If, as I do, you go round law firms encouraging them to consider the proper handling of electronic data, you realise that it is very hard for them to visualise what actually happens when it becomes necessary to collect documents and other data for litigation, regulatory purposes or other investigations. It s no different within organisations who have not yet had to undertake such an exercise.
I am not here talking of deep technicalities – the lawyers do not really want to know how the technology works, whether at the collection stage or in subsequent culling and review. What is omitted from most of the supplier websites, though, is some idea of what the implications are for the company once the lawyer, whether in-house or external, has put the phone down having set the collection operation into motion.
An article by Victor Limongelli, President and CEO of Guidance Software, is called When it comes to collection, the OS is not your friend, and is concerned primarily with issues such as collecting open files whilst relying on the operating system to manage the collection. Along the way, however, it illustrates the practical point that, however important the reasons for the collection, you cannot bring the organisation to a halt whilst the data is collected. Executives must communicate with each other and with the outside world; a salesman deprived of the use of his e-mail is a wasted resource.
Open files are not the only problem. Before you commission a collection exercise, it is necessary to specify that the interruption to the business will be minimal and that the collection will include not merely those working at their desks, but also those who are travelling or in different time zones.
It is bad enough if you do this as a one-off or rare exercise. What if it is or might become a regular occurrence? I have just published an article about the UK Bribery Act 2010. This does more than merely add yet another implication to the existing list of factors which may make data collection exercises a more frequent event, but is (in words taken from the Huffington Post article referenced in my article), “the new international gold standard in anti-corruption”. Furthermore, the Act extends to all commercial companies, not just the larger ones. Time to have a process, perhaps, a standard way of reacting to demands for documents quickly, for collecting everything, open or not – without bringing the company to its knees whilst you do it.