How to create a corporate e-discovery readiness program (Part 3)

A look at how to build out your “people” assets for continuous bench strength at preferred service providers

In the first of a six-part series, we outlined the purpose and core components of an e-discovery roadmap, a distinctive visualization for process change in the context of a corporate e-discovery readiness program. In Part 2, we explained the e-discovery project model framework and constituent components, which have a measurable financial impact on the business. Here, in Part 3, we introduce you to PIVOT, the overarching e-discovery readiness methodology developed by Susan Nielsen Hammond, and how to build out your “people” assets for continuous bench strength at preferred service providers.

P.I.V.O.T.

PIVOT is a whole-portfolio or program management method which leverages project model performance metrics and recommends change to the corporate e-discovery bench — the critical people, process and products assets deployed by the program — on a continuous improvement cycle. The PIVOT methodology Promotes assets for performance analysis, Isolates controls and contingencies on asset performance, analyzes the current and future business Values of analyzed assets, Optimizes asset improvements for efficiency and quality, and then Tests the outcome of the asset change to validate the business proposition and return on investment. It is important to recognize that e-discovery products or tools are evolving constantly. Technology innovations require parallel process changes, as well as integration and promotion by internal and/or external service providers to be effectively deployed. Building an e-discovery bench with a team able to deploy a variety of technology and workflows, and PIVOT with the company, is critical to the success of a corporate e-discovery readiness Program.

Building a preferred service provider program

When defining the requirements for a preferred service provider program (PSPP), recognition should be given to pre-existing relationships and input from current internal and external stakeholders should be carefully considered. Prior to the creation of a centralized e-discovery function in-house, if the corporation had any significant litigation, those needs were likely met through external law firm resources and/or the contracted technology service providers of outside counsel. If a centralized in-house e-discovery program is in place but data services are widely dispersed, a review of current vendor performance against corporate program requirements as well as a new RFI/RFP should be done, with performing “people” assets promoted to a PSPP. And so long as a PSPP is in place, periodic reviews of specific vendor performance against PSPP performance standards will continue to drive quality and efficiency improvements.

In establishing a PSPP, it is important to gather as much historical information as possible with respect to the corporation’s e-discovery business. It is important to understand the types of matters faced by the corporation, sources and volume of electronic data collected, and technologies currently being employed by which firms and/or vendors to meet existing e-discovery requirements. If the corporation has implemented an electronic billing technology utilizing e-discovery billing codes, those reports should assist in identifying specific law firms that have handled matters requiring significant e-discovery services. Those metrics will advise baseline requirements and set volume and velocity expectations with PSPP vendors. Anecdotal reports from current service providers can also be very helpful in understanding process and resource gaps that have historically impacted project lifecycles.

The process to identify new or validate the selection of current service providers often begins with a request for information (RFI), followed-up with a formal request for proposal (RFP). Guidance related to preparing an RFI/RFP set and/or samples can be obtained through professional organizations, such as Sedona and EDI, or by polling current service providers working through outside counsel. Prior to releasing an RFI/RFP to vendors, it is useful to determine the scoring for each answer in advance. This will ensure that the responses are scored objectively and allow for scoring by individuals not invested in the decision. At a minimum, the RFI/RFP should elicit sufficient information to assess the following: financial stability, security (physical and data security), services, quality control procedures, technologies employed, pricing and the qualifications and experience of key personnel. It can be difficult to compare prices between providers on their offered rate cards, as service rates may be bundled and incremented (per GB, per document, per hour, etc.), and supported processes creatively branded. Creating a corporate rate card as a template to include in the RFI can assist with normalizing the pricing by asking the providers to align their rates to your proposed framework.

Continuous assessment of PSPP vendor performance, from project incident management to strategic Program initiatives, can be accomplished with clear communication channels, regular project status and performance metrics reporting, and periodic governance conferences. The right combination of individual vendor and all-PSPP performance review/strategic planning meetings will vary by corporation and evolve as the corporate e-discovery readiness program matures.

Staffing or augmenting a successful e-discovery bench via PSPP partners is a multi-faceted and periodic exercise involving the realistic assessment of in-house capabilities, solicitation of responsive information and new pricing offers from external service providers, and an objective evaluation of vendor performance against project requirements and PSPP standards. PSPP partners can and do often provide corporations with the “people” to deploy a full-range e-discovery program — including the provision of alternative technology “products” and collaborative “processes” we will discuss in greater detail in our next articles.

Contributing Author

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Bobbi Basile

Bobbi Basile brings nearly 25 years of experience in the legal and records management industries, delivering strategic operations and technology services to Fortune 500 legal...

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Contributing Author

Susan Nielsen Hammond

Susan Nielsen Hammond is AGC, SVP of Records Administration, e-discovery and Forensics for Regions Financial Corporation.

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Contributing Author

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Amor A. Esteban

As a partner of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., Amor’s expertise in e-discovery, records and information management and data privacy is widely known. In...

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