Archive for March, 2009

Recently I attended an IQPC conference where John Muldoon, from EMI Capital, and I were co-presenters, speaking about the Legal Business Marketplace and how rapidly it is growing

One question that was raised during our presentation was, “Is the EDRM model outdated, based on the technology toolsets currently available?” This question inspires another question, “Is the EDRM model, so heavily relied on, hampering the evolution and delivery of the techno-legal solutions that enable the market to evolve?”

Depicted above is the traditional eDiscovery model that a great number of vendors use to position their products in the marketplace. The IQPC attendees suggested that perhaps In-house counsel , the people on the front lines, can use technologies that collapse the identification, preservation, collection, and first pass review into a single step enabling “early case assessment” and allowing them to achieve substantial cost savings.

While my personal position on this question is still evolving, I certainly feel that the attendees raised valid points. It is beyond refute that organizations that acquire the ability to seamlessly identify, preserve, collect, and review when seeking to establish the specific facts relating to a particular issue potentially place themselves in a stronger legal position.

Irrespective of the legal benefit, it is clear to me that if In-house legal departments could achieve visibility into the “creation-to-court” cost of information it would be easy to measure the effectiveness and cost-benefit of e-Discovery technologies. In addition to the business benefits, the same information could be presented to the court to support cost shifting arguments. With this information, the courts could make more informed findings on shifting costs.

I welcome comments and thoughts about the legal process and technology–especially thoughts related to the questions, “Has technology evolved beyond the confines of the EDRM model?” and “Is there monetary and/or legal value in having email creation- to-court cost breakdowns?” and “Can this cost be calculated?”

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Digital Reef recently came out of stealth mode and is now talking to press openly about their solution. I spoke to a few trade press editors about Digital Reef and they wanted to know what made Digital Reef uniquely valuable in a market that seems to have a wide range of solutions for customers to choose from. It is not enough that a vendor is valuable or unique. If competitors offer the same value then the solution may have no real market traction. If a solution is unique but that singular capability offers no real value then customers will not pay for it.

In the world of high-tech there is often confusion because we often use the same terms to mean different things and different terms to mean the same thing. Therefore XYZ vendor may say they provide Enterprise-class search and indexing and are able to scale and provide rapid access to content for users. Therefore when Digital Reef states that they are “Enterprise-class” – it is important to distinguish and articulate what makes them uniquely valuable.

The ability to provide Enterprise-class search and indexing requires two very different core competencies. The first requirement is to build a platform – IT infrastructure – to address the needs of the Enterprise. These include massive amounts of content that is stored on heterogeneous storage that is most likely geographically dispersed. How do you index all of the existing content – which consists of hundreds of terabytes and perhaps even petabytes – while new data is created continuously? How long will it take the solution to catch up? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Ever?

Digital Reef has built a scalable system that works like a grid or cluster – enabling you to add more compute resources to tackle this huge challenge. In other words, they have developed and provide sophisticated infrastructure – applying grow-able grid technology leveraging massive amounts of compute power in a unified fashion to index mountains of content.

The other core competency is to quickly access relevant content. Digital Reef provides this through keyword search and their unique similarity engine – I discussed this in greater depth in my last blog – The Power of Similarity. Their search capability enables you to get results based on context. Consider the sentence – “I’m feeling blue” – which has nothing to do with the actual color but a pure keyword search would be swimming with content that included a myriad of references to the color blue including paints, fabrics, the sky, the ocean, etc.

Digital Reef excels when looking for abstract concepts, metaphors, idioms, specifics, vertical terminology, and word associations. And the magic of all of this is mathematics – complex, reasoned, considered and sophisticated algorithms.

It is the combination of their scalable clustered architecture and similarity engine that makes Digital Reef uniquely valuable.

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Companies seeking to deploy electronic discovery (eDiscovery) solutions could benefit substantially by gaining visibility into the cost associated with the life of an email message–from an individual’s machine to the courthouse. This visibility into the cost can provide companies with concrete dollar values to quantify the specific value proposition respective to deploying eDiscovery technologies that address e-mail discovery, of course an organization can expand this calculation beyond email.

Recently, I presented at a CIO Round Table, hosted by Comport Consulting (http://www.comport.com). It was evident that enterprises have minimal visibility into the discovery legal-technology cost structure. No one in the attendee group was able to provide actual dollar costs of email from birth to trial. I wager that this is not unique.

Many vendors claim that their solution delivers substantial savings but, I think that the complexity of the people, process and technologies each company deploys makes these saving projections circumspect. Some vendors offer rudimentary cost assessments at no charge, but generally the models they deploy are simplistic. Arguably, these free assessments dilute the value of the complex mathematical models that calculate discovery cost metrics.

Organizations that acquire visibility into the cradle to court cost breakdown arm themselves with invaluable data with which they can measure the effectiveness and cost-benefit of technologies, which can then be used to assist IT, legal and business stakeholders to ascertain the business value of investment in technologies that support their internal eDiscovery.

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In the realm of electronic discovery, technology teams often confront resource gaps that exacerbate the discovery issues that legal teams are confronting. The right toolset, one that proactively prepares the enterprise for discovery, can benefit both the legal and technology teams on several fronts, so the investment delivers value across the enterprise.

One benefit of deploying a proactive eDiscovery solution, one that provides legal easy access to the documents and data they need, is that it can remove the high dependency of the legal team on the IT department. This decoupling helps IT avoid being at the beck and call of the legal team. And the legal team is able to avoid spending valuable hours (theirs and ITs) trying to get access to the data they need. Another important benefit of tools that proactively manage a company’s data–to the extent that they know what they have and where it is–is that it can assist lawyers with the increasingly complicated keyword paradigm. Let’s be honest, a lawyer’s enthusiasm about and/or knowledge of math, statistics, algorithms, linguistics, or technology has its limits, so the right tool can assist them substantially and provide additional assurance that corporate information is being accounted for when engaged in discovery.

Another key benefit of proactive ediscovery, for some companies, is substantial cost savings. While there exists a great deal of marketing literature around the cost savings, this is one of those cases when there can be substantial value in managing data in documents, email, PDF files, etc so that you can bring discovery in-house. Obviously, each company needs to quantify the tangible and intangible cost savings realized from the deployment of an internally-deployed or externally-managed data management and discovery solution, but it is likely worth the time and effort if it has the potential to dramatically reduce eDiscovery costs. Specifically, a company should be able to quantify the cost benefits tied to performing e-discovery internally (e.g., search, preserve, produce, and etc.). When computing this value it is important to be mindful that whenever you need something quickly, at a specific time and location, it tends to be more costly– litigation driven e-discovery certainly fits that bill. Proactive eDiscovery can eliminate some of the last minute rush, because getting your hands on relevant case data is easier when you already know what you have and where it is. The right tools can also increase legal and technology efficiency and productivity.

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