Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Greg Buckles. Published: 2013-02-19 04:00:54Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. My email signature read, “eDiscovery Smokejumper” for the longest time. From this you could infer that a lot of my customers sought my services in light of a recent or impending eDiscovery disaster. The aftermath of runaway costs, spoliation issues, privileged productions and general discovery malfunction can temp an aggressive consultant to ‘save the day’ by throwing out the existing systems and starting over. The corporate ship of eDiscovery does not turn on a dime. The sheer number of moving pieces, interested parties and potential pitfalls make radical migrations a last resort. I have done them in extreme individual cases where the chosen provider or technology simply could not support the escalating scale or complexity of the matter. The safer strategy is typically to optimize the process and personnel on legacy matters already residing on current systems while starting new matters in the future system.

After so many ‘smokejumping’ years, I decided that I could not really see the forest when standing next to a burning tree. That realization and many others helped shape eDJ’s consulting practice. eDJ’s working analysts have the relative luxury of big-picture, strategic engagements rather than the tactical demands of cases handled by the vast array of service providers. Over the last two years, eDJ has seen a steady rise in global corporations and firms with substantial eDiscovery infrastructure investments wanting assessments of the risk, ROI and impact of dramatic changes to these systems. These include AmLaw 100 firms moving to hosted Saas review platforms such as FTI’s new offering, and corporations in-sourcing collection-processing solutions like Nuix.

All of those recent engagements and perspective did not keep me from publishing a LTNY panelist comment to the effect that Microsoft was phasing out Clearwell in favor of their own new 2013 functionality. The comment was appropriate in the context of the discussion, but we all know that things are rarely as cut and dried as we would like. One advantage of being an analyst in the eDiscovery fish bowl is that I can count on the more mature players to challenge potential misperceptions. That helps us get to the real story, which is frankly more interesting anyway. Microsoft is not walking away from their large investment in Clearwell, though they are using the new 2013 SharePoint eDiscovery center for collections and in-place holds, as systems are upgraded to the new architecture. Remember the time it takes to turn the eDiscovery ship? Now imagine the time it takes for IT to migrate to the new 2013 cruise liner. For now, the systems work pretty well together, combining selective searches from SharePoint/Exchange 2013 with Clearwell’s tagging, iterative searching and advanced review capabilities. This is the same value proposition that Symantec’s broader software portfolio has been targeting for some time. Like many global corporations, Microsoft’s current tools and processes are a serious investment that will not be abandoned just because they are rolling out some internal discovery functionality.

I still see a potential ‘sea change’ on the distant horizon for the entire eDiscovery market as Microsoft, Google and other enterprise providers start to develop mature eDiscovery functionality, but I believe that eDiscovery itself is evolving fast enough to retain value in the nimble, specialized products. The very nature of storage, processing power and enterprise software is changing. Those changes are driving law firms and corporations alike to re-evaluate their capital investments in IT architecture. Software as a Service is transforming the market for software purchase to commoditized subscription. Technology Assisted Review and Predictive Coding may allow associates and contract attorneys to return to making legal decisions rather than functioning as manual categorization engines. These are exciting times, but we should never forget that change takes time and there is no such thing as the eDiscovery ‘Easy Button’.

Greg Buckles, eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and eDJ Group Lead Analyst

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