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The Seven Deadly Sins of Implementing an E-mail Archive System

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I recently had the pleasure of co-authoring an article with Allen Gurney, the Director of Professional Service, eDiscovery for Capax Global. The article is entitled The Seven Deadly Sins of Implementing an E-mail Archive System and was originally published as in Technolawyer's Technofeature newsletter.

You can download a print-ready copy of the article here:

For the convenience of those reading this in their Web browsers, RSS readers, or e-book readers, the entire text is below.


A lawsuit here, a lawsuit there. Pretty soon you're talking real money. An archive system that automatically captures electronically stored information (ESI) across your organization can significantly reduce the costs of discovery and make it defensible to boot. Your outside counsel will also approve as they will gladly trade fewer billable hours for a reduced risk of sanctions. But given the number of vendors and solutions available, you can easily spend a boatload of capital on a system that fails to meet your needs. In this TechnoFeature, eDiscovery and project management experts Paul Easton and Allen Gurney discuss the seven most common pitfalls involved in implementing an ESI archive system. More importantly, they explain how to avoid these pitfalls. In other words, required reading for all in-house and outside litigation counsel.


A properly functioning archive system for electronically stored information (ESI) can greatly increase an organization's ability to rapidly and cost-effectively conduct electronic discovery when litigation rears its costly head. Implementing such a system, however, represents a major undertaking. Proper planning and follow through are critical to ensuring that your implementation fulfills your legal and business objectives.

Whether you work in-house and seek to improve your company's electronic-discovery readiness, or serve as outside counsel in an advisory role, a number of pitfalls lie in your wake
when rolling out a new ESI archive system. In this article, we discuss seven of the most common and destructive pitfalls we've seen trip up an archive-implementation project.


Often, an organization treats an archive-implementation project as a purely technical exercise, failing to consider the people and business-process dynamics. Typically,
software companies do not include these aspects in their professional services as they try to keep the budget lean to ensure their overall costs remain competitive with other solutions. Also, corporate IT departments may focus on the technical aspects of the project to the detriment of these key success factors.

In our experience, less than 5% of an archive project's budget is typically allocated to address these areas. That's not enough. In reality, if you plan to spend $1 million dollars on technology, consider spending at least 10% -- $100,000 in this example -- on the people and business process dimensions of an archive project.


Make sure that you have a process in place to identify, collect requirements from, and communicate project status to everyone with an interest in the archive project. Often, one
department initiates an archive-implementation project (e.g., legal, records or IT) without a broader partnership of all of the other stakeholders in the organization. Economics can further complicate this issue, and corporate-funding constructs can cause organizations to behave in unnatural ways.

For example, if the legal department funds the project, it may lack the project-management and technical expertise required for success. Similarly, if the IT department funds the project, it may manage the implementation with insufficient understanding of legal-discovery requirements.

In the first scenario, the project is likely to be completed late and over budget. In the latter scenario, you may end up with a system delivered on time and within the budget, but that your legal department cannot -- or will not -- use.

Vendors take advantage of these gaps in stakeholder management during the sales process, often resulting in the company purchasing a solution that may not correlate with actual business needs. This waste is least prevalent in organizations that employ a formal and detailed process to identify business requirements. Such organizations often have a Project Management Office staffed with trained business analysts, or at the very least have an internal governance process of some sort.


In nearly every project, someone, someplace, ends up developing some warped or out-of-bounds expectation. For example, we have worked on projects in which the corporation's project manager had established a project milestone, and communicated it to the project sponsors (executives) without validating with the vendor that the milestone was feasible (it wasn't). More commonly, we've seen corporate counsel surprised that their archive lacked
certain functionality months into the implementation process.

Disagreements over scope or project timelines are a common cause of misaligned expectations. Will the implementation be domestic only or global? Is it limited to some business units or will it cover the full enterprise? No archive product is perfect and there is no one product or set of features that will fit the needs of all organizations. Technical hurdles must be cleared, trade-offs must be made, and all stakeholders must remain involved so priorities can be accommodated or adjusted, given the time and budget available.


Many archive-implementation projects do not have good contract governance in place. It is important for an organization to ensure that the contract correlates to the stated business objectives and the itemized deliverables. The project team should ensure that a project is scoped for success and determine how to measure successful completion of the various activities. We have seen legal departments spend weeks negotiating terms and conditions without the same focus put on the project plan, scope, and deliverables.


Poor communication is often the cause of, and certainly exacerbates, all of the pitfalls discussed in this article. Identifying stakeholders tells you who you need to communicate with, but you still need a plan in place to manage those communications. Your communications plan should ensure distribution of information to the appropriate stakeholders in a timely manner, effective reporting of project performance, and proper management of issue resolutions and change requests.


Few corporations ever create a go-live strategy at the same level of detail as the installation. Many companies expend a great deal of capital and effort getting the technology implemented, but have -- at best -- an ad hoc plan for training, system operation and support, and staff resource utilization.

You need to begin planning for the transition from the earliest stages of the project and budget for sufficient end-user training on, and testing of, the system. One common problem with many archive implementations is that training takes place on a demonstration system and end-users are not given a sufficient amount of guided, hands-on practice using the system as implemented.

Another common mistake occurs when organizations fail to document and test processes prior to the go-live date (i.e., beta testing). Real legal matters often become the beta test
projects. That's not when you want to identify limitations and other problems. While the archive system is being implemented, you should allocate sufficient time to document
repeatable processes for responding to discovery requests and preservation notices, and have in-house and outside counsel review the results and provide feedback.


You have the technology in place. Now what? The obvious answer is -- use it! Too often, organizations expend significant sums to implement an archive system only to have it go unused or not be used to its full potential.

Generally, this outcome stems from the six foregoing pitfalls. If you treat an archive-implementation project as a purely technical project, do not involve critical stakeholders, and do not meet the expectations of end users, it is likely that the system, once deployed, will be underutilized. Without well-developed processes and trained resources, you may end up with a system no one in your organization fully understands.

It is important that you have a project champion with sufficient authority to hold people accountable for using the system. Without such a person, documented processes are unlikely to be followed, which decreases the defensibility of your discovery process.

To reduce the costs of properly managing archive systems, some corporations have outsourced archive-management functions to business and legal process outsourcing firms and IT services firms. These companies not only manage the technical aspects of managing the archive, but may also include help with searching, collecting, preserving, reviewing, and producing data for legal matters and internal investigations.


Now that you know where the pitfalls lie, how can you avoid them? Start with an experienced project manager at the helm. Most of these pitfalls stem from poor project management.
Rolling out a new ESI archive system has many moving parts that benefit from professional project management. Your archive system will impact a large number of stakeholders in the organization and involve diverse technologies, all of which may be geographically dispersed. An experienced project manager can help ensure that you properly scope the project, identify and mitigate risks, and stay on top of the budget, resource allocation, and schedule. Effective project management also serves as a communication bridge between IT and legal, and helps identify other interested parties to ensure that they have a voice.

Consider hiring a third party to guide your corporation from the initial project formulation to the end phases of going live. Corporations should also involve outside counsel in the selection process, particularly if the corporation does not have an internal specialist such as "Technology Counsel" participating in the project.

In the end, it's always about the bottom line. Avoiding the pitfalls discussed in this TechnoFeature article will ensure that your archive system is delivered on time within budget,
meets your expectations, and is used it to its full potential, thereby eliminating any negative impact on your organization's bottom line.


Allen Gurney PMP is the Director of Professional Service, eDiscovery for Capax Global. He has over 14 years of legal technology and technology consulting expertise, and has helped dozens of Fortune 500 corporations significantly reduce operational costs and risks when preparing for and responding to discovery. Allen is a recognized expert, providing testimony as an enterprise technology and electronic discovery expert witness in multiple jurisdictions. As a certified project manager, Allen has provided consulting services to corporations in areas including technology, litigation support, discovery and records management.


Paul C. Easton JD, PMP, CEDS is a Managing Director for Global Colleague and oversees its Asian operations, dividing his time between Taiwan and India. He manages ESI archive selection and implementation projects, and high-volume, multi-national, multi-lingual discovery projects for the United States' largest law firms and corporations. Paul serves as the Community Leader for the Project Management Institute's Legal Project Management Community of Practice


Published by Technolawyer on Tuesdays, TechnoFeature is a weekly newsletter containing in-depth articles written by leading legal technology and practice management experts, many of whom have become "household names" in the legal profession. You can subscribe here:

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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on May 7, 2011 5:06 AM.

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PMI Presents "Avoiding Redundant Project-Management Costs in Electronic-Discovery Projects" is the next entry in this blog.

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