Tackling the challenges of electronic document review in South Africa’s business landscape

By Professor Danny Myburgh

In today’s fast-paced business environment, organisations across South Africa are increasingly relying on Electronic Document Review (EDR) processes and platforms to manage their ever-growing volumes of digital information in civil or criminal litigation.

While the benefits of EDR are clear, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. So, what are the main issues that electronic document reviewers face and what practical solutions that can be employed to overcome these hurdles?


Big data

One of the most significant challenges that electronic document reviewers face is the sheer volume of data that needs to be reviewed. The digital age has led to an explosion of information, making it increasingly difficult for reviewers to identify relevant documents efficiently.

Do this: One way to manage this issue is by implementing advanced search and filtering tools that can help reviewers quickly zero in on relevant documents. Additionally, companies can leverage machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to automate the review process, helping to prioritise relevant documents and reducing the burden on human reviewers.


Ensuring data privacy

Data privacy is a critical concern for businesses in South Africa, as they must adhere to stringent regulations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). Electronic document reviewers must, therefore, ensure that sensitive information is handled securely and confidentially.

Do this: Companies can tackle this challenge by developing clear data privacy policies and training reviewers to adhere to these guidelines. They can also invest in secure EDR platforms that incorporate encryption and access controls to protect sensitive information.


Maintaining review accuracy

Sifting through vast amounts of data requires reviewers to maintain a high level of accuracy to ensure that relevant documents are not overlooked. Mistakes in the EDR process can lead to costly legal consequences or missed business opportunities.

Do this: To maintain accuracy, businesses can implement quality assurance measures, such as random sampling and double-checking of reviewed documents. Through predictive coding, documents can also be ranked from most likely to least likely responsive without your top team members needing to review each document themselves. Technology assisted review (TAR) software identifies similar documents, which dramatically decreases the review of non-responsive documents, contributing to speed, quality, consistency, and cost management.


Managing time constraints

Time is often of the essence in the business world, and reviewers are frequently under pressure to complete their tasks quickly. With EDR responsible for up to 74% of the eDiscovery process, balancing speed and accuracy can be a significant challenge, particularly when dealing with large volumes of data.

Do this: Set realistic deadlines and ensuring that reviewers have access to efficient tools and technologies. Time management training and support from project managers can also help reviewers prioritise their work and stay on track.


Collaborating with diverse teams

EDR is never an isolated process. Instead, it often involves collaboration between various departments and teams, including legal, IT, and management. Ensuring effective communication and coordination can be a challenge, particularly when working with remote team members.

Do this: To promote seamless collaboration, invest in document review platforms and TAR solutions that enable real-time communication, document sharing, and version control. Regular meetings and clear communication protocols can also help to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


Adapting to changing regulations

South African businesses must stay up-to-date with evolving regulations related to data privacy and electronic document review. Reviewers need to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate these changes and ensure compliance.

Do this: Businesses can establish a system for monitoring regulatory changes and updating internal guidelines and processes accordingly. They should also prioritise ongoing training for reviewers to keep them informed about the latest regulatory developments.


Pulling it all together

Data volumes are not going to decrease. If anything, data will continue to grow in size and importance, with individuals and businesses alike expecting care to be taken with their data. Without the ability to seamlessly, securely and cost-effectively review electronic data, organisations will be left behind – particular in legal cases.