Cadillac or Chevy—Picking the right information governance program

Don’t succumb to fear mongering

This article is the part four of a seven part series on successful information governance projects.

E-discovery hardware and software vendors often trade in fear. Unless your company has the best possible third party/automated/expanded/enterprisewide e-discovery/records/legal hold/review product/hosted solution, these vendors claim, your company is certain to face sanctions or even outright doom in your next litigation. To avert apocalypse, vendors push what I call “Cadillac-level” information governance, encouraging companies to buy complex products with lots of bells and whistles.

One of my clients is a large, multinational company with more than 120 attorneys on staff and a very high litigation profile. Another client is a small, 400-person manufacturing company with one attorney on staff, and is seldom involved in litigation. Their investment in information governance varies in both quality and quantity, and yet each program is optimally sized for its respective organization. In other words, there is no “one size fits all” for information governance.

Some companies do need a Cadillac-level program. Organizations with far-flung, world-wide operations, high litigation profiles and complex regulatory requirements can benefit from successfully deployed complex technology. We have found, however, most companies don’t need this Cadillac approach, and would benefit from a “Chevy-level” information governance program instead.

Some key questions companies should ask themselves when designing their information governance program:

What is your litigation and regulatory profile? Do you have enough litigation to justify this level of investment? Do you face significant record retention regulatory requirements? Many organizations typically don’t have enough ongoing litigation to justify the investment for a complex solution. Vendors often will present examples of companies that faced “bet the farm” litigation that could have used a complex solution, but I find these examples are often outliers and are not typical for most organizations.

How well can you fund process development around complex technologies? Vendors touting high-end products like to make their wares appear simple and easy to use. In reality, the more complex the software or hardware solution, the more complex the internal process required to support product deployment and ongoing management. This process development can be two to three times the cost of the technology investment. Don’t be fooled by slick demos showing easy-to-use products. Complex product deployments take a lot of work.

Can you go the distance? Complex programs take time and people to deploy and customize. The risk is that you will only get halfway through before running out of steam, at which point you will have expended significant energy and monies, but without the benefit. Know your organization and its stamina.

The value of an information governance program—and the technology used to support it—depend on execution. In most cases, I’d rather see companies do a Chevy well—air in the tires, gas in the tank, everything ready to go—than stretch for a Cadillac that’s constantly stuck in the shop. Choose the sophistication of your information governance program wisely.

The next article in the series will discuss determining the right level of investment for your company.

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