Ongoing Program Maintenance and Improvement – Program Management Series, Part 7

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A multi-part series on eDiscovery program management issues facing serial litigants, including readiness, resources, service providers, metrics, and more

In the first Part of this series, we reviewed the concept of program management and its benefits.  In the second Part, we discussed the evaluation and improvement of organizational litigation readiness.  In the third Part, we discussed how to evaluate your existing needs and resources.  In the fourth Part, we discussed the available solution models.  In the fifth Part, we discussed the evaluation of eDiscovery service providers.  In the sixth Part, we discussed tracking metrics for program management.  In this Part, we continue our survey of program management topics with a look at ongoing program maintenance and improvement.

Ongoing Program Maintenance

Unfortunately, the establishment of an effective, efficient eDiscovery program is not a one-and-done activity.  Like all active programs or systems, it requires ongoing maintenance to ensure that it continues to be effective and efficient.  For an eDiscovery program that means doing things like post-mortems, periodic program reviews, and more:

  • Individual Project Post-Mortems
    • Reviewing how individual projects went, with the relevant participants, is an excellent way to monitor how well processes are working (including how consistently they are followed) and to identify ways to improve them
  • Periodic Service Provider Evaluations (and New RFIs)
  • Quarterly or Annual Program Reviews
    • The various metrics you are tracking (along with post-mortem results and other input sources) provide fodder for regular review of the program’s overall performance, costs, and more; this should occur at least annually but may be useful quarterly for larger programs
  • Annual Policy, Process, and Playbook Reviews
    • The policies and processes (or playbook) you have created will also need to be periodically updated to reflect the ongoing evolution in the organization’s activities, in its electronic sources, in its discovery tools and service providers, and in the applicable law and industry best practices; additionally, any data maps maintained will require annual updates
  • Quinquennial Organization Self-Evaluation
    • Approximately every five years, you should consider repeating the full organizational evaluation process that you undertook at the beginning of this effort to ensure that you understand how organizational needs are changing and how the program should change to best continue meeting them

Continuous Program Improvement

In addition to maintaining your program over time, you will undoubtedly want to improve it over time.  One way to pursue such a goal is to establish a formal continuous improvement plan for your eDiscovery program.  A continuous improvement plan is a plan for continual, iterative improvement of specific program metrics – attempting, each year, to make specific tasks marginally less expensive, or specific processes marginally faster to complete, or specific error types marginally less frequent.  Similar goals can also be set for outside service providers as part of term-contracts for managed services.

Capability Maturity Models

As your organization undertakes the eDiscovery program management efforts described in this series, and as the program is improved further over time, you may wish to measure your overall organizational progress against some standard, like the five levels of a capability maturity model.  Capability maturity models are a structured way of evaluating an organization’s functional capabilities in a particular service area.  They were originally developed as part of the government’s process for contracting with software developers, but the concept has since been adapted to many other functional areas, including eDiscovery.

In general, the five levels of a capability maturity model represent five successive degrees of consistency and sophistication in an organization’s processes and execution:

  1. Initial (chaotic, ad hoc, individual heroics) – the starting point for use of a new or undocumented repeat process.
  2. Repeatable – the process is at least documented sufficiently such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.
  3. Defined – the process is defined/confirmed as a standard business process
  4. Capable – the process is quantitatively managed in accordance with agreed-upon metrics.
  5. Efficient – process management includes deliberate process optimization/improvement.
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The eDiscovery Maturity Model developed by EDRM applies those phases to the eDiscovery area in this way:

How far it makes sense for your organization to follow a path like this one will depend on the frequency and scale of your organization’s litigation and associated eDiscovery.

Upcoming in this Series

In the next Part of this series, we will conclude our survey of eDiscovery program management issues with a review of the key takeaways from across this series.

About the Author

Matthew Verga

Director of Education

Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible to diverse audiences. A fourteen-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design. He leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.

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