Some Suggestions for Re-Introducing Credibility Back into the Socha-Gelbmann eDiscovery Survey

Socha-Gelbmann’s recent decision to drop rankings from its annual eDiscovery survey was met with relief by some vendors but now the bigger decision that faces Socha-Gelbmann is how to evolve its eDiscovery survey from here. As pointed out in a previous blog, questions about how they arrived at their conclusions in the survey as well as the scope of the survey and the size of the analyst firm performing the survey were becoming more common place. But it’s easy to criticize a report. The tough part is making suggestions as to how the report needs to evolve going forward to make sure it reflects the changing nature of the eDiscovery software space.

There is rarely ever just one thing that analysts need to do when changing directions on a report to address all of the concerns that users and vendors may have about it. But in this case, two new components that Socha-Gelbmann could add to its report would add more credibility to the report and serve both users and vendors in a more constructive manner.

First, Socha-Gelbmann could break its evaluation of eDiscovery software down into two distinct categories: one for eDiscovery software that is intended for use by third party hosting and consulting service providers and law firms and another that evaluates eDiscovery software primarily intended for use by corporations, in-house. Bringing it into these two categories serves a couple of important purposes:

  • Corporations can make more accurate assessments of the eDiscovery software they are considering for purchase. Legal and IT end-users in corporations need eDiscovery software that provides a breadth of functionality beyond just the initial search and hold to provide more robust functions such as the management of their data from its creation to its disposition. Third party service providers and law firms do not necessarily place as much weight on eDiscovery software that performs these functions as end-users likely would.
  • It will add more credibility to Socha-Gelbmann’s eDiscovery survey going forward. Right now one has to question the impartiality of the results of the survey since of the over 150 companies Socha-Gelbmann met with in building the survey, 87% of them were third party service providers and law firms. By breaking its survey of eDiscovery software into two separate categories, companies can more accurately discern which eDiscovery software is best suited for them and which ones are more appropriate for third party providers and law firms.

The second component of eDiscovery software that Socha-Gelbmann could examine more closely within their report is how the eDiscovery software processes corporate data. The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) suggests a certain order of performing the steps of information management, identification, preservation, collection, processing, review and analysis. However there is no prerequisite for the eDiscovery software to do it serially or even perform all of the tasks as outlined by the EDRM.

Part of the difficulty lies with EDRM is that it presumes that the processes and procedures that service providers and law firms follow are the same ones that end-user companies need to perform. That is not necessarily the case. Companies may not want to follow these steps in the order suggested by the EDRM framework, or even perform all the steps outlines in the framework. Further, service providers and law firms are in the position of operating outside the corporate firewall. Therefore they have to take certain precautions in accessing, searching and managing corporate data that end-users functioning inside the corporate firewall do not necessarily need to take.

Furthermore, it’s important to provide corporations, and perhaps even service providers and law firms, the ability to perform in-place analysis of information even before collection. This capability provides early-case assessment benefits and prevents over-collection of data which will have to be retained unnecessarily. In contrast, in-place analysis capabilities lead to targeted collection and efficient, relevant Legal Hold. The EDRM framework does not currently advise corporations to consider and implement early-case assessment capabilities to make their eDiscovery processes more efficient and defensible.

Finally, corporations need to consider scale and performance strongly; they should be considering solutions that process billions of documents and 100’s of TB, as opposed to service providers who typically process 100’s of GB, since they are fed relevant datasets outside the firewall.

In this respect, Socha-Gelbmann could take the lead in suggesting the creation of two EDRM models. One EDRM model could be specifically used for the measurement of eDiscovery software that is used by service providers and law firms where Information Management is removed from the model (such as is shown below).

EDRM minus Info Mgt.JPGNote: The “X” through “Information Management” in the above graphic is my edit and not necessarily endorsed by anyone associated with the EDRM.

The second EDRM model would retain the current model that includeds Information Management and be used to measure eDiscovery software implemented in end-user environments. In so doing, it would not only increase the awareness of the EDRM model among corporations but make it more relevant in the process.

Determining how to evolve an annual report is never an easy task. However a market segment that is as dynamic and rapidly changing as the eDiscovery software space requires more frequent changes than most. By breaking the eDiscovery software space into two separate markets, suggesting some alterations to EDRM itself and then evaluating software based upon those criteria, the Socha-Gelbmann eDiscovery survey would not only better serve users and vendors, it might help Socha-Gelbmann re-establish credibility in the eyes of the some of the companies it now proclaims to serve.

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