Search for Success: Information Discovery in the Effective Enterprise

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The word “discovery” has an element of magic to it: an uncovering of something never before seen, a new truth or direction. Yet buried as we are in information all day long, the term “information discovery” can lose that magic luster. In today’s enterprise, information discovery is often treated more as a survival mechanism than an opportunity. And that’s only for the companies that have solid information discovery practices in place. For organizations that still rely on simple search engines to uncover data assets within their IT infrastructure, the opportunity costs can be catastrophic.

In March 2008, consulting firm Capgemini released an information opportunity study of U.K. public and private enterprises. The study found that 63% of survey respondents felt they made crucial business decisions without the correct information each day, while 28% were in this uncomfortable role up to five times a day. Worse, 93% of those interviewed felt the situation was deteriorating. Presumably, the fact that enterprise information silos tend to proliferate with time means that those decision makers are looking in more places to not find the information they need.

On the legal side, where information discovery is commonly referred to as e-discovery, the ramifications can be even more staggering as labor costs and lawsuit penalties add up. According to the 2007 Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey of more than 300 U.S. and U.K. corporate counsel, all of the smallest and mid-size company respondents reported at least one lawsuit of $20 million or more in the previous year, and 20% of the largest companies surveyed had 21–50 lawsuits of that size. The same survey found that the estimated cost of document review ranged from 6% to 50% of total litigation costs, with the higher-end estimates coming from mid-size to large enterprises. Thus, any reduction in the amount of extraneous data reviewed can have a sizable impact on legal costs.

Even if it is not currently involved in a lawsuit, a company without a comprehensive records management infrastructure to facilitate e-discovery is vulnerable. As Gartner analyst Debra Logan observes, “The wave of regulation which began in 2003 with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation in the United States is likely to increase under the Obama administration, in the face of the current financial crisis.” This rising tide of regulation has international ramifications; there is now a working committee addressing e-discovery issues in the context of data privacy under the auspices of the European Union.

Apple found itself in hot water in November 2008 in the Apple v. Psystar antitrust case, when the judge questioned Apple’s lack of a companywide policy for archiving, saving, or deleting these emails, documents, and memos. While the antitrust case against Apple has been dismissed, Craig Carpenter, VP of marketing and general counsel for Recommind, a company that provides search, review, and analysis software, summarizes such corporate vulnerability by saying, “No company wants to find itself on the front page of The New York Times or Wall Street Journal over legal issues.”

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