November 28, 2014

The E-Discovery Arms Race… and Tales from the Trenches

e-Discovery Arms RaceThe tagline for this blog is “Candid analysis of the issues, the processes and the technology,” and in that spirit, I’d like to share with you my impressions and personal experiences, as somebody who is in the field talking to customers and prospects every day. Now, bear in mind… I’m the VP of Sales at AccessData, so pardon the tone, as I candidly impart what I have observed, as the e-discovery market evolved over the last few years.

As you might have noticed over the past few months suddenly everyone’s e-discovery messaging sounds the same “We Do Everything”, “We Cover the Entire EDRM” and “We can tie your shoes and pick-up your kids”. There are over-hyped press releases about the addition of novel concepts like the ability to collect ESI (although most technologies shamelessly ignore basic standards for electronic data in this phase) and litigation hold. You may have also noticed that the niche players are dying off or being gobbled up by bigger players in order to bail out their VC backers, since their finite capabilities no longer garnish the premiums they did 3-5 years ago when the market was very immature.

For those of us at AccessData that have been quietly beating out these players based on our actual capabilities, not marketing hype, it’s quite comical to see these “revelations” unearthed in the media and at events like LegalTech. It’s obvious that corporations, law firms and federal entities are tired of being forced to use multiple niche players in order to fulfill the entire e-discovery process, and that’s why the market as a whole is scrambling to deliver a consolidated solution like AccessData’s before their niche gets squeezed out of the picture. The e-discovery arms race is uneven, because many of these vendors are late to the dance. So, it should be fun to watch the fireworks!

An organization we’re working with had a mixed approach in the past, they had a small team internally that would do collections for small cases with stand-alone technologies like FTK and Encase Forensic. Then they would send the data out to vendors for processing and hosting. On larger cases they would outsource everything, including collections. They had the perspective that they needed to outsource, since they didn’t have the expertise or manpower to manage complex requests or larger scale litigation. After working with them to break down their costs and risks associated with the existing process, we were able to determine that they could in fact manage most of the complexities internally. We were able to install our AD eDiscovery solution to manage their litigation holds, collections, processing, analysis/culling and load file creation. Additionally, they chose to use our Summation Litigation Support Services to host their data for review by outside counsel, and ultimately they have reduced their overall spend by over 80%, while taking control of the process. While we fully recognize the all in approach will not meet the needs of every organization or even every case, a majority can benefit from such an implementation.

It’s frustrating to hear the analyst’s and consulting groups talking about “best of breed” being the preferred approach. In reality it’s quite challenging to get 2-5 vendors to try and work together in order to achieve one fairly simple objective, without finger pointing and passing of the proverbial buck. In the past it was a necessity; however that has changed over the last 2-3 years. I have had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of organizations over the past three years and the vast majority want to decrease the number of vendors they are working with in order to decrease their risk and their spend. This is the market reality, and what is pushing the laggards to try to add the additional functionality they need in order to round out their e-discovery solutions. You see this on both ends of the spectrum: the lit hold providers advocate utilizing their self-collection functionality, and the ECA providers think that giving you the ability to map a drive to a custodian’s machine equals a responsible collection methodology… Then you have the indexing providers that claim to give you the ability to pre-index your environment then search and defensibly collect on the fly.

So as a consumer what are you to do? At a minimum you need to conduct a real-world proof of concept in your environment. Additionally, you need to take full inventory of the requirements for the entire process you are obligated to fulfill, I see too many organizations simply saying, “lit hold is first and we will figure everything else out later.” These organizations end up being forced to cobble solutions together based on this initial flaw, and many of them end up having to replace these technologies three years later, after the initial purchase has been fully depreciated or the person that made the buying decision has left the company. What’s more, many organizations end up with multiple licenses of a stand-alone product to adequately handle the realities of today’s tidal wave of data.

One organization we work with had previously purchased the leading litigation hold technology in the space around three years ago, they spent over $350,000 on the software, and then they had to pay another $200,000 to a consulting firm to implement the solution and customize it so it could work in their environment. This process took them around 10 months before the product was fully functional in their environment. Once that project was complete, they then refocused their efforts around search and collection technologies, and after six months, they selected a vendor for around $750,000 that gave them the ability to collect data from multiple data sources across the wire, and they were actually able to implement that technology within two months. However, their team wasn’t proficient with this technology for another three months, and they couldn’t get it to seamlessly integrate with their litigation hold vendor. So they had to continue to push forward, and they quickly evaluated and selected an appliance-based processing tool that they were able to implement within a week, and it only cost them $50,000… However, again, it didn’t integrate with their litigation hold or their collection tool, and to make matters worse they had to pay around $200/GB for any data they processed on this appliance. At this point, they felt like they had put together the best e-discovery solution money could buy, but they quickly started to feel the pain of having to push and pull data between these products, and when their case load started to pick up, their spend ballooned fairly significantly. Ultimately, two years after they finalized the initial e-discovery solution, we were selected and able to replace their lit hold, collection and processing technology with our single product. Additionally we were able to offer them the ability to easily transition their processed data into our hosted review platform for their outside counsel to conduct final review. This client was able to see a four-month return on investment vs. their previous process, and we were able to implement the solution within two weeks.

I suspect my tales from the trenches resonated with some of the audience. While there are like minded opinions (see Trend 12) out there, we also recognize that clients will continue to require multiple entry and exit points throughout the process. What can you take away? Choose a vendor that focuses on doing the fundamentals well. Choose a vendor that is just as willing to stand by their product as they are to take your money, and choose a vendor that offers, but doesn’t force you to own an integrated solution.

Trey Tramonte

Trey Tramonte is the VP of Sales for AccessData and is in charge of all commercial and international sales related activities including sales, technical sales, and customers support. Prior to joining AccessData he ran the midmarket group at Guidance Software where he rapidly increased sales by well over 100% YOY. Before joining Guidance he worked at several other technology companies including BMC Software, BindView (purchased by Symantec) and Dell. Trey believes the cornerstone of his success revolves around listening to clients and then working with them in order to help them achieve their objectives.

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