The Evolution of Data and Assessments in the EDA process

Written by Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today

The definition of “early” in Early Data Assessment (EDA) has evolved over the years. In a similar way, the “DA” has changed as well, with significant shifts in both the nature of data and how it’s assessed. A great way to look at how EDA has evolved is to reimagine the EDRM model.

In the past, Identification was followed by the Preservation and Collection phases, where ESI was collected broadly (often at the custodian level). Then, Processing, Review and Analysis was performed—but only after the data was collected. Today, the bulk of Processing, Review, and Analysis is performed before Preservation and Collection. In this article, I’ll examine how the nature of data and assessment has changed.

Where’s the Data now? It’s everywhere!

eDiscovery used to be much easier. Historically, most data collection involved gathering emails and office files. That’s it. That meant that you didn’t have to go to too many places to obtain ESI for discovery. You collected:

  • custodian email stores from the email server (typically an Exchange server)
  • additional office files from the shared drives they accessed
  • personal drives on the network and
  • local drives on their workstation.

Almost all of the ESI you needed was on-premise, and you collected the entire data corpus for each custodian and sorted it out downstream. That’s one reason why, in the past, EDA wasn’t very “early”—you had to wait for all that data to be processed before you could even begin to figure out what you had.

That approach doesn’t work anymore. Data is everywhere today. Remote work has shattered the idea of “on-premise”. More data than ever is in the cloud and involves connecting to many services. The data’s in Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, and OneDrive. And it’s in Slack and Box and Egnyte

Data is in multiple cloud repositories, it’s on-premise, it’s on local drives. And it’s more important than ever to be able to assess that data where it lives.

Assessment Has Evolved Too

The “A” in “EDA” has also evolved. Assessment is more visual than ever, providing advanced analytics to enable you to understand your data quicker than ever. Those visual tools include:

  • Concept Wheel: To enable you to visualize the collection and drill down to perform searches to find what you need more quickly.
  • Volume Chart: To quickly see which custodians have the most ESI regarding specific topics.
  • Heat Map: To chart communications between individuals to see who is communicating most regarding specific topics.
  • Document List: To show specific documents identified by any of these visual tools and enable you to quickly review them to determine if they’re important to your discovery project.

These tools can be used together to build out complex searches quickly and pinpoint specific groups of documents that are responsive to your discovery needs. Additional tools like near-deduplication and email threading enable you to cull your results even further. Then, you can export those finite result sets instead of the entire corpus for multiple custodians. The ability to perform advanced assessment on a wider set of data early (before any collection takes place) is what EDA is about today.


This shift in the order of operation—with Processing, Review, and Analysis coming before Preservation and Collection—underscores the need for technology in Early Data Assessment. Utilizing solutions can help manage costs and time, because data volume is reduced before collection. That’s the power of what EDA enables you to accomplish today—it enables you to fast track your eDiscovery process through early advanced assessment of more data than ever!

For more educational topics from me related to eDiscovery, cybersecurity and data privacy, feel free to follow my blog, eDiscovery Today!

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