Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2010-12-30 08:30:58Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. In early 2010, I said it would be the year of Early Case Assessment (ECA).  Thankfully, the eDiscovery world was about much more than ECA; this was the year that corporations took a meaningful step up the maturity ladder.  This is not to say that there isn’t work to be done.  On the contrary – the first movement up the learning curve was a baby step, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

The big kick-off to the year 2010 in eDiscovery was the LegalTech Conference.  The show is a good barometer of the eDiscovery market in general.  The show in 2010 featured some key themes – ECA, the cloud, and the scale and performance wars.  All of these themes proved to simultaneously be both red herrings and real topics.  They were red herrings because they all created marketing hype that distracted from the real issues of how these themes affect the practice of eDiscovery.  However, the debate over each theme did inch the market closer to a real discussion about the future of eDiscovery and how to get better in the near-term.

ECA might be the most hotly debated topic.  There is no true definition of the term and trying to create one is futile.  eDJ will be releasing a market report on ECA in the next week or two.  Instead of trying to define ECA, we’ll look at how various practices of ECA benefit the diverse constituents involved in eDiscovery.  True to our mandate, we’ll take a very pragmatic look at ECA and cut through the marketing hype.  While it’s disappointing that everyone and their brother claims to offer an ECA solution, it’s encouraging that organizations of all types (corporations, law firms) are asking good questions about how to implement ECA initiatives (notice that the question is around initiatives, not necessarily solutions).

Hype around the cloud was never greater than at LegalTech in 2010.  At the time, though, there wasn’t much context as to what the cloud actually was.  Is it hosted eDiscovery review?  Is it storage in a public cloud like Amazon’s?  Is it software-as-a-service?  In reality, it’s all these things.  How organizations deal with the cloud will be dependent on a variety of factors.  The good questions that began to come up this year around the cloud centered on security, forensic quality of cloud information, and responsibility for data ownership.  I doubt we will have definitive answers to these questions any time soon, but at least the right questions are coming up.  The cloud is here to stay and the sooner we address it, the better off we will be.

The scale and performance wars were the biggest red herring of the year as vendors fought marketing campaigns over whose applications could process the most data in the shortest period of time.  We’re not arguing that scale and performance are not important attributes of an eDiscovery solution; rather, what was interesting was that most prospects in the market didn’t care about these numbers.  Will they in the future?  Yes, but not until eDiscovery is more of a managed process in corporations.  Today, it’s still managed on a matter-by-matter basis – and most matters aren’t large enough to force corporations to take a longer look at scale and performance.  For the service providers and law firms that do high-volume processing for multiple clients, these issues are paramount and these providers are on the bleeding edge of building high-performance data centers.  Despite the red herring nature of the performance wars, expect them to heat up.  Corporations will eventually care, especially as IT gets more and more involved in eDiscovery purchasing.  Plus, the vendors are highly competitive and will market the hell out of any edge they can get.

We’re looking forward to seeing the themes of the 2011 LegalTech show.  We’ll be there, so if you’d like to meet up, shoot me an email and we can set up a meeting.

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