what you're gonna get."

Because the documents change from file to file, not knowing what the data population is going to look like impedes the development of a consistent analytics process. These are hard problems that only experienced technologists can solve. CIOs, crack the case!

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Executive Editor.

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