With new and changing regulatory requirements, investigations are increasingly becoming a staple of any e-discovery team’s work. Yet, how you approach an investigation can vary drastically—depending on the type and scope of the investigation, your organization’s resources, and your general preparedness to get it off the ground.
While you can’t control the type and scope of the investigation, you certainly have a say in how ready your team is to pounce on it.
In August and September of 2021, Relativity conducted a survey of 114 investigations experts across 21 industries to get a better understanding of where the industry stands in terms of investigation readiness and maturity, and to help our customers find more context in terms of how their practice compares to their peers’ practices.
During Relativity Fest last fall, Relativity Senior Product Marketing Manager Amelia Chen and Senior Product Manager Justin Dougherty gave a sneak peek of the findings. Read on to see the highlights and be sure to read the full report for all the details.
Are You “Mature” or “Less Mature”?
One of the main purposes of the research was to benchmark the industry’s investigation practices and learn how “mature” practices consider themselves to be based on self-assessments.
Those who categorized themselves as “most mature” were defined as leveraging some purpose-built software solution to facilitate their investigation. They also likely have a well-defined compliance process and procedure. Conversely, less mature practices are typically using native applications, like Outlook and Gmail, to search for and download potentially relevant data and then piece together the story.
With those definitions in mind, Amelia shared some findings about mature investigators versus the less mature. One of the key findings is perhaps unsurprising: more mature practices have had a bit more practice.
“The more you do something, the better you are at it. The mature investigators are averaging 10 investigations on a weekly basis,” Amelia said. “On the other end, less mature organizations reported only having around two investigations per week.”
Additionally, the size of the investigations plays an important role, with more mature organizations seeing a larger volume—generally anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 documents, as opposed to the less mature organization’s average of around 1 to 100 documents.
Good Enough Today Won’t Be Good Enough Tomorrow
Throughout the survey, we asked respondents to rank their current investigation experiences on a few different criteria. There was a theme among the responses, Amelia and Justin said, with a lot of respondents calling elements of their practice “acceptable for now.”
For example, when asked to rank their current setup experience from 1 to 5 (non-performant to working perfectly), 54 percent said “acceptable for now.” Similarly, when asked to rate their automation during the investigation process, around 40 percent picked “acceptable for now.”
From these results, we can guess that investigations teams have tools that are working for them, but not without their fair share of challenges and inefficiencies. That sort of thought process, however, isn’t futureproof, Justin explained.
“With volume increasing at increasing rates, what’s acceptable for now is not going to be good enough for the future.”
Time, Security, Defensibility: Your Practice Needs All 3
Perhaps the most obvious element of a successful investigation is how quickly your team can come to a resolution. The longer the investigation takes, the more you open yourself up to additional risks and expenses, including labor costs and the chance of suspected wrongdoer continuing to go down a nefarious path.
However, time to resolution isn’t the only consideration, Amelia and Justin explained. Investigations almost always involve several stakeholders and various types of sensitive data—and if it’s not handled correctly, you’re leaving the door wide open to potential security infractions.
“With confidential or sensitive data, the ideal state is to have an environment that can house that data [… and] process and review that data. As organizations think about up-leveling capabilities, looking toward secure solutions that can manage data in a way that’s conducive to the review process is key,” Amelia said.
Finally, though it doesn’t happen every time, investigations often turn into litigation—making it crucial that every step of the process along the way was defensible, from how you collected data to how you documented interviews.
“If you’re a mature organization leveraging a purpose-built system that’s designed to securely house and manage all this data, then your process is that much more defensible so you’re confident it was well done,” Amelia said.
“It’s valuable to have the same tool for both investigation and litigation,” Justin added. “In the case in which investigation turns to litigation, that matter can be easily handed over to legal team without the legal team needing to retrace the steps. Everything is in the platform already.”
Where to Start on Your Path to Maturity
There are of course several factors that go into having a mature investigations practice. However, having one tool, as Justin pointed out, speaks to the big three priorities: time, security, and defensibility.
“[Having one solution] reduces time to value by not having the legal team replicate your work. You’re using the same secure environment to house that data, and you can ensure defensibly by nature of the tool you’re using,” Amelia said.
The survey respondents tended to agree. When asked what the most important criteria for the selection of investigation software is, respondents put “integration with other parts of the e-discovery process” at the top of the list.
That result was not a surprise, said Amelia, especially when you consider variables such as price, security, and performance.
“As a collective industry, we don’t want to settle for acceptable; we’re aiming for exceptional. It’s a standard we’re holding ourselves to and we hope you’ll hold your vendors to that standard as well.”
To dive deeper into the findings from our investigations survey, check out the full report.