Editor's Note: This article was originally published in July 2021, and provides some helpful first steps in optimizing your in-house investigations procedures. Take a look to see where you might have room for efficiency gains.
“The only constant in life is change,” the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once postulated some 2,500 years ago.
With constant change comes the need to constantly adapt—and oh, how things are changing.
You’ve probably already encountered these staggering stats somewhere. Possibly you’ve even experienced some of them yourself. But let’s set the stage together:
By 2025, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes. For reference, one zettabyte is equal to a thousand exabytes, a billion terabytes, or a trillion gigabytes.
Seventy-nine percent of legal departments reported an increase in workload last year due to the pandemic, according to Thomson Reuters.
Naturally, all this data and work has to go somewhere—which means it has to fall on someone’s shoulders, in every organization. And that’s not without consequence; according to the WHO, working long hours is hazardous to our health (although most of us already knew that). It’s more essential than ever to stem the tide of burnout on your team.
So with the rise in data volumes, the rise in work, and the compounding detrimental impact these can have on us, what steps can you take to reevaluate how your team is working and what efficiency gains are currently available to you?
Ask Yourself the Important Questions
To start, a little self-examination is in order.
In our recently published “Innovating Internal Investigations” e-book, we posit six questions investigators can ask themselves to assess whether they need to consider a new approach to internal investigations—especially in light of all of these changes.
One out of the six questions we recommend is: “Are we manually combing through a seemingly endless sea of documents?”
Investigators are tasked with the responsibility of reviewing sets of data or documents that have been deemed potentially relevant to a matter—and often conduct these reviews either through a PDF viewer or simply their own inbox. When data sources are multiplying, which in turn contributes to the exponential growth of data creation, it becomes increasingly untenable and unsustainable to review data the way it’s historically been done: manually combing doc by doc, email by email, chat conversation by chat conversation.
And why try to do it that way, anyway? Today’s technology helps the bounds of our productivity stretch beyond our wildest dreams—allowing us to see more information, in less time, than ever before. So is there still a place for “manual” work in the face of investigations that hinge upon unpredictable data volumes? For that matter, can “manual” and “scalable” coexist?
Many teams have discovered that they can’t—and shouldn’t. Why spend 10 minutes on something when you can spend just 1 minute on the same thing, often with better results?
If you find yourself doing the same manual, repetitive task over and over again, it’s likely time to introduce a solution that can save you and your team several mind-numbing hours of monotony. In fact, this is one of AI’s defining areas of impact: the ability to automate repetitive tasks so that you can solve the more complex problems that necessitate creativity and critical thinking.
Download the e-Book to Explore All 6 Questions
Diverse Investigations and Workflows
And there are plenty of complex problems to occupy your attention. Investigators know better than anyone that there is no standard type of investigation. You’ve got your security investigations, your employee relations investigations, your compliance investigations and more—which can all require different processes, varying stakeholders, and disparate data sets. The process you have in place for investigating IP theft, for instance, may look very different than the workflow required for PII/PHI security violations.
Over time, as data types and volumes proliferate and as we continue to push the technology frontier, the types of investigations you’re dealing with will likely change as well. Imagine a world in which you’re having to investigate suspicions around an employee leveraging a deepfake version of themselves to do their job. The dynamic nature of investigations means that whatever solution or process you have in place must be adaptable, flexible, and amenable to any trends the future may throw our way. In short, it has to be able to grow with you.
While you’re at it, consider this: By now, you’re also probably encountering the terms “remote working environment” and “hybrid work model” on a daily basis. And your organization has likely already communicated what the working model moving forward will look like. Since a majority of workers prefer either a hybrid or remote working environment, it’s prudent to think through what a remote data collection strategy looks like to pair with your revised investigations process.
A Universal Wish for Investigators
Ultimately, the goal for leading internal investigators is to be equipped with the latest and most powerful technology so they can continue to meet the rising demands of their work. The dynamic and ever-evolving nature of this industry demands that these teams relentlessly reevaluate and reflect on current practices and ensure that they’re evolving to meet them.
Huge consequences rest on the success or failure of teams like yours to do just that. Don’t hesitate to invest the proper time into examining and improving your tactics with an eye for what’s coming. Otherwise, by the time you feel ready to get started, it may be far too late.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “When you are finished changing, you are finished.”