Microsoft has joined in the e-Discovery fray, now pushing a unified offering across the entire Office platform. At the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, I sat in a session by Quentin Christensen, Program Manager at Microsoft, to see exactly what features will be available to end users.
For law firms and legal departments of corporations, eDiscovery software has become an incredibly important investment. In the last couple of years, the sheer amount of eDiscovery software has certainly trended higher due to the concerns of IT management for being able to produce content exactly when needed and in an accurate fashion.
Quentin began the session by talking about the nuances of e-Discovery, specifically Identify and Preserve, Search and Process, Review and Produce, and how Microsoft plans to address these. The main driver behind Microsoft’s e-Discovery push is in-place hold, query and export, which will give the legal team the ability to create case sites very quickly without having to call IT.
It all begins with an e-Discovery case site on an e-Discovery portal/site collection that can be configured with a series of sources and queries that can search against Exchange, SharePoint and file shares to present the user with a unified view of the content. After a query is sent, SharePoint will provide a means for in-place review of the content right in the browser. This all happens with just one click, and the end user has a lot of power here when it comes to findability.
Drilling down farther, the identify and hold section allows you to create logical groupings, or e-Discovery sets, that identify SharePoint sites, Exchange mailboxes or file shares. Once identified you can place certain content on legal hold, as long as the content is stored in SharePoint 2013.
If you’re wondering how the end user is able to select mailboxes in Exchange, and then subsequently view that data within SharePoint, it’s all made possible with OAuth and Exchange 2013. Since this particular user has elevated e-Discovery permissions in Exchange, viewing the content for this purpose is allowed.
The search and export section is pretty self-explanatory. Once you've identified your content, you can then initiate queries against the previously selected sources to find that content. The query section itself offers the ability to add syntax for specific advanced search functions, filters, modification of sources and various other methods for fine-tuning the result set in real time.
This whole process gives the end user pretty powerful abilities to be able to find pertinent case content, and then make an informed decision right there about the thoroughness of the search. In fact, the initial discovery may end up yielding too many results, which would end up being a costly endeavor for review. The decision to modify the scope of the search or not can happen much more quickly with this functionality.
When you’re ready to make an export of the content, the user can choose to remove duplicates from Exchange, which is frequently an issue with multiple users working on the same case. You also have the option of including and excluding all versions of SharePoint documents, and you can choose to include or exclude encrypted or unreadable file formats.
The final product is an easy to digest local copy of all content selected in the query. As seen in the below screenshot, you’ve got the documents from SharePoint, email stored in Exchange, list data as Excel files, social data as CSVs, and webpages as MHT snapshots. The email is stored in a PSTs in the Exchange folder, and the export process will even export a proper manifest in EDRM XML format for compliance reasons.
The addition of these e-Discovery features is certainly a welcome one. However, it will take some time for firms to fully realize these capabilities, as you really need Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013 to be able to fully utilize the in-place hold and unified email search from within SharePoint.
As of this posting, there is no support for other e-Discovery sources other than the ones listed here, which doesn't fully answer the problem of trying to find content in other proprietary locations. But this is a great step in the right direction towards giving firms, who are on the Microsoft stack, the ability to further empower legal teams with their e-Discovery needs.
Editor's Note: Read more of our SharePoint 2012 Conference Coverage