15 Feb 2012

Distinguishing True E-Discovery Platforms from the Growing List of Pretenders

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Every year, a handful of buzzwords emerge from LegalTech that permeate the industry for a number of months before the next batch takes their place.  Not surprisingly, “predictive coding” and “e-discovery in the cloud” were among the hot topics at this year’s conference.  Somewhat less expected was the prevalent chatter surrounding e-discovery platforms.

Every vendor seems to offer an e-discovery platform these days. Walking up and down the vendor isles at LegalTech, one could seemingly spot the word “platform” on marketing materials and booths almost as frequently as “e-discovery.”

What comprises a Platform?

A true software platform is really a system, or engine, atop which internal applications and other third-party technologies can integrate.

Responding to growing market demand, many e-discovery vendors have started touting their systems as “platforms.” In reality, many of these “platforms” are simply point solutions, such as collection or review tools, that have been appended with add-ons to cover different stages of the discovery process.  While these offerings may purport to cover e-discovery “end-to-end,” they tend to lack the open architecture required for facilitating true integration. Former 451 Group analyst Nick Patience recently observed, “the tendency in the past 5 years or so has been more toward acquiring point products and then forcing them together in kind of ‘frankenstack’ approach.”

With something as complex as e-discovery, moving large amounts of electronically stored information (ESI) between disparate technologies increases risk. Leveraging the integration and workflow capabilities in a true e-discovery platform can reduce this risk by facilitating a seamless movement of ESI between different stages of the process.

As we’ve learned, e-discovery will never be a one-size-fits-all operation.  Rather, organizations are seeking solutions that enable them to leverage existing technologies and investments with e-discovery technology that can be easily integrated and configured to meet their specific requirements.  A true platform, or integration engine, should be able to accommodate and fully support this flexible architectural requirement.

Project Management     

As technology advances, greater interest is also being paid to project management as a practice – not just for the outside service providers and litigation support professionals but by all those that touch the e-discovery process – attorneys, IT, records managers, paralegals, etc. Among the greatest advancements in e-discovery technology is the ability for today’s e-discovery software platforms to build in these project management tools and bring greater visibility into e-discovery tasks at any phase in a project. In his recent article, Anatomy of an E-discovery Project, e-discovery technology expert Brett Burney wrote, “The goal of all of these products is to give you a standard platform to manage your e-discovery projects and reuse workflows that have been tried and are true. You could do all of the same tasks with your own concoction of an Outlook Calendar, Excel spreadsheet, and task management program, but e-discovery is getting more complicated, and you’ll find yourself mired in complexity for even the smallest project.”

Burney underscores the importance of having a centralized management point from which to track the many e-discovery activities, details, timelines, deliverables and budgets. A true e-discovery platform should be able to ingest and translate information from various sources in an organized, defensible, intuitive, repeatable process.

To learn more, view eDiscovery Journal’s recent webcast, Marrying Workflow and Data To Make eDiscovery a Manageable Business Process.

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