eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Best Practices: Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control and Why Both Are Important in eDiscovery


People tend to use the terms Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) interchangeably and it’s a pet peeve of mine.  It’s like using the word “irregardless” – which isn’t really a word.  The fact is that QA and QC are different mechanisms for ensuring quality in…anything.  Products, processes and projects (as well as things that don’t begin with “pro”) are all examples of items that can benefit from quality ensuring mechanisms and those that are related to electronic discovery can particularly benefit.

First, let’s define terms

Quality Assurance (QA) can be defined as planned and systematic activities and mechanisms implemented so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled.

Quality Control, (QC) can be defined as one or more processes to review the quality of all factors involved in that product or service.

Now, let’s apply the terms to an example in eDiscovery

CloudNine Discovery’s flagship product is OnDemand®, which is an online eDiscovery review application.  It’s easy to use and the leader in self-service, online eDiscovery review (sorry, I’m the marketing director, I can’t help myself).

OnDemand has a team of developers, who use a variety of Quality Assurance mechanisms to ensure the quality of the application.  They include (but are not limited to):

  • Requirements meetings with stakeholders to ensure that all required functionality for each component is clearly defined;
  • Development team “huddles” to discuss progress and to learn from each other’s good development ideas;
  • Back end database and search engine that establish rules for data and searching that data (so, for example, the valid values for whether or not a document is responsive are “True” and “False” and not “Purple”) and;
  • Code management software to keep versions of development code to ensure the developers don’t overwrite each other’s work.

Quality Control mechanisms for OnDemand include:

  • Test plan creation to identify all functional areas of the application that need to be tested;
  • Rigorous testing of all functionality within each software release by a team of software testers;
  • Issue tracking software to track all problems found in testing that allows for assignment to responsible developers and tracking through to completion to address the issue and re-testing to confirm the issue has been adequately addressed;
  • Beta testing by selected clients interested in using the latest new features and willing to provide feedback as to how well those features work and how well they meet their needs.

These QA and QC mechanisms help ensure that OnDemand works correctly and that it provides the functionality required by our clients.  And, we continue to work to make those mechanisms even more effective.

QA & QC mechanisms aren’t just limited to eDiscovery software.  Take the process of conducting attorney review to determine responsiveness and privilege.  QA mechanisms include instructions and background information provided to reviewers up front to get them up to speed on the review process, periodic “huddles” for additional instructions and discussion amongst reviewers to share best practices, assignment of “batches” so that each document is reviewed by one, and only one, reviewer and validation rules to ensure that entries are recorded correctly.  QC mechanisms include a second review (usually by a review supervisor or senior attorney) to ensure that documents are being categorized correctly and metrics reports to ensure that the review team can meet deadlines while still conducting a thorough review.  QA & QC mechanisms can also be applied to preservation, collection, searching and production (among other eDiscovery activities) and they are critical to enabling discovery obligations to be met.

So, what do you think?  What QA & QC mechanisms do you use in your eDiscovery processes?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.