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5 Steps for More Accurate eDiscovery Project Scope

As originally published on completelegalkc.com

Project scoping is challenging no matter what industry you’re in. Few know the specific pains better than eDiscovery project managers.

Between ensuring litigation hold is in effect and comprehensive, to organizing custodian interviews, to any number of other variables, almost nothing in eDiscovery is fixed. At any point.

Two employees discussing electronic data at meetingEven well into the process, you’re more likely than not to uncover something that throws the original plan into disarray. A new custodian, a new source of data, someone using a personal hard drive that wasn’t part of the initial assessment.

Then there’s scope creep to contend with. Scope creep can happen for any number of reasons including too much direct contact between clients and team members, unclear understanding of the original request, proceeding without a cost/benefit analysis, unrealistic expectations and more.

All of these things can change where and when tasks are supposed to happen and, consequently, project timelines. There are five steps, however, that you can take to control the chaos, create a more accurate eDiscovery project scope and keep scope creep to a minimum.

Step 1: Keep Detailed Documentation

Fully understanding the requirements from your stakeholders is key for both the efficiency and accuracy of project scoping. This is where detailed and precise documentation first comes into play.

Creating a requirements document puts your understanding of the requirements into words that can either be agreed upon or discussed further. It also ensures everyone is on the same page. Include as much information as possible and outline exactly what was discussed in meetings, including summaries of any calls or recaps of conversations.

Make sure the document is distributed and signed off on prior to beginning any work, and that the other party has seen it to confirm you have all the bases covered. This is your chance to lock down expectations and create a detailed point of reference that can be used later one when you’re faced with the inevitable scope creep.

Step 2: Create a Communication Plan

A breakdown in communication is probably the one thing that can derail project scoping faster than anything else. Both under-communication and overcommunication are problematic so, while your detailed requirements document plays a large part in establishing good communication, setting some rules around how and when you’ll communicate can make your scope more precise and maintainable.

Create and distribute a thorough communication plan that lays out what work is being done by which teams, and who is responsible for each activity. Identifying team leads establishes a clear point of contact your client can reach out to for the various project activities, reducing the chances of scope creep due to overcommunication. (Note: This is not meant to replace your project plan but add a layer that focuses specifically on communication.)

Projects rarely stick to the set course, so a plan for providing regular updates and a process for making adjustments to the scope are critical. Make sure the client knows any new requirements will be fully vetted by the project team before proceeding and that the client is required to sign off on anything that impacts the budget or schedule.

The more complex a project, matter or team, the more essential communication plans become.

Step 3: Establish and Track Milestones

There are a few standard milestones you’ll want to establish as part of your eDiscovery project scope but consider including some smaller, individual targets, too.

Having even a slightly more detailed roadmap helps your team become increasingly aware of how they’re tracking toward the end goal and what will be required to get there. It also makes reporting much easier.

Don’t forget to add reasonable padding your ETCs (estimated time to completion) so you don’t end up overpromising and underdelivering.

Step 4: Know the Price of Processing, Review & Hosting

Predicting the cost of processing and review can be like a guessing game. Complicated pricing models for services and software feel like they’ve been designed to obscure where and when you could get hit with unexpected fees. And everything is so intimately linked to how much data you have, one unexpected data source could quadruple your cost.

Take the time to really understand what your service provider or software cost structure looks like, including where the triggers are that could result in fees. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself and your vendor to reduce the possibility of surprises mid-project:

  • How long will my data need to be hosted?
  • What is the plan for archiving non-essential data?
  • How many reviewers are necessary?
  • What kind of project management will we require?

Then consider looking into some of the new options out there that allow you to expand your capabilities without blowing your budget. Having an alternative ready before a project start eliminates one big variable that is otherwise completely out of your control.

Step 5: Plan for Delays

Finally, always expect–and plan for–delays. While compressed timetables can make assuming delays incredibly difficult, it is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. Changes pop up, scope begins to creep and multi-tasking on too many clients at once can slow progress or derail a project.

It’s not unusual for eDiscovery project managers to have 15-20 different projects going on at once. It takes a lot of effort to keep them all under control and moving in the right direction. But with smart planning early on and an organized approach, establishing and maintaining a more accurate eDiscovery project scope is indeed possible.

View the original post on Complete Legal’s blog here