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Risk

11/21/2006
07:15 PM
Patricia Keefe
Patricia Keefe
Commentary
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Making A List And Checking It Twice

Thanksgiving on the doorstep means December is just around the corner, bringing with it expressions of cheery good will to all buttressed by those endless, frantic holiday to-do lists. This year, though, before turning out the lights to hit the company party, IT is going to have to check off one more item, and it's a doozy.

Thanksgiving on the doorstep means December is just around the corner, bringing with it expressions of cheery good will to all buttressed by those endless, frantic holiday to-do lists. This year, though, before turning out the lights to hit the company party, IT is going to have to check off one more item, and it's a doozy.New rules go into effect Dec. 1 governing the process of so-called e-discovery. The regulations create specific requirements for producing electronic documents, protocol for their collection and penalties for failing to produce them. The type of data involved here is pretty broad - it's every thing from email, to instant messages, to memos, to VoIP, Webmail, FTP activity, web pages, and other attachments.

On the surface, this appears to be a business problem, and to put a finer point on it - the legal department's problem, says Sophie Pibouin, COO for Chronicle Solutions, a provider of eDiscovery and content monitoring services. But, like many business problems, addressing it requires a partnership with IT. And that's where you come in.

If your company doesn't have ediscovery nailed, you need to run, not walk, over to the legal department for a sit down. The new regulations require businesses to have a policy that is "appropriate" for the business. But while different businesses may decide they need to focus on different kinds of data - at the technical end of the problem, the needs are pretty similar. We're talking storage, monitoring, archival, and data base systems to start. It's not enough to be able to look up items up based on a key word either - you need to be able to produce data threads and put information into context. And you have to integrate all this stuff. (Alas - there is no one turnkey system.)

If you never get sued, you'll never need to bother with this - but hey, you're in business. You betcha some day your company will be sued. And smart businesses practice risk management. That's really what we're talking about here. So it's worth noting that it's not only the board and shareholders who might have something to say if a lawsuit and it's subsequent requests for electronic documents catches you with your pants down.

Insurance companies have tremendous exposure here, and they make lists too. This year they'll be double checking to make sure clients have the proper policy and procedures in place for capturing, storing, integrating, accessing and sharing this data. So you can see where you better get going if you haven't already started.

The thing is, though, a lot of companies don't seem to know much about this. What about your company? Are you on top of this? Just getting started? Or mostly without a clue? If you've gone through the process of building policy and the technology to support it - do you have any tips, lessons learned that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.

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