Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Chuck Rothman. Published: 2012-05-17 06:00:44Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. There are hundreds of e-discovery software applications available. Every stage of the EDRM can be assisted by one or more commercially available applications. Some of these are designed for very specific functions, such as trial presentation, while others claim to have multiple parts that can be used at different EDRM stages, such as software that collects, processes, analyses and reviews electronic information.

The marketing collateral that accompanies many of these products proclaim each of them as “the best” at what they do. They advertise various types of functions, such as near duplicate identification, conceptual clustering, predictive coding, etc.

With all the different options available, how can one filter out the “sales-speak” and actually evaluate an e-discovery offering on its merits? The following tips may help:

1.         Make sure the software fits you, not the other way around

The reason you are looking for e-discovery software is to make your life easier. If you have to change the way you do things, it makes it harder, not easier.

Before you look at even one software package or speak to any sales representative, review your current workflow. This includes speaking to the people who actually do the work. Write down, step-by-step, how they go about accomplishing the tasks that the proposed software will handle. With your procedure in hand, go to the software vendors and ask them if the software will follow your process.

Generally, off-the-shelf software will not fit your current process exactly. In some cases, the design of the software may actually suggest a better way of accomplishing something. However, by knowing how things are done now, you can factor in how much pain you and your team will experience by moving to a new application.

2.         Make the sales person speak your language

If a vendor mentions a catch phrase (such as near duplicates), ask them what they mean by it, and keep at it until you are certain you understand the term. There are many e-discovery terms that are widely overused and have come to mean many different things.

Case in point – a vendor was demonstrating their e-discovery review platform to me. I asked them if it supports near duplicates. The sales person said yes, so I asked if he could show me (it was demonstration, after all). What he showed me was two exact duplicates that belonged to two different custodians. I explained that what I was looking for was the case where two documents were almost, but not exactly, the same, at which point, the sales person said, rather sheepishly, that their software could not handle that.

3.          Consult your network

Ask your peers what solutions they have used and what kinds of results they achieved.  Have the solution providers you are looking at provide references.  In addition,  industry analysts, like those at the eDJ Group or Wortzman Nickle, are also a good resource.  Analysts interact with both end-users and solution providers, so they are able to provide 360 degree perspective.  Many also have tools for comparing and contrasting the myriad solutions available.

4.         Try before you buy

Litigation tends to be reactive, which means that, by the time you need e-discovery software, you are already under the gun to complete the tasks. This makes test-driving software difficult to accomplish.

However, just like buying a car, you never really know if software will fit into your work-lifestyle until you actually sit in the driver’s seat and take it out for a spin. Most vendors will allow you to test their software within your environment, or with your data. In fact, most will suggest it as part of the sales pitch.

After you see product demos and prepare a short list of software packages, plan to test them.

Since your time is limited, make the most of it. Put together a test plan, listing what you want to accomplish. Refer to your procedure document you created above in item 1. Give the vendor some test data, or set up a test case on a computer in your office. Then dedicate a couple of hours to testing the system. If the system is so complicated that you can’t learn it within an hour, move on to the next one (remember, the software should fit you and your work habits). Check off each completed task from your list, and write down how much frustration you experienced, or how much joy you felt because the software followed your lead and did what you told it to do.

After a couple of hours, you should have a pretty good evaluation. Repeat this process for each package on your short list. Once you’re done, go back and read your comments for each system (you need to do this, because your impression of the first systems will change once you see the others).

e-Discovery software can be a godsend, but only if it truly helps you accomplish your tasks. If the software adds to your overall workload, why use it?

eDiscoveryJournal Contributor – Chuck Rothman

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