Blog Post

Q&A: As Data Complexities Multiply, Ken Oliver Looks to Reshape Investigations Strategies


Ken, you’ve been working in e-discovery and digital forensics consulting for more than 20 years at a number of firms, including one you co-founded. What are the highlights you’d like to share from your background?

I started out as a systems engineer for one of the early e-discovery companies and was part of the first group of people practicing electronic data acquisition and developing forensically-sound methodologies for data sources such as tapes, computers, laptops, personal digital assistants (like the PalmPilot), flip phones, email, etc. As the industry started to grow, I spent roughly six years living in Europe and helping to build Forensic Risk Alliance’s e-discovery and forensic technology practices in several countries, which our team grew to a $60 million business.

When I returned to the U.S., I took on a partner position with the Oliver Group, which I had previously co-founded, where I specialized in working with corporations, law firms and channel partners to augment their teams and capabilities for global investigations, disaster recovery, business continuity and tape remediation. I also held various roles as a cross-border discovery, data privacy and forensics expert at other services firms, including a six-month secondment at a global Fortune 500 company to lead the development of the client’s e-discovery program.

So, what led you to now join FTI Technology? And how does your expertise fit into your new role?

I’ve worked with numerous people within FTI throughout my career, and it’s always been a positive experience. Even before joining the team, I had a good relationship with many people here at the firm—people who I view as true leaders in our industry with a breadth of expertise and an impressive international reach. I wanted to be part of this team because I know we can serve clients better than anyone else.

In terms of my role, I’ll be working on matters across all phases of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), mostly focused on investigations. I have a lot of experience with IP theft matters and will be continuing in that specialty, as well as helping our teams develop new methods and strategies for dealing with emerging data sources.

Emerging data sources are presenting a range of significant challenges that many of our experts are helping clients address across e-discovery, investigations, data privacy, M&A and governance. What do you see as the most persistent issue on this front?

As technology advances, data volumes are constantly increasing, and data types are becoming continually more complex. Collaboration tools are a prime example, because while designed to offer a seamless front-end user experience, they are extremely complicated from a collection and data management perspective. The collaborative nature and sharing features within these tools inadvertently lead to a tremendous amount of intermingling between data artifacts in backend systems. As a result, content that is subject to an investigation may now be linked, shared and stored across numerous locations (potentially globally), as well as intermixed with irrelevant chat messages and/or personal information. The implications are significant across governance, risk and compliance and investigations.

Do you have any projections for how this trend will further evolve in the year ahead?

We’ll continue to see more changes in the way people interact with technology and how we communicate, which will further impact how and where data is stored. IoT is one category where I expect we’ll see the universe of enterprise data expand further. While most IoT offerings are in the consumer products space, between the ongoing advancement of technology and the new remote work dynamic, we’re likely to see data from IoT devices increasingly bleed into the realm of investigations and e-discovery.

Are there any technology or workflow developments you’re excited about or eyeing as promising solutions to these emerging data-related challenges?

Yes, I think the combined use of automation and cloud in the forensics space is very interesting. We’re seeing some tools emerge that can apply automation to run concurrent processes within a cloud-based data store, which makes it possible to centralize work and continually improve upon workflows. Our teams can also use these tools to efficiently store and manage datasets and maintain a follow-the-sun methodology for time-sensitive matters. Just as technology advancement will continue to create challenges, it’s also creating new opportunities for us to adapt the ways we conduct investigations and uncover key information quickly.

Can you share any anecdotes or lessons learned from a particularly interesting matter?

When I was living in Europe, I worked on several of the highest profile Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations at the time. What I’ve learned from those cases and from my experiences collecting data and conducting investigations in 50 different countries is that the world shouldn’t be viewed as homogenous. There are countless cultural, regulatory and practical nuances and sensitivities that vary from country to country. Europe has different work-life balance norms than in the U.S., Asia has a higher usage of chat messaging than email, parts of South America have connectivity issues. Data privacy and data transfer restrictions vary greatly all over the world. These are just a few examples of variables that may impact an investigation. It’s important for providers to bring a global view, so that they can counsel their clients on how to tailor processes according to the needs of each region where work is taking place.

It’s clear you’ve traveled a lot for your investigations work throughout your career. Do you have a personal love for travel too? Any favorite destinations?

Yes, and I’m nearing a personal milestone for this. I will soon accomplish a longtime goal of visiting 50 countries (completed) and all 50 U.S. states (4 remaining) before I turn 50. I am just back from a trip to Alaska and am looking forward to completing the remaining states this year.

I can’t say I have a favorite destination. I try to find something redeeming about every place I visit, and I’ve been lucky to have success in that. Once you start seeing the world through travel, you realize how much there really is to experience and how much unique culture each place has to offer.

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.