Automated Workflow - Providing Structure to Document Review

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 by Thought Leadership Team

The traditional practice of document review has a lot of moving parts. It often involves many teams of people, working under tight timeframes, searching for relevant information and striving to produce in a timely manner. As discovery practices have evolved, legal technology service providers have responded with new technologies designed to reduce data volumes, enhance search capabilities, and improve analytics and reporting. However, little time has been spent improving the process of document review.

Automated workflow has changed the document review landscape, improving this often cumbersome process. After all, administration and execution of the review process should run like clockwork. Even when all of the essentials for a document review are in place - reviewers, facilities, training and technology (including up-to-date advanced searching techniques) - the process requires significant planning, oversight and the ability to smoothly absorb hiccups along the way. Automated workflow functionality, which enables document review administrators to design, manage and monitor the document review process, implements defensible quality control mechanisms and allow reviewers to efficiently check in completed work and request more documents.

Workflow Design

Using automated workflow technology, document review administrators can create workflow components to define an automated document review process and associated rules. Rather than sketching the process on loose-leaf pages, giant whiteboard charts or even inside someone’s head, administrators can visually design the workflow directly within the review tool using an intuitive interface to view, create, copy or delete components in an on-screen display. Next, review managers can assign document sets to specific reviewer groups, define review criteria and determine how documents will flow through the review stream. To ease the setup process, each component of the workflow corresponds to a particular question to help define the state, reviewer group, document check-in criteria, document routing and routing automation. Additionally, if a review must start with limited review criteria, more complex, defined criteria can be added later. The resulting process is defensible, repeatable and efficient.

Automated Distribution

Document review administrators can also eliminate the process of manually distributing document batches to reviewers. Automated workflow features allow administrators to define and electronically distribute document sets to designated reviewer groups. During the review process, reviewers can mark documents as incomplete, flag them for a manager or check them in as complete. Documents that meet check-in criteria then automatically proceed to the next applicable stage based on the defined review stream. However, documents will fail check-in if the reviewer attempts to designate conflicting categorizations. At that point, the reviewer is notified to correct the categorization decision. This predefined process increases efficiency, productivity and accuracy. It also eliminates time otherwise wasted in manual distribution and collection and frees the administrator for other important tasks, such as quality control (QC). The result is a faster and more cost-effective review process.

Accurate Monitoring

In a manual workflow, administrators must monitor reviewers closely to minimize lag time and ensure reviewers are supplied with ongoing assignments. Status reports can be run only at the end of a workday, forcing administrators to stay late in order to track the progress of the review. Automating the process alleviates the strains associated with the often tedious spreadsheet creation. Using an intuitive interface, administrators can electronically access and manage the review, monitor progress and address problem documents as they arise. Real-time graphical status reports display high-level or detailed views of the review progress based on stages, reviewer groups or individual reviewers. Additionally, enhanced reporting capabilities enable the administrators to self-schedule project summary reports and choose to have them distributed over e-mail. With these features, the administrators can easily update team members and clients, and can more accurately project the completion date and related staffing needs.

Quality Control & Defensibility

Improved quality control is another benefit of automated workflow. Rather than running hundreds of QC searches at the end of a review, administrators can utilize automated quality control capabilities to validate the consistency of review decisions, ensure accurate categorization of documents and verify that a logical end result is reached. When a misclassification is detected, an administrator can immediately notify the reviewer to correct the issue, thereby saving time normally reserved for extensive QC in the final stages of a review.

Managing any size of a document review project can seem unwieldy, complicated and nearly endless. Taking advantage of new automated workflow capabilities to manage and execute the document review process will ease the strain on human resources and will help clients drive down costs and advance to the next stages of the litigation.