Despite the adage ‘Don’t switch horses midstream,’ in the world of EDD, sometimes there is no avoiding transitioning providers after a project gets underway. Individuals with little or no experience with migrations tend to fall into two categories: those to whom a transition seems like a straightforward endeavour (the ‘how hard can it be?’ crowd) and those who view migrations as overwhelmingly daunting (the ‘where do I even begin?’ camp). The truth lies in between those extremes. Both nonchalance and terror are unwarranted—and unwise. Fortunately, with the help of a handful of guidelines, it becomes much easier to avoid either of those attitudes.
Although EDD is a fluid and ever-changing field with numerous providers, and while no two projects are identical, most providers have well-worn processes to handle typical day-to-day EDD scenarios. Large migrations, however, are a different beast. They are often a herculean undertaking that requires specialised skills, unique capabilities, and experience. My Elevate colleagues and I have seen this time and again in the migrations we have handled. Success requires heading off challenges and addressing the following seven considerations:
Timing is Everything – The foundational question for any provider transition is, Is this the right time for a migration? Answering the question requires (among other things) identifying any deadlines looming that might coincide with the transition period. It is usually possible to perform a migration in phases, but this is never ideal. Best practices dictate ceasing all work in the database after the migration begins to ensure that the process captures all work product. Databases typically remain down for a week, making it critical to game out the impact of database inaccessibility during the transition.
Familiarity Breeds Success – Another key aspect involves the post-transition review platform and whether your team is familiar with the new working environment. However, familiarity is not the end-all-and-be-all. It is best to engage a provider with experience with multiple platforms and proficiency at providing review and functionality training on each. That ensures your team will receive the training they need during the transition downtime.
Identify, Prioritise, Eliminate – Migrations provide a golden opportunity to reduce risk and achieve cost savings by streamlining your database and removing unneeded and irrelevant data. Working with the eDiscovery team, you can identify data needed in the future, prioritise the transfers of data based on upcoming deadlines, and eliminate data you no longer need. (For more on the multiple benefits of a ‘data diet,’ please see my colleague Megan Silverman’s recent post here.)
Manage Your Image(s) – One often-overlooked aspect of migrations can prove to be one of the most challenging: images. My Elevate colleagues and I know well that handling records with redactions and annotations applied in the original platform requires special attention. It is essential to determine at the outset whether the new platform can ingest and associate such images with their source records. Most platforms handle redacted records differently, which makes it critical that you work with an experienced discovery team capable of developing the specialised workflows you will need to handle such data.
The Value of Validation – Another potential peril in migrations is the cascading impact of initial missteps. To avoid them, make sure to validate actual counts and workspace details against the expected results at each stage of transfer. By catching discrepancies early through validation checklists, you can save major headaches that may otherwise go unnoticed until they become acute problems.
Bring on the Productions –Different platforms handle productions differently. Some very closely associate the produced record with the original record. Others treat each produced record as an entirely new copy of the record with its own unique control (aka Bates) number. Because each method has its advantages, you should select an experienced eDiscovery team able to identify the most efficient means of migrating and associating these production records with their source data.
Controlled Environment – The final step in a migration is a thorough quality control check of the new environment. Is all data ‘present and accounted for’? Are your coding panes functional and the permissions in order? Do the images and natives render in the new database? Have you added the necessary users to the new workspace and confirmed that their permissions are accurate?
A platform migration can be one of the most stressful events in the lifecycle of your matter. What you do not know can hurt you. You will gain tremendous value working with an EDD team that knows how to organise and guide customers through the migration process. They will help you avoid unnecessary downtime, unforced errors, and disruptions issues that may arise. I can attest to the difference that experience and knowledge make in achieving the best possible results when a migration occurs.
Attitudes towards EDD migrations range from ‘How hard can it be?’ to ‘Help! Where do I even begin?’ Both nonchalance and terror are unwarranted—and unwise. Fortunately, with the help of a handful of guidelines, it becomes much easier to avoid missteps when transitioning providers.