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What Is the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM)?

In 2005, attorney George Socha and technology expert Tom Gelbmann founded the EDRM community of eDiscovery and legal professionals. The aim of this new group was to improve standards in the eDiscovery industry and lay down specific guidelines—and one of the first results was the now-iconic E-Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) diagram.

edrm_overview

Pictured above is the first public version that the EDRM released in early 2006, and like the most recent version of the diagram, it is a conceptual model that outlines the various stages of eDiscovery. According to the diagram, legal professionals start with large volumes of electronically stored information (ESI) on the left, and as they move through identification, preservation, collection, review, etc., they reduce this data and pare it down to the most relevant information to be presented during litigation. Importantly, though, the process outlined by the EDRM was an iterative one with stages that could be completed in a different order.

From Records Management to Information Governance

Now, the EDRM model wasn’t supposed to be a concrete model that professionals had to follow. Instead, it was “intended as a basis for discussion and analysis, not as a prescription for the one and only right way to approach eDiscovery.”

With this in mind, a large change has been made to the left-hand side of the EDRM diagram over the years. Where the original version placed “Records Management” on the left, the latest version (2014) has replaced it with “Information Governance”.

EDRM-Chart_v3

Why this change? Just consider how much data modern eDiscovery professionals need to deal with. According to eDiscovery vendor Logikcull, the average case contains 6.5 million individual pages, 130GB of data, and 10-15 organizational custodians— which is why 80% percent of litigation spend now goes towards document review.

Moreover, modern unstructured data sources like social media channels and enterprise collaboration platforms have created an explosion of data that organizations need to handle in a responsible way and take into consideration when it comes to the eDiscovery process. Employees aren’t using email to communicate and share information internally any longer; they’re largely using enterprise collaboration tools.

As the sheer volume of data has mushroomed over the last 15 years, it became increasingly clear that the EDRM needed to address information management in a more meaningful way. Managing ESI is now about much more than simple records management, it’s about managing all the stakeholders involved, delegating duties, handling assets in a responsible way, and understanding the inherent value and function of every piece of data that an organization holds.

In other words, in order to get a handle on data volumes and streamline the eDiscovery process, companies need to understand the value of information governance and adopt a framework that makes data management more manageable.

The Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM)

To assist legal professionals with information governance as it relates to eDiscovery, EDRM not only highlighted the shift from simple records management to a more all-encompassing information governance approach in its diagram, but also designed a new companion diagram called the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM).

“The Information Governance Reference Model project started from a groundswell of interest by EDRM members and non-members alike in having a model that will frame the discussion of information management, in the same way the Electronic Discovery Reference Model has shaped our view of e-discovery,” states the EDRM website. “It was clear that this required much more than simply a better description of the Information Management node of the EDRM. The Information Management node deserved a reference model for itself.”

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The first thing you notice when studying the IGRM is the five brightly-colored sections denoting the various stakeholders involved in information governance. This large focus on various company departments is not incidental. 

“After much discussion among team members and outside stakeholders, we have arrived at this draft diagram focused on one of the major challenges of information management: namely, that most information management efforts are crippled by insufficient collaboration among key stakeholders,” states EDRM.

Depending on the department you’re looking at, ESI within an organization represents different things. For the most part, information is created in the pursuit of profit—it has business value. For IT, however, its primary concern is not the business value of the data, but rather the management challenges that it represents—this data needs to be stored and secured in an efficient way. Lastly, you have departments like legal and compliance who view data as a source of potential risks that needs to be mitigated—whether it’s to show regulatory compliance or prepare for litigation, data has to be easily available for review.

The IGRM and the Data Lifecycle

“In the center of our proposed diagram is a workflow, or lifecycle diagram.  We include this component in the diagram to illustrate the fact that information management is important at all stages of the information lifecycle – from its creation through its ultimate disposition,” states the EDRM. “Even the most primitive business creates information in the course of daily operations, and IT departments spring up to manage the logistics – indeed, one of the biggest challenges in modern organizations is trying to stop individuals from excess storing and securing of information. Legal stakeholders can usually mandate the preservation of what is most critical, though often at great cost. However, it takes the coordinated effort of all three groups to defensibly dispose of a piece of information that has outlived its usefulness, and retain what is useful in a way that enables accessibility and usability for the business user.”

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When it comes to eDiscovery, a lot of attention is traditionally paid to the collection and retention of ESI to ensure that it’ll be available if it’s needed for litigation. But the exponential growth in data volumes is forcing organizations to re-examine how they deal with this information. Companies need to:

  • Monitor data sources to ensure that no crucial piece of data goes unnoticed;
  • Securely archive data;
  • Be able to quickly flag relevant information and place it on legal hold,
  • Easily collect and preserve information in defensible form; 
  • Dispose of data as soon as it is no longer needed.

As eDiscovery professionals are increasingly expected to keep litigation costs down while dealing with terabytes of data, effective information governance becomes crucial. The more effective an organization’s management of its data, the less heavy lifting legal teams need to do. The Information Governance Reference Model is a useful tool for stimulating executive dialogue and explaining the cross-departmental nature of good information governance.

Want to learn more?

Pagefreezer assists organizations with the information governance of online data sources such as webpages, social media accounts, enterprise collaboration platforms, and mobile text messages. To do this, we’ve created a lifecycle model that is based on the IGRM, but specifically addresses the lifecycle stages of online unstructured data. To learn more, simply request a call with one of our solution advisors. You can also download a white paper with more information here.

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