To Track Or Not To Track Your Data…..That Is (Not) The Question
For an eDiscovery vendor, keeping track of your data ─ or rather, your client’s data - should not be a question but a given. I know it may seem like an additional burden, when your client is demanding that you process their data NOW, and you may hesitate to create more work for your already exhausted Project Manager (PM). Despite the additional work, keeping even a very basic spreadsheet of each data set or production your company receives/sends-out pays off in more ways than you might think.
Consider this: Your high-profile corporate client changes counsel. The new counsel comes in demanding detailed accounts of ALL data that you have received from your client. The old PM who was in charge of that client, now lives in Tibet and cannot be reached, and the new PM does not have a clue where all the data is stored or what was processed. What do you do? Turns out that the old PM kept a detailed spreadsheet of all the data that particular client sent you over the years, its location in your office and on the server, its size, who sent it and when, and whether it was loaded to the data base or not. Saved by the bell….or rather by your meticulous but, alas, former Project Manager.
Or this: Your client wants a detailed list of all productions with volume numbers, bates ranges, dates produced, sizes, etc. and he wants it NOW. Your already busy PM has to spend hours tracking down that information via emails or complicated data base searches. If you had tracked your data, it could have been a simple matter of sending client a page from your spreadsheet.
Another hypothetical: Your client claims that he sent you a hard drive with data two years ago and he wants to know if it has been loaded AND he also wants it back. Unless your PM has kept track of all of the data from this particular matter, you have no idea where to begin searching for it in your cavernous and chaotic evidence room.
The bottom line is this – your clients not only want to know that their sensitive data is safe, but they also want to know that you know where it is and what you have done with it. Most of the time, they don’t want to know the specific details but they ALWAYS want you to have answers ready for them.
So how DO you track your data?
At Inventus, we have developed three different tracking systems. The purpose of each system differs, the amount of manual labor that goes into each varies, they all overlap, and all three have their pros and cons. Combined, however, they serve as checks and balances on each other. They also form a solid tracking basis for both internal and external use.
The Case Matrix
The most basic tracking system we have developed is the Case Matrix. Inexpensive and user-friendly, the Case Matrix consists of a simple spreadsheet and is set up in Google Sheets to allow for live interaction and use by several departments at one time. One page tracks every single piece of data we collect or receive and breaks it down by custodian and labels it with a unique identifier, the Matrix ID. Another page tracks the details of all productions we send out. A key advantage to the case matrix is that it is quick and easy to find information in it via searches or filtering on columns. It is also easy to generate lists or logs for clients. It does, however, remain a somewhat linear tool; it is only shared with a few departments within the company, and it requires a high degree of manual labor and constant attention.
Our proprietary ticketing system, AMP, tracks every detail of a given data set as it moves through the different departments. Since its primary purpose is tracking for billing purposes, AMP also remains an internal tool. Unfortunately AMP does not (yet) track data on the same granular level that the matrix can, nor is it an easy and user-friendly task to generate logs or lists from it.
Spotlight is another proprietary tool, this one developed with the purpose of sharing information with our clients. Colorful and user-friendly, its dashboards and graphs can be shaped to show clients whatever they want to see in regards to their data. Spotlight draws its information automatically from AMP and from our database (currently Relativity,) or it can be entered manually. However, as with any automatic tool, errors happen, and any Spotlight chart that is destined to be shared with client is ideally checked against both AMP and the Case Matrix for accuracy.
Ultimately, the question should not be whether to track your client’s data or not, but how are you going to do it and who will be responsible.