Who “owns” eDiscovery in a big organisation?

Any complex process involving multiple stakeholders runs better when there is a clear leader in charge. Someone to take ownership of the process, oversee the various moving parts and ensure that each step is run with maximum efficiency. And perhaps most importantly, to see that any learning from the process is fed back to drive future improvements.

When it comes to eDiscovery, however, it’s not always obvious who “owns” the process – particularly in large organisations with complex data estates and multiple interested parties.

Let’s take a look at why the lines of responsibility for eDiscovery are so often blurry, and how this might impact your ability to ensure this essential part of corporate governance is run as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Key Stakeholders


IT is most often responsible for the preliminary phases of eDiscovery – acting on instruction from the business to identify, preserve and collect electronically stored information. They’re the obvious choice for the job, since they usually have the best understanding of the data estate and archives, and which applications are most likely to contain relevant information. With Microsoft Purview now encompassing eDiscovery in addition to the governance and compliance tools within the Microsoft 365 suite, IT is the logical owner, isn’t it, especially as IT also has, or can grant themselves, the necessary permissions to extract the data as required?

Of course, while IT performs the initial search, they don’t (or really shouldn’t) cull or review those results as they are unlikely to understand the full context or nuances of the initial request. This often  leads to iterative and time consuming refinements of the exercise to surface all the necessary data. As such, they’re not exactly a natural fit for “owners” of the entire eDiscovery process. In fact, they may not even be fully aware of how their actions (such as over-collection) can affect eDiscovery costs and/or efficiencies further down the line.

But if they are not the owners, proven eDiscovery-related efficiencies like the creation of a detailed data map and active data deduplication are seldom high (or even present) on IT’s priority list.

HR/Legal/Compliance Departments

Depending on the matter in question, IT typically hands the eDiscovery baton (and body of collected data) back to the requesting business function such as HR, Risk, Legal or Compliance, in support of their internal investigation, litigation matter or regulatory check.

Each of these departments may be considered the “owner” of eDiscovery for their own purposes, but few would feel responsible for improving the end-to-end eDiscovery process to increase the efficiencies of investigations across all departments.

Outside Counsel

In some cases, collected data is passed straight on to an external law firm for processing. It could be argued that this would make that law firm the “owner” of eDiscovery in these instances.

Sadly, very few law firms make a habit of providing eDiscovery feedback to their clients that could enable procedural improvements and potentially unlock future time- and/or cost-savings. Because of this, it’s all too easy for inefficiencies like data duplication or overcollection by ill-informed IT departments to go unaddressed.

The critical intersection

In reality, eDiscovery is a team sport. The trouble is, the team changes depending on the business issue being addressed. As a result, assigning overall “ownership” of the process is never simple.

Ultimately, the answer lies in finding (or creating) an intersection between the often-siloed business functions that contribute to the overall eDiscovery process. In other words, the intersection between legal, compliance, operations, and IT.

By pinning “ownership” of eDiscovery at this organisational intersection, it becomes possible to achieve the big-picture oversight (and motivation) necessary to implement some really far-reaching eDiscovery improvements. We’re talking precision data governance, documented eDiscovery processes, optimised skills availability and usage – all of our favourite proactive strategies for driving down the costs of eDiscovery.

Who owns the mandate for improving eDiscovery in your organisation? How much efficiency are you losing through the gaps between departmental siloes? Get in touch to take charge of your eDiscovery strategy and start tapping into the time- and cost-saving benefits of a consolidated, proactive eDiscovery approach.

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