eDiscovery Update: Is DIY discovery upon us?

Peter Coons, The Daily Record Newswire

Recently, a number of eDiscovery software companies have been touting DIY and Software as a Service (SaaS) as an alternative to the traditional methods used to prepare ESI for review and production. Currently, law firms and corporations will process ESI in-house or send it to a vendor that provides these services. Once processed, the ESI is published to a review platform where legal teams can review for relevance, privilege, etc. Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not. Otto von Bismark once quipped, “There are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausage and legislation.”

I would add eDiscovery to that statement. It is a multi-step process that calls for perfection and speed at the lowest possible price. It can take teams of people, software and hardware to move ESI from start to finish. It is inefficient and costly and I have always thought that there has to be a better way.

So, when I started hearing that software companies have solved this age old problem I was both excited and skeptical. I wondered how corrupted files would be handled and where quality control fit in. How could this antediluvian process be simplified?

The claim from the software companies is that after initial setup, one can simply upload emails and documents to the cloud only to have them magically appear in a document review workspace. Voila! Can it be that simple?

Kim Taylor thinks so and that his company’s product is the answer. Kim is the CEO and president of Ipro, a company that makes eDiscovery software and recently launched its Automated Digital Discovery (ADD) product. I sat down with Kim at a conference last month and asked him a few questions about ADD and his thoughts on the SaaS movement in the industry.

PC—Can you describe why you feel ADD is game changing?

KT—ADD is game changing in many ways. I believe that ADD will do to eDiscovery what Plug-N-Play technology did to computers in 1995. It is going to simplify the entire eDiscovery process where all cases, no matter what the size or sophistication of the firm, will be able to properly comply with eDiscovery requests. Think about this scenario … you need to get data to your service provider or from the corporation, and have it processed, filtered and loaded into a review system.

What if there was a self-service system enabling anyone to be able to upload data for their service provider or for themselves, have it processed, filtered and loaded into different review tools tracking the data throughout the process? That’s what we have done with ADD. Users pre-define workflows for each matter, which removes the need for technicians to babysit the process.

This allows the data to flow freely through the many stages needed to properly process data to get into review systems. Removing the starts and stops, and locking down the case settings greatly improves the speed and efficiency while reducing chances for errors.

PC—You have told me a few times that you are seeking to solve business problems, don’t you mean discovery problems?

KT—After 24 years of being in the eDiscovery industry and working on countless cases, I have reduced the business problems to these four items: lowering the cost to process and review, preventing errors, shortening the time needed, and reducing the human capital needed to ensure a successful project.

ADD solves these issues, which are eDiscovery and business problems, since they contribute to the cost and overall success of the litigation. The efficiency gains that customers experience help businesses do more with less. Improving the bottom line and boosting productivity are time honored business problems that ADD helps with.

PC—eDiscovery software companies and vendors have been hyping DIY eDiscovery for years, but have failed to fully deliver. Why do you feel you have solved the puzzle?

KT—The opportunity to increase efficiencies and to reduce the overall cost of eDiscovery has been the promise of DIY eDiscovery for a number or years. I think these failed because they did not have the entire process automated and integrated from beginning to end including the tracking of the data.

Our Self-service module allows customers (service providers, law firms, corporations, government agencies) to easily upload data and kick off data streaming to deliver instant processing directly into review with very little need for intervention. ADD delivers on all of the business problems mentioned earlier for our customers’ success… preventing errors from happening, boosting efficiency and lowering overall costs.

PC—Does this mean that eDiscovery vendors will become obsolete?

KT—There is an important place for eDiscovery partners, not vendors. eDiscovery is hard and it truly takes a village to do it the right way. To solve the hardest problems in eDiscovery you need a team that has “been there and done that.” This is why it is very important to pick a company that has their values and goals aligned with yours.

Are they committed to reducing the costs while improving the quality and the time needed? These companies need the necessary experts to help in the entire process from the beginning. Are they helping you understand what is needed for collections? Can they advise you on how to best cull down your data, so you are processing and reviewing less? Do they have the necessary security to protect your data in today’s ever-changing security landscape? Do they have the expertise to provide manage services to augment your existing team?

It is also just as important to pick companies that have successfully navigated turbulent waters over a very long period of time with a track record of winning.

PC—Is the SaaS delivery model where every software provider should be heading?

KT—SaaS gives organizations an alternative to buying, building and maintaining large, costly IT infrastructures. The predictable cost structure delivered by some SaaS offerings is frequently delivered as managed services and under subscription pricing models that make good business sense for many customers. We believe in SaaS. It’s an important option for customers to have, however, it’s not the right solution for every organization.

Our industry is seeing the rise of a number of new eDiscovery SaaS or Cloud software companies. I applaud the introduction of these new companies. It shows our industry is growing. However, the cloud in of itself doesn’t solve pervasive customer challenges. Established service providers have been offering document review via the web for over a decade. It’s an efficient delivery mechanism that is important to employ and maximize.

To solve customers’ hardest problems though in a meaningful way, you have to offer more than just a pretty UI and SaaS credentials. It has to be the full package with deep features that solve the critical and real world pain points. I also believe with the complexities of litigation, that it’s crucial that customers have choices about deployment, what partners they use and licensing flexibility. One size shouldn’t fit all, even with SaaS.

Final thoughts

Regardless of where the technology is today with respect to delivering on the DIY promise, it is clear that it’s the direction it’s heading. As someone who has been in this industry for almost two decades, I am excited about this movement. Because as much as I love sausage, I don’t want to see how it’s been made — I just want to enjoy the end result.

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Peter Coons is a senior vice president at D4, providing eDiscovery and digital forensics consulting services to clients. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, an EnCase Certified Examiner, an Access Data Certified Examiner, and a Certified Computer Examiner. He belongs to various digital investigation and information security based organizations.

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