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David Hill
David Hill

Big Data's Evolving Role in E-discovery: What Is Predictive Coding?

Predictive coding is helping to speed up the often laborious and intense e-discovery process. Learn more about the technology, and why organizations are still taking a measured approach.

To get a better understanding of those and other related questions, FTI Technology commissioned a survey of 24 in-house and law firm counsel. Some of the results from the report, "Advice from Counsel: Can Predictive Coding Deliver on Its Promise?," include the following:

• Emerging case law that supports the use of predictive coding has led more than half of the respondents to say that they're more likely to use it. As an analyst, I have been pleased and surprised that courts and attorneys who tend to have a different logical thinking process than, say, business intelligence analysts have generally supported the use of e-discovery technologies, of which predictive coding is just one example.

• Predictive coding is a process, not just a technology, and people have a critical and vital role that can result in the successful use of the technology. People have to determine the reference set (that is, the test set of data used as a training vehicle for predictive coding); refine the software; and conduct the necessary quality control to ensure defensibility.

• Although predictive coding can deliver huge savings, the verdict is still out on whether the savings exceed the additional costs, such as software. Quantifying costs and savings turns out to be quite difficult. More work needs to be done to define calculations and how they would apply to types and sizes of cases for which predictive coding would be appropriate.

• Predictive coding would tend to be most appropriate in situations involving 100,000 or more documents or in particular types of matters, such as class-action suits or cases mandating large-scale reviews in short time frames, such as those conducted by the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice. Predictive coding isn't as appropriate in small-volume cases, where the documents aren't text-based, such as photographs, images or audio files, or where trying to find the proverbial "needle in the haystack" is the target of the investigation.

• Organizations are taking a measured approach to the adoption of predictive coding--many don't want to be early adopters, but that hasn't prevented a little more than half from using or trying it. A deliberate and sensible approach doesn't mean that predictive coding won't be successful, just that we're still in the early-adopter phase, rather than the early-majority step of the process.

The bottom line is that predictive coding seems like a valid process technically, but its complexity suggests a deliberate, pragmatic adoption process.

The primary market research survey conducted by FTI Technology gets into the heart of the issues that affect the adoption of predictive coding. Although this is only one illustration of big data and its associated analytical technologies, the lesson that can be learned is this: Carefully think through the drivers and inhibitors that affect the adoption of a technology, so that you can take the appropriate actions.

FTI Technology is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio
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