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The Basics of E-Discovery , Chapter 8: E-Discovery Software

The "Golden Triangle" of people, process, and technology is especially applicable for e-discovery. Shortcomings in any of those three areas will essentially doom any e-discovery effort. In this section, we will look at the role of technology, namely that of e-discovery software.

Evolving Software Landscape

The e-discovery software market has evolved greatly over the past decade. In the early days of e-discovery, software products were largely task-specific (see our section below on point tools). This model reflected the fact that many e-discovery processes were outsourced to a variety of third parties, including law firms and service providers, who focused on specific phases of e-discovery projects and needed software that served that singular purpose.

Today, many corporate law departments are looking to insource e-discovery activities to reduce costs. Naturally, this has compelled software vendors to rethink the traditional model and develop more comprehensive e-discovery software (discussed in greater detail below). Advances in data science have also given rise to powerful analytics capabilities allowing software developers to provide users with greater insight into data sets much earlier in the e-discovery process, during the early case assessment phase.

There is also growing acceptance among the legal community that e-discovery is a standard business process that should be managed, measured, and optimized. Exterro is among a growing number of software vendors that have placed a much greater emphasis on workflow, and is currently the only e-discovery vendor to offer project management software.

Point Tools vs. Platforms

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E-Discovery software can come in the form of point tools or platform solutions

There are a variety of different types of e-discovery software applications that serve a multitude of purposes spanning the entire EDRM. Products that are designed to serve a very specific function are known as point tools. An example of an e-discovery point tool would be a collection application that's sole purpose is to extract data from a given system.

Products that are designed for broader functionality and that allow users to build out specific capabilities as needed are called platforms. These systems function as engines, or portals, atop which internal applications and other third-party technologies can be integrated. E-Discovery platforms are organically designed, meaning they're technologically agnostic and capable of ingesting information from almost any source.

While platforms tend be more expensive than point tools and involve lengthier and more complex deployments, there are some significant advantages to investing in a platform product solution over a point tool. For starters, platforms offer a high degree of flexibility. A true e-discovery platform will be designed with an open architecture to integrate with a variety of systems and fit any IT environment. This is important, because it allows your organization to expand on a single system rather than continually purchase and replace products to meet evolving demands.

Another benefit of a platform product is the flow of information and data from one stage of the e-discovery process to the next. A platform may include a variety of distinct modules that perform specific functions, but they are built on the same technical framework and can therefore exchange data and information seamlessly. It can be difficult to achieve that level of cohesiveness with point tools which aren't necessarily designed to work with other products. Even when point tools are connected together, the integrations tend to be somewhat unwieldy and unpredictable. Some technologists refer to these haphazard bundles of disparate technologies as "Frankenstacks."

Researching E-Discovery Software

As is the case with much of today's connected consumer world, buyers have a variety of ways to research e-discovery software products prior to actually engaging with a specific vendor. Some common activities associated with researching the e-discovery software market include:

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Industry Analysts

Firms like Gartner and Forrester employ experts whose job it is to research technology markets and provide advice to buyers. Though e-discovery is fairly niche, there are several firms that conduct vendor research in the e-discovery arena.

Probably the most well-known e-discovery analyst report is Gartner's Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software. The market research report assesses vendors based on two criteria: ability to execute and completeness of vision. Based on that assessment, vendors are placed in one of four quadrants: leaders, challengers, visionaries, or niche players. The 2015 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software included 20 e-discovery software vendors. Exterro was among seven companies listed in the Leaders quadrant.

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Request for Information (RFI)

A request for information (RFI) is a formalized process for gathering information from e-discovery software vendors about their product capabilities. RFIs are usually structured in a standardized format that can be used for comparing various vendor offerings. The RFI is often the first step in a formal purchasing process, designed to help guide next steps.

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Request for Proposal (RFP)

Similar to a RFI, a request for proposal (RFP) is a formalized process that companies use for eliciting bids from potential vendors. The RFP also will establish evaluation criteria for assessing proposals, and some also include a statement of work which describes the scope of the project and desired timelines.

RFPs are useful for a number of reasons. They allow buyers to describe specific software requirements, thus eliminating vendors that don't offer those capabilities from the assessment process, which can be a significant time saver. Additionally, the RFP bidding process incentivizes vendors to offer competitive pricing. It's common for the RFP process to be broken up into rounds, with customers narrowing down the list of proposals and engaging those select vendors in a more detailed evaluation process. If you're interested in receiving a sample RFP for the purchase of e-discovery software, your Exterro account representative would be happy to share one with you.

E-Discovery Software Checklist

Besides specific capabilities, there are some fundamental e-discovery software characteristics that should be part of your assessment process. These include:

E-Discovery Software Characteristics to Look For

Ease of Use

There is a temptation to get caught up in the advanced capabilities and features of a software application, but nothing is more important than the overall user experience. For any software solution to be effective, it has to be intuitive and reflect the way people work. You won't have to go far to hear stories of companies that invested in an expensive tool only to find it be overly complicated and unwieldy. Look for software that doesn't require a lot of training to get up and running, and one that gives you the ability to configure the look and feel.

Integrations

As discussed earlier, integrations have become an increasingly important e-discovery software consideration. E-Discovery is a dynamic process, and the software systems that support it have to be able to leverage other technologies. Integrations with enterprise data sources and other IT investments, such as HR systems, greatly improve the exchange of up-to-date information and eliminate the risk of human error.

Deployment Flexibility

The emergence of cloud computing and other technological innovations has revolutionized how organizations deploy and manage enterprise software. E-Discovery software must be flexible enough to support your organization's current and future IT environment. So whether you are ready to jump to the cloud today or further down the road, your solution needs to support your short- and long-term requirements.

Client Support and Services

It's important to go beyond the technology itself and look at the level of support a vendor is willing to deliver. Ideally, you will partner with a company that's engaged before, during, and after the actual purchase of the software. E-Discovery software deployments, especially those involving integrations, can be complex. You want to work with a vendor who is committed to making the deployment a success and applies a systematic approach to project execution. Beyond the actual implementation, it's important that your software vendor is responsive when issues arise and is willing to work collaboratively to ensure you get the most out of your investment.

For more on these and other e-discovery software considerations, download Exterro's E-Book, "Top Ten Critical Considerations for E-Discovery Software."

Learn More

We hope this section of the Beginner's Guide to E-Discovery will be a useful resource as you navigate the e-discovery software market. If you are interested in seeing how Exterro's software works, you can watch a 15-minute software demo here.

Chapter 7B
Predictive Coding
Chapter 9
Other E-Discovery Resources