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How London-based PwC Forensic Services accelerated its e-discovery process in just eight weeks

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Project:Custom productivity add-ons for Relativity software Date Completed:

Company overview

PwC Forensic Services provides financial, economic and business services to law firms and parties involved in litigation, arbitration, and other dispute resolution forums using forensic technology. The team helps clients manage vast amounts of electronic data and navigate the legal and business processes that are mandated by critical events.

Opportunity

Clients rely on the forensic services division of PwC to effectively respond to legal or regulatory incidents and crises. This forensic technology team provides law firms and corporations with the ability to find, analyze, and assemble data that is used as evidence in mission-critical legal cases and investigations. For PwC clients, collecting and organizing the correct information in a fast and secure manner is paramount. Furthermore, accuracy is essential. Inaccurate or irrelevant data can result in disastrous outcomes: Dismissed court cases, massive financial penalties, and damaged reputations.

Relativity, the industry-leading software for e-discovery, is at the center of this capability. Relativity software enables the collection of an immense amount of data that the PwC team can search through and then select materials appropriate to each case. The ‘out-of-the-box’ functions of Relativity provides standard features with a user experience that overly simplifies workflows—which is great for simple use cases. However, PwC investigators—typically power users that have to sort through a large amount of data—are limited by the drag-and-drop style user experience within Relativity. Not only were these processes tedious and time-consuming, analyzing the data proved difficult. This reduced operational efficiency which ultimately impacted the accuracy of results. Since a single legal case could involve thousands of these queries, the scale of this problem was pervasive.

To increase the productivity of its teams, PwC realized that it needed custom features added to the Relativity platform.

Approach

To build these custom productivity add-ons, PwC wanted to work with a custom software development firm based in London with deep expertise in Relativity and a successful track record in lean software delivery. The company needed to demonstrate value quickly and deliver working software within a tight timeframe—a mere eight weeks. PwC selected Devbridge as a partner, in part because of its history with e-discovery. In addition to successfully building bespoke workflows with other ‘big four’ accounting firms, Devbridge currently works as a development partner with Relativity, developing features for the core product.

Devbridge assembled a single agile, cross-functional, independent team comprised of London-based product managers and product designers, who worked with a dedicated team of software engineers from its Vilnius office.

“The Devbridge team were quick to get up to speed, understand the business problem and build prototypes for us to crystallize our thinking and ultimately define our solutions.” Matt Joel, director of forensic technology at PwC, U.K., said. “Working with Devbridge has been very collaborative. From the initial scoping workshop through to the final delivery, the team has been very engaging, helping us to refine our thinking along the way and offer important insights and suggestions when building the add-ons to our existing platform.”

Devbridge and PwC first worked to conduct lean requirements and product discovery sessions to identify user needs. Followed by user interviews and research, those requirements were validated, and the team agreed on an approach. The result was an innovative solution that uses alternative methods to quickly define, import, and export saved search queries. The solution also helped visualize the key data that didn’t rely on the manual clickthrough workflow of the existing Relativity interface. With this approach, PwC investigators could quickly and easily create and review thousands of records.

PWC e-discovery search

Through eight one-week delivery sprints, the team iteratively designed and delivered working software. At the end of each week, the PwC team was handed a version of the software that they could deploy within their internal testing environments and provide feedback. In response to this feedback, the Devbridge team made adjustments, then validated those adjustments with user testing. The project delivery followed the build/measure/learn cadence that is critical to the lean software delivery process.

PWC e-discovery build/measure/learn

“PwC’s buy-in and commitment to the lean software delivery process was key to the success of this engagement,” Raymond King, managing director at Devbridge Group, London, said. “While this project highlights our top people, speed, and transparency–having a motivated client is important to speeding up the overall delivery process.” 

Results

Two custom-developed Relativity add-ons were delivered on-time and under-budget. Launched in July, the products are already in use by the PwC U.K. Forensics Technology team and are exceeding the originally intended expectations. As a result, the e-discovery process is now more streamlined.

“Delivering the two Relativity add-ons wouldn't have been possible within the timescales set without the knowledge, experience, and engagement from the Devbridge team,” Joel said.

PWC e-discovery calendar

PwC reports that its new productivity add-ons have streamlined process workflow, enabling teams to complete tasks faster and with greater accuracy. In a recent case, there was a 26x increase in efficiency: A specific task that would have taken five workings days to complete now takes less than an hour and a half.

“It’s not just the ability to do things quicker. Yes, it was 26 times more efficient, but it also helps us reduce human error by reducing mundane activities,” Joel said. “This gives us the confidence that all queries had been checked and were correct before executing them”

Now that these critical tasks can be completed faster and with fewer resources, the increased efficiency of being able to utilize the Relativity platform more effectively now provides the PwC team with additional options around how they can go to market.

“We can potentially play in markets where we previously couldn't due to price sensitivities or alternatively realize greater margins,” Joel said.

It’s just getting started, as plenty of opportunities to streamline the e-discovery process remain, but the success of this engagement is an excellent example of what both PwC and Devbridge teams can achieve together.

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