eDiscovery Best Practices: 6 Project Management Practices to Apply to eDiscovery Cases
By: Doug Austin
August 19, 2011
We’ve discussed project management as it relates to eDiscovery many times on this blog and even discussed whether there is any difference in managing legal projects vs. other types of projects. This article published on Law Technology News yesterday, written by David Kearney of Cohen & Grigsby provides a good summary of six best practices to apply not only to eDiscovery projects, but to any project.
Everybody loves lists, right? At least I do. Here are the six best practices the author listed, with some of my own observations:
- Identify stakeholders and manage expectations. Every project has one or more people who have a stake in the end result (i.e., stakeholders). That could be counsel, end clients, third parties or all of the above. It’s important to communicate expectations and time frames clearly (and, personally, I try to follow up with written documentation of all communicated expectations to minimize the chance of misunderstandings). It’s also important to have a champion of the project to keep everyone on the same page.
- Communicate and report. Did I get ahead of myself and already mention communications? The author advocates a communication plan and reporting methods, which is vital for keeping people on the same page. It should include regular, periodic reporting (e.g., a weekly status report) and a plan for communicating ad-hoc updates (including key decisions made). The means for communicating decisions may depend on the importance of the decision – for key decisions, I’ve been known to meet with or call the key players and follow up with an email to make sure that everyone is informed.
- Define the scope. The author discussed defining the scope to minimize the impact to costs, schedules, quality and resources. This is certainly true and an important up-front step. But, guess what? Scope frequently changes. Collections are larger than you thought, you have more custodians than you thought, additional services are requested, etc. So, it’s important to gather as much information up front as possible to define the scope as accurately as possible, but also be prepared to adjust scope as things change and communicate (there’s that word again!) any changes in scope to the project team.
- Create the plan. The author talks about defining “what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, how much it's going to cost, the risks, how risks will be managed, how long project activities will take, and who will perform the work”. I especially like addressing how risks will be managed. On projects I’ve worked on before, we’ve actually done a “pre-mortem” to brainstorm what can go wrong (i.e., risks) and identify a plan for mitigating each of those risks up front. This exercise can avoid a lot of headaches during the project.
- Manage costs. Two words: budget and track. You should prepare a budget at the beginning of a project and track costs against that budget throughout the project. And, if scope changes, the budget should be updated to reflect those changes.
- Document lessons learned. The author discusses the importance of maintaining historical data on projects to track decisions, resources, etc., and then conducting a “post-mortem” (my words, not his) to learn from your mistakes and also your successes(!). You’ll hopefully be managing more projects in the future, so you want to make sure you can learn as much as you can from each previous project you’ve managed.
So, what do you think? Have you managed any eDiscovery projects? Did you learn any valuable lessons from those experiences? Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.