Beyond legal: Harnessing data across the enterprise

The data we collect is inherently tied to a number of different functions within our organizations — so use it

Reduce, re-use, recycle: Our favorite environmentalist catchphrase has found a significance of its own in the e-discovery and document review space. A need for efficiency, cost savings and sanity has led to an organized effort to re-use data in e-discovery, recycle final work product and to drastically reduce the overall amount of data that is collected and reviewed. The most obvious way this has been accomplished is by re-using data and work product from one litigation or investigation matter in another, provided the subject matter and data collected are interrelated.

We could stop here, content with the ways technology and experience are making our job a bit easier. Or we could think outside the realm of efficiency and look to broaden the scope of our mandate. Does the data we collect over the course of litigation need to be used solely for the same purpose for which it was collected? Are there ways that we can use data collected for litigation to benefit our organization as a whole? Are there benefits to be had outside of the litigation world?

Of course there are. The data we collect is inherently tied to a number of different functions within our organizations — HR, compliance, information governance, procurement and marketing. More times than not, the data we collect is rich with information about different business units, what our employees are doing right (and wrong), and how we engage with the outside world. Taking information gained and using it for a variety of business intelligence purposes is the next logical step in our data-cological crusade.

Here are a few different areas worth exploring as you sift through your data.

HR & compliance

The bulk of data collected for litigation consists of electronic communications. And as tedious as sorting through emails and internal chats can be, there’s a wealth of information to be found about employees’ behavioral tendencies — and the insights gleaned from analyzing these can be enormously useful for your HR and compliance teams.

It all comes down to identifying and leveraging behavior trends identified via communications. Can you find any specific events or instances where employees demonstrate a propensity to waiver from known compliance requirements? Are there identifiable patterns that point to a systemic tendency for employees to neglect to report perceived or known compliance violations, or to avoid required internal instructional courses? Using information gleaned in legal matters in combination with analytics tools, you can learn a lot about the way your employees are interacting both with other employees and those outside of the organization.

Leveraging data to develop an understanding of how individuals shortcut compliance requirements can be enormously helpful for HR and compliance teams looking to develop better fail-safe systems. Identifying common characteristics of violators — and compliant employees — is a crucial exercise in developing more strenuous testing, questions, and checks during recruitment or on-boarding. It also has serious training applications, knowing what successful employees are doing vis-à-vis their less successful counterparts can bolster your training programs. On the records management front, an understanding of the types of data that employees are retaining can be harnessed to determine whether employees are following company protocols and to train employees on your organization’s record retention policies.

Sales & marketing

At a first glance, this connection seems improbable. How could you possibly use data collected for litigation to help your organization’s sales and marketing activities? In what world does legal contribute insight to that alien space?

Well, let’s see. Chances are your data contains vast amounts of communications to and from your company’s sales reps. Consider using previously collected email data (and data as it is continuously collected) to monitor interactions between sales reps and the people they are selling to. Dig deep to see how they’re communicating with potential customers — and not just from a compliance perspective. What are the most effective ways that they are communicating? Use this information to modify sales and marketing materials as well as to help train other employees on effective techniques. You can also harness the same data to develop an understanding of which salespersons are having success in particular territories and with which specific products. 

Procurement & supply chain management

The data you collect also has an important role to play in your organization’s procurement and supply chain management functions.

For example, you could monitor the performance of purchased products to understand which products or component parts of products routinely exceed expectations or, conversely, which components are frequently failing. Compiling statistics from particular geographies/jurisdictions or with particular customer profiles could enable a more strategic approach to product design and facilitate a deeper assessment of different component vendors and manufacturers.

Data can also be repurposed for inventory management. If you are placing inventory in different locations around the world, for example, you would only want to stock as much inventory as necessary to support local customer bases. Parts with high failure rates will require more parts on hand in inventory, which adds to carrying costs. Granted, most companies already have an inventory management system in place, but data collected for legal purposes can provide crucial information beyond what is contained in these systems.

From a finance perspective, you could leverage existing data to understand how quickly particular purchases and investments yield ROI. While you’re at it, perform an assessment of costs associated with product testing and marketing versus product specific sales and revenue.

Get thinking

These are just a handful of ideas. Smart companies already use data and track certain sets of metrics to gauge success in different business spheres. But the application of data collected for litigation to promote business insight throughout an organization is unheard of. We need to expand our line of thinking to accommodate the possibility that legal does not necessarily have to be a cost center, and we need to promote this idea within our organizations.

There’s no longer a need for litigation teams to always be the bad news bearers. We can be the next unexpected bastions of innovative data analytics.

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Jennifer Swanton

Jen Swanton is the e-discovery Counsel at Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest medical technology company.

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Laura Jungels

Laura Jungels is an AVP at Clutch Group, a global provider of litigation, investigation, compliance, and other services for Fortune 500 companies.

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