Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2012-11-28 09:00:05  Sometimes the same story can play out over and over again, albeit with slightly different twists.  As a Forrester Research analyst in 2005, I co-authored a report titled “The Enterprise Content Management Dilemma:  Point Solution Or Suite.”  The premise was simple: a content management platform that could manage all information for all purposes (persuasive for marketing and sales, knowledge for employee use, records retention for compliance and risk) made more sense in theory than multiple applications to manage all that information.At that point in time, companies had deployed document imaging, document management, Web content management, and records management as point solutions for departments or business units.  These applications were selected due to best-of-breed functionality.  However, the trend toward centralizing IT, the desire to lower costs through single sourcing, and the need to manage multiple content types created demand for more integrated  enterprise content management (ECM) suites. While the vendors in the ECM market ultimately created suites through acquisition of point solution providers, the reality in 2005 was that most buyers stuck to a best-of-breed approach because no one vendor offered the functionality to meet the needs of all stakeholders.A similar story is playing out today in the eDiscovery market, but instead of the debate being best-of-breed versus suite, there is the added debate over what an eDiscovery platform is.  There are many vendors that market an “eDiscovery platform.”  However, if you visit eDiscoveryMatrix.com, you will not see very many vendors falling into the eDiscovery Platform category listing.  This has stirred up some debate with many providers and leads to the question, “what is a platform?”  According to Merriam Webster, one definition of  platform is “computer architecture and equipment using a particular operating system.”  Going a bit further, WikiPedia defines computing platform as “include[ing] a hardware architecture and a software framework (including application frameworks), where the combination allows software, particularly application software, to run.”There are many, many providers of eDiscovery software and services. Most providers offer the ability to address certain components of the eDiscovery lifecycle, but market themselves as an “eDiscovery platform.”  For eDJ analysts, the important term is “eDiscovery.”  The term platform by itself is fairly meaningless, but we all know that eDiscovery is a lifecycle that starts with identification and goes at least through production, so it would be fair to say that an eDiscovery platform would enable that full lifecycle.  And, the truth is, there are not many solutions that do indeed support the full lifecycle.  Does that mean vendors are wrong for calling themselves eDiscovery platform providers?  Wrong is a very negative term.  It is more accurate to say that the vendors could be more transparent and straightforward with their marketing.  For example, “eDiscovery Review and analysis platform” instead of “eDiscovery platform”.  But, eDiscovery platform is more pithy and popular and I expect many vendors will adopt that messaging in the coming year.Companies and law firms alike pour through published reviews of eDiscovery Software in an effort to find the right fit.  Most eDiscovery Software Analyses give kudos to those applications that appear to enable the eDiscovery lifecycle from end to end.  In theory, being able to manage eDiscovery in one application should reduce costs, reduce risks, and streamline eDiscovery.  The best eDiscovery software packages eventually will cover the eDiscovery lifecycle end to end.  But, the timeline for “eventually” is long.  Today, customers are not typically mature enough to truly leverage the full capabilities of an eDiscovery platform.Instead of buying eDiscovery platforms simply because it checks all the feature boxes, customers do eDiscovery software analysis to see which vendors provide best-of-breed solutions to the specific project at hand.  Such projects tend to be focused on a specific portion of the eDiscovery lifecycle, such as Preservation and Legal Hold Management, Processing/ECA, Review/Production, Technology-Assisted Review, or mobile device discovery.  What is important is that customers be able to solve the problems they face immediately.  In reality, very few vendors could claim a compelling end-to-end eDiscovery platform, so looking at best-of-breed solutions makes more sense.  Certainly, buyers should analyze a vendor’s long-term strategy – looking at partnerships and roadmaps to address features not addressed today – and make sure that the vendor can fit into longer-term plans.  There will be consolidation, just like there was in the mid-2000’s within the ECM market.  However, the consolidation in the eDiscovery industry will likely be slower because the Legal market does tend to evolve more slowly than other markets.  This is actually good news for vendors – those providing point solutions that are best-of-breed can focus on what they do best while the larger vendors that want to provide platforms can concentrate on a fewer components for now and then acquire point solutions to fill gaps later.eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and eDJ Group Lead Analyst – Barry Murphy

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