According to Merriam-Webster, insight is “an understanding of the true nature of something.” Insight for the case at hand is discovery — once discovered, insights become knowledge. When applied to a process, the experience delivers hindsight (knowledge and understanding about anevent after it has happened) and foresight (the ability to see what will or might happen in the future). This transformation establishes a powerful “insight cycle” that delivers value throughout the eDiscovery process — for an individual case, from past cases to the here and now, and even to future matters.
Visibility Drives Insight
A process is a series of actions; but those actions in and of themselves aren’t the goal — they are simply the means to an end. The desired end of the eDiscovery process is to provide opposing counsel or investigating authority with the documents relevant to the matter. The actions that comprise the eDiscovery process seek to identify, preserve and collect potentially relevant information and then process, analyze and review that data to ensure that all relevant — and no irrelevant or privileged — information is produced.
The key to performing any given action effectively and efficiently is to uncover as much insight as possible throughout each step in the process. Technology can help provide the visibility needed to deliver this insight, but it’s equally important to have a visibility strategy to ensure not only that you uncover maximum insight, but that the insight is leveraged to its fullest potential. Often, this is beyond just the current step in the process.
Foresight: Anticipate and Plan for the Future
Foresight is about using experience and current knowledge to anticipate and plan for what will happen in the future. The “future” can be relatively short term (getting you to the next step in the process), it can be about the end of the case, or it can go beyond the current case to other matters and even beyond eDiscovery to your overall information governance strategy. Maximizing your foresight is critical to ensuring that you have the best information available at every decision point (for more on this, see the tip sheet Informed Acceleration: 5 Ways to Improve Your Time-to-Decision).
There are several key early decision points during which you need visibility to gather the required supporting information needed for an effective go-forward plan. This includes accurate project scoping and budgeting and early assessment. Foresight can also help you iteratively refine workflows and classifications as you go. Visibility into critical information allows adjustments for incremental gains in productivity and efficiency, which can have a significant cumulative effect. It’s also critical for defensibility; the better you can plan for what might happen, the better prepared you will be to uncover issues earlier rather than later and to demonstrate good faith.
Hindsight: Looking Back to Move Forward
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. The expression tends to have a negative cast, implying that one should have known better, but there’s a positive aspect to 20/20 hindsight — it’s valuable insight that can be applied now. Within the context of a single matter, hindsight could be a matter of uncovering a key custodian or storyline later in the process. While you always want to leverage visibility early and often to reduce the frequency of this happening, you can’t always prevent it entirely. You want to make sure that you can act on that hindsight easily and quickly by iterating back through the process.
Hindsight from previous cases can also be extremely beneficial. Rather than starting every case from scratch, you can ramp up much faster and reduce the overall time and effort required by leveraging relevant workflows, classifications, and data from previous cases.
Keys to Transforming Discovery into Knowledge
- Communication — Taking advantage of the insight cycle requires the capture and sharing of the experience. This allows others to understand the steps and leverage that knowledge moving forward.
- Visualization — Transfer of knowledge requires an understanding of the experience — and visuals provide a widely accepted way of showing steps, presenting vast amounts of data, and uncovering additional insights. The human brain isn’t wired to handle large volumes of text-based data; it is, however, wired to respond to pictures.
- Timing — But it’s not enough to just get insight; you need to be able to act on it quickly and effectively. You want to be able to act on insight as you get it — which means that you need to be able to iterate quickly. You need to be able to instantly apply search criteria, filters, and other configurations previously used so that you don’t waste time recreating those parameters. This also helps ensure that data is managed consistently throughout the process.
- Capture — Insight is captured as people discover and make sense of unknowns; the experience is what creates knowledge. The key is capturing this knowledge and helping others know when it’s applicable and how to use it in a way that lets you realize benefits from it over the long term. A discovery repository captures workflows, classifications, and data and makes them available for future matters — and even for the organization’s overall information governance efforts.
It’s About What You Do With Insight
Ultimately, it’s all about outcomes. Visibility is only as good as the insight it provides — and that insight is only as good as the results it enables you to produce. Taking a strategic and longterm view of insight and understanding how it can have a positive effect on the process — via improved quality, lower cost and risk, higher efficiency, etc. — enables you to transform knowledge into a strategic asset.