Data Conversion: The Service That Nobody Talks About, But Everybody Needs

By: Doug Kaminski
Chief Revenue Officer, Cobra Legal Solutions

With so many advances in automation in eDiscovery these days, it’s not uncommon to think that data just automatically moves from platform to platform with no intervention needed.  The data starts within an enterprise system, can seamlessly be transmitted into, say, a legal hold platform and then into an eDiscovery review platform.  Productions from opposing parties just load right into your review platform because they’re all the same and productions received are always consistent.  Right?

Often, nothing could be further from the truth.  In most cases, data just doesn’t simply flow into systems – it’s more like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  These issues are a big secret or perhaps an afterthought.  When you can’t get data from point A to point B, or even fully utilize it where it sits, you need the eDiscovery service that almost nobody talks about – data conversion.

Data conversion is exactly what it sounds like – it’s making changes to the format and organization of the data to accomplish a specific purpose.  Often that purpose is to migrate it into a different platform, but it can also simply be to apply changes to make the data more consistent and usable.

Three Scenarios Where Data Conversion May Be Needed

Here are three common scenarios where data conversion may be needed to support discovery:

Legacy Data Conversion

Organizations don’t use the same systems and solutions forever – eventually those systems become obsolete (or are even discontinued as with the recent announcement by Thomson Reuters to discontinue their eDiscovery platform), and the organization may want to begin using a solution that better meets their needs.  However, they may still want to use data from that legacy system in the new solution.  Often, neither the legacy software provider (if they’re still in business) nor the new software solution provider will be able to help get the data from the old system to the new one, so you’ll need assistance from experts who understand how to convert the data to maximize its usefulness in the new solution.

Moving the Data Through the eDiscovery Life Cycle

Some organizations utilize a “best of breed” approach to discovery, involving more than one platform over the EDRM life cycle.  They may choose one platform for legal hold, a different platform for early data assessment and processing and yet another one for managed review.

While many popular eDiscovery solutions today provide automated integrations to other selected eDiscovery solutions, those automated integrations often don’t exist between platforms, and data conversion expertise is needed to move the data through the next step in the eDiscovery life cycle.  Often, that expertise is not available within the software provider itself; instead, a service provider experienced with data conversion may be able to migrate data into the platform when the software platform provider can’t.

Correcting Received Production Sets

Producing parties never make mistakes in the document sets they produce, right?  Of course they do – in fact, it happens often.  Inconsistent or incorrect delimiters, format inconsistencies and other mistakes can be quite common.  Just consider how many ways there are to represent dates within a production set:

  • 09/15/2021 14:00:00
  • 9/15/2021 2:00 PM
  • Sep-15-2021 2:00 PM
  • 2021/09/15 14:00:00
  • September 15, 2021 2:00 PM

Not only that, but you may also see all those variations in a single production set!  It happens – we’ve seen it.

Establishing production parameters up front helps, but there are often still mistakes that are made when you receive production sets and sometimes it’s quicker and easier to work with an expert to convert the data to get it loaded than to go back and forth with the producing party to correct it.

Conclusion

Data conversion is the service that people don’t talk much about, but it’s a service you’re likely to need at some point.  You will need to migrate important data from a legacy system, or you will need to move data between platforms within your eDiscovery workflow or you will need to correct mistakes in data sent to you.  So, when considering eDiscovery service providers, don’t forget to ask them about their experience in data conversion – you will likely need their help with that at some point!  The “secret” is out!

Next time, I’ll discuss four best practices for successful data conversion projects.

For more information about Cobra’s Technology services (including database and data conversion services), click here.

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