Most companies have had to produce emails for one reason or another whether its related to legal cases, regulatory audits, FBI investigations or a mere internal inquiry. If you are a company that hasn’t had to endure this tedious task, then you are lucky and it is only a matter of time when you will. I am sure certain banks and car manufacturers felt the same way prior to their legal situations. Email has so many purposes today besides just communication. It is used to store information, file it away in a folder so you can refer to it at another time. It is used to protect yourself when your boss claims you didn’t send him the coversheet for the TPS report, or in my case it is to remind me that I need to add a coversheet for the TPS report as stated in the memo. As companies change how they use email and become even more dependent on it, more data or evidence will sit there waiting to be discovered for one reason or another. This has been going on for years and the only thing that has changed is the number of emails we store is growing and the number of emails we delete is shrinking.
So who gets to do the dirty work and search for the emails when the day of Discovery becomes a reality? Well last time I checked IT gets the first order to find as much email as possible with minimal to no guidelines. Well like you, I lived that dreaded nightmare and that is why I now work at Quest because we build quality products to assist IT in these otherwise tedious efforts. The best advice is to be prepared ahead of time by knowing what you can do so you are ready for that discovery demand. It is possible to find relevant information stored in a sea of email and hand it off in a timely manner without working after hours or on weekends.
Check out this Osterman Research Whitepaper sponsored by Quest Software for more information on the importance of Discovery, problems with existing Discovery methods as well as what you can do to make it less nightmarish.