The next big thing needs to be a proactive approach to knowing where data lives and what it means. It needs to include tools to keep data organized and secured regardless of location. 

One of the most exciting areas in legal tech over the past several years has been the growth of intelligent software. When I talk about intelligent software, I’m talking about products that learn from information. The more information you feed the system, the ‘smarter’ it becomes. Companies like Autonomy, Recommind, StoredIQ, KIIAC and others are using sophisticated search algorithms to infer information from what would otherwise be a sea of data. And while there is high demand for this type of work, mainly in the e-discovery space, the current approach of using this technology for e-discovery seems to be a reactive approach to data management. As data continues to grow, the reactive approach is going to become more costly and less efficient. More importantly, the reactive approach does not let the company benefit from leveraging their data.

Companies need to start thinking about managing data on a proactive basis. In so doing, they will benefit greatly from efficiencies gained on:
Leveraging Data, the value proposition – Most of the data we have collected just sits waiting to be accessed by someone. Technology has done little to help except store, find and retrieve the data. Most business analytics are provided by people, not technology, but that is starting to change with some of these intelligent systems. With a proactive approach to leveraging data, much information can be inferred by looking at data in new ways. The value of information and the ability to extract meaning from this data is creating an entirely new industry of data scientists (see Fortune on topic) and the demand for these people is very high. 
Data Storage – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard,“storage is cheap, just buy more drives”. Drives are cheap, but drives alone do not equal storage (at least not in the enterprise space). When you calculate the cost of redundant drives in multiple locations (disaster recovery), the software to manage those drives, and the expertise to effectively manage that storage, the dollars add up quickly. Further, consider your document retention policy. Who is making sure that everything that should be destroyed is being destroyed?  Do you even know where all the data is stored? The idea of just throwing more storage at the problem is actually creating a bigger problem.

Smoking Guns – Wouldn’t it be nice to know about a potential problem before it happens? With proactive data management, you will have the ability to identify issues before they get out of hand. You will know if someone is stealing your intellectual property and will have an ability to thwart such events. If you take a proactive stance with data governance, you will benefit from better data management and be in a better place if and when the timecomes for e-discovery.

Many companies believe it is too costly to institute technology to be used in the proactive manner I have described. However, they will spend even more money to deal with it in a reactive manner, because they didn’t manage their data and now must weed through much more data to find the the smoking gun.

Think of it this way, proactive data management is like having your cake and eating it too.

  • Scott,
    I think you're right. Much of the information processing we do, as humans, is analysis and categorization based on some relatively simple rules. Good/Bad, Interesting/Not, Relevant/Not, etc. We spend a lot of time and energy sifting through mountains of data to get to the important and actionable information. Machines could/should do a lot of this for us.

    Several consumer algorithms are beginning to do this with news and information. Zite on the iPad is a good example. It gathers news from your twitter, facebook, and google reader accounts, but it also compares those feeds to other news feeds and delivers similar types of information that you may not have otherwise seen. You mark articles as good or bad and the algorithm gets better at predicting your interests over time. I think this kind of technology will eventually have a profound effect on the workplace in ways we can't imagine.

    The one area that we've widely adopted proactive data management is SPAM filtering. And it was initially a struggle to convince people to give up that level of control over "their" data. Despite the fact that an occasional SPAM gets through, or a legitimate email is blocked, I don't think anyone would go back to manually sorting through their mountains of SPAM to find the few good emails. Maybe SPAM Filtering is the gateway drug for proactive data management?

  • Scott,

    You're right on the money in your assessment. No belabored marketing schmootz from me today…but if you or your readers want to learn more about how we are addressing this in the legal current awareness space, check out:

    And How it Works:

    Cheers Mark