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The Top 5 Most Requested Features for Early Case Assessment Platforms

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Top 5 Most Requested Features for Early Case Assessment Platforms

The week of April 9, 2012, eDiscovery Solutions Group (eDSG) ran a poll that asked voters to rank the top 5 most important features for an Early Case Assessment (ECA) platform.  Having spent the last 6 months analyzing ECA technology from the top ECA vendors in the world and talking to hundreds of end users in preparation for the release of the 2012 DCIG/eDSG Buyers Guide, the results of this survey were not overly surprising.  However, the results are very telling in regards to the paradigm shift that has occurred in how users view Early Case Assessment.  Therefore, I wanted to publish the details of the results of this poll.

Summary of Results
54% of the voters ranked Advanced Analytics as one of the top 5 most important features for an Early Case Assessment (ECA) platform. Support for Collection of Social Media and Collaboration came in second with 31%. Cost Calculations, Predictive Coding, Delivered as SaaS and Semantic Search came in third with 23%.

Following is an analysis and commentary for each of the categories:

Advanced Analytics
I was not surprised that 54% of the voters ranked Advanced Analytics as one of the top 5 most important features for an Early Case Assessment (ECA) platform. After all, ECA is all about "analyzing" your potential pool of ESI to determine where it is located, what you have and how it will affect your case strategy.  However, I thik that there is a subtle hint hidden within this top ranking that may signal a change in way users view the process of eDiscovery . As a followup, it would be interesting to ask users to define "Advanced Analytics" and then identify where within the
EDRM, they believe these analytics should be utilized.

Historically, the standard eDiscovery workflow followed the EDRM and therefore ESI that was potentially responsive or relevant was identified via standard file type, custodian and data parameters, collected or ingested, culled. analyzed and reviewed.  This analysis stage is what many within the industry now refer to as Early Case Assessment (ECA).  However, in 2012, there are technologies that allow for identification and analysis of ESI before it is even ingested.  Further, there is also now growing demand for the identification and analysis of live ESI residing in Content Management Systems (CMS), archiving systems, a wide variety of private and public email systems, public cloud storage and even public social media stores.  As a result of these changing requirements, I contend that the fundamental definition of Early Case Assessment (ECA) is evolving and therefore it may be time to adjust best practices, workflows and our expectations of ECA platforms should support.

Support for Collection of Social Media
I was also not surprised that 31% of the voters ranked Support for Collection of Social Media as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform. Corporate legal departments, corporate IT departments and outside counsel are beginning to realize the requirement to harvest potential evidence from social media sources such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace and Google+ is real and therefore they want their ECA platform to be able to handle these file types.


Collaboration

31% of the voters ranked Collaboration as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  As the use of social media and SaaS based communication and collaboration applications has become more mainstream and therefore accessible to the enterprise knowledge worker, their expectations have risen accordingly. Therefore, it is not surprising that users expect their ECA platforms to follow the collaboration trend and support communications and collaboration for multiple different types of users from multiple different geographically regions.  Security is obviously an issue that the ECA vendors will have to address as the information that ECA platforms is more sensitive and can lead to sanctions and financial penalties.

Cost Calculations

23% of the voters ranked Cost Calculations as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  It has been well established that 70% of the cost of eDiscovery is in the cost of review and therefore there is a renewed emphasis on reducing the amount of ESI that eventually has to be reviewed.  With this requirement in mind, users have  been relying upon gathering the appropriate information such as amount of ESI by file type and custodian, etc. and plugging it into an Excel spreadsheet to forecast the eventual full cost of eDiscovery.  As such, I completely understand that users now want this capability added to the ECA platform.

Predictive Coding

I was very surprised that 23% of the voters ranked Predictive Coding as one fo the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  Predictive Coding currently normally resides as an alternative option to manual tagging and review within the Review section of the EDRM. So, I am not sure if these voters are confused or are truly contending (with their vote) that Predictive Coding technology needs to be pushed further to the left and utilized during the early stages of ESI identification, collection and analysis.

I predict that Predictive Coding or some form of Machine Driven Analysis will be incorporated into the early stages of ESI identification, collection and analysis drvien by the demands to increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs.  Pleaes note that eDSG in partnerhsip with DCIG will be releasing a Predictive Coding Buyers Guide this summer.  And, without giving away any vendor secrets I can state that the market is going to intriqued with the extent to which Predictive Coding or Machine Driven Analysis is going to be available to support the entire eDiscovery lifecycle.


Delivered as SaaS
23% of the voters ranked SaaS Delivery as one fo the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  As I have said many times, I believe that the "train has left the station" on SaaS based eDiscovery platforms.  The value proposition of operational efficiencies and costs savings are just too high for this train to turn around and therefore I was a bit surprised that Delivery as SaaS wasn't ranked higher.  I suspect that maybe users are now expecting this feature to a standard option of any ECA platform and therefore failed to vote for it.  Please note that I did not inlcude an option to vote for eDiscovery in the Cloud as that has become a very confusing and soon to be highly debated topic of disucssion.


Semantic Search
23% of the voters ranked Semantic Search as one of the top most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform. Semantic Search is the perfect companion of  Advanced Analytics and is therefore another feature that many users believe needs to be pushed further to the left in the EDRM.  The requirement of indexing makes it somewhat difficult to utilize during the identification and pre-collection phase.  However, I have seen several real-time architectures that are in fact adressing this with real-time ongoing indexing as part of a larger and more comprehensive Information Governance platform.  Therefore, as this infrastructure is more fully tested and the costs reduced, I would suspect that we will see Semantic Search utilized further to the left in the coming months and years.
First Pass Review
I was very surprised that only 15% of the voters ranked First Pass Review as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  As stated previously, it has been well established that 70% of the cost of eDiscovery is in the cost of review and therefore there is a renewed emphasis on reducing the amount of ESI that eventually has to be reviewed.  Therefore the concept of a First Pass Review (FPR) or a mini review done during ECA has become a well accepted practice before a final review set is defined and exported to a full blown review platform.

I predict that with the advancement of Predictive Coding techniques and other associated technologies that First Pass Review is going to expand and cannibalize a major percentage of the current Document Review platform market.  And, at some point in time, what we now define as Document Review will vanish as ESI will go directly from storage or real-time location to analysis and review and then directly into some digital form ready for the courtroom.  As evidence of this trend, it is interesting to note that we are now seeing many of the legacy ECA vendors expanding their FPR capabilities into full Document Review and many of the legacy Document Review vendors expanding their capabilities into ECA.

Workflow Management

I wasn't overly surprised that only 15% of the voters ranked Workflow Management as one fo the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  I believe that workflow management is an extremely important feature of any operational application. However, I think that the definition of the workflow within the eDiscovery lifecycle is in such a state of flux that it may be premature to try and define a workflow management system that vendors can be confident will be pertinent for more than just a few release cycles.  That being said, I believe that an ECA platform should provide solid workflow for First Pass Review and Predictive Coding and at least a user dashboard outlining the status of a "project" or "matter" as it makes its way from identification to collection to analysis to review to production.  In my opinion, the real answer is a flexible workflow management system that enables users to define their eDiscovery lifecycle. Whether this is accomplished through an integrated OEM solution or as a proprietary solution will be up to the individual vendors to decide.

Legal Hold

Only 8% of the voters ranked Legal Hold as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform because many beleive that it is outside the current definition of ECA and  they still don't know if they want to utilize a best-in-class or a holistic approach to support the entire eDiscovery workflow.

I predict that adding in real-time data mapping and coupling it with real-time legal hold that actually preserves ESI in a forensically sound manner is the direction that the market is going to take.  Whether this is accomplished through an integrated OEM solution or as a proprietary solution will be up to the individual vendors to decide.

Real-time Collections
8% of the voters ranked Real-time Collection as one of the top 5 most important features of an Early Case Assessment platform.  Given where eDiscovery has come from in the past 5 years, Real-time anything is a very aggressive position to take.  However, as the enterprise IT organizations become more involved in the eDiscovery process and eDiscovery becomes a subset of the Information Governance process, Real-time identification, analysis and collection will become an industry accepted best practice.

Summary

This poll was very telling in regards to how users are changing their views and associated requirements for what an Early Case Assessment (ECA) platform should support.  ECA is definitely moving further to the left in the eDiscovery lifecycle and it appears that users want the eDiscovery platform vendors to support this paradigm shift.

Click Here to review the results of all of the polls that eDSG has been running  on a weekly basis since June of 2011 on the current status of Information Governance and eDiscovery.  Click Here to vote in the most recent eDSG Weekly Poll.

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