Two weeks ago, I was delighted to be invited to share my thoughts at Women in eDiscovery London Chapter meeting. Below is a transcript of the interview in which we discussed the current state of the eDiscovery market and the evolution of digital technologies and transformation in this sector.Greg Wildisen, Panoram Co-Founder
‘What are your observations on the current state of the eDiscovery market’?
I see three key elements to where the eDiscovery industry is right now.
Firstly, it remains the case that demand for eDiscovery services is set to continue growing. The digital world is accelerating at pace, driven by changes in consumer and worker practices caused by the pandemic. In addition, the advent of new technologies, new applications and new online behaviours are all driving up data volumes and complexity. That presents both opportunities and challenges for the eDiscovery industry.
Second, there continues to be service provider market consolidation which has slowed down the rate of innovation, resulting in reduced quality and choice. In the UK, less service provider choice has resulted in poor quality project experiences and unsustainable pricing.
Thirdly, the eDiscovery technology battle grounds include increasing the speed to data review through advanced analytics, a drive for ‘no risk’ productions via global and automated redaction and a focus on speed and cost control through transparent project delivery driven by automation.
Overall, these elements along with the rise of content management systems like Microsoft and Salesforce, we see more companies and law firms building in-house eDiscovery capability to control data and costs, using the power of the software they already license supplemented by SaaS capability to fill functional gaps.
‘Have you seen a significant improvement in the quality of project management’?
Sadly, not. Consolidation has created massive global eDiscovery businesses built around traditional delivery models that focus on processing and hosting large volumes of data. In order to continue to keep these businesses profitable, they often using off-shore project management services which bring inherent communication challenges to clients. Other providers are breaking projects down into many small components and allocating these across multiple individuals, creating a loss of project continuity.
Our observation is that the techniques for project management haven’t significantly moved with the times. Projects are largely being delivered in the same way as they were 5 years ago. Fundamentally a combination of emails and phone calls, relying on the skills of the project manager to bridge between the lawyers’ needs and the data.
We believe there is a better way to scale eDiscovery project management by harnessing the latest technology. Technology lets you capture and apply the skills and experience of your organisation, all of the time and on every matter. Having a dynamic platform for collaboration is key to delivering a successful e Discovery project. At Panoram, we have built our own proprietary Digital Project Management platform (PDPM) – a collaboration environment for the entire eDiscovery team built in MS Teams and surfacing other M365 applications. It provides access to the information that each person on the team needs, when they need it. One source of the truth, with all project details searchable, retrievable, and auditable. And it is eDiscovery platform agnostic so works with all the eDiscovery technologies project managers love to use.
‘So what are the benefits, the results’?
The benefits of PDPM really relate to everyone on the eDiscovery team. It means instructions don’t get lost in email threads, repeatable tasks are automated, progress is tracked and everyone on the team knows exactly where the project is up to.
As a Project Manager they get instant access to where any data element is in the process. That frees them up from boring repetitive tasks like creating reports, finding the latest instructions. It gives them back the time to help the lawyers think about the best way to run the eDiscovery. To advise them on their decision-making, how it will affect timing or cost, really adding value.
As a lawyer they can see exactly where the review is up to – how many documents are being reviewed, how long a matter is likely to take, allowing them to do resource planning. And they can do all that in Teams rather than the review platform – so it’s a familiar environment for them, especially if they are not technical.
As a client I can see who is working on my project, what tasks are outstanding, how it is tracking to budget. Overall, the platform captures the entire eDiscovery Project Management process and ensures that projects are delivered on time, in scope and to budget. Simply better control of the project, which means happier team members and happier clients.
‘Finally, can you share one key point, a highlight or a nugget based on your experience’?
Sure. Digital is driving the world right now and corporate legal departments are about to undertake their digital transformation journey – the same journey their HR, Finance and other departments have already undergone. Covid is accelerating this. Expect those changes to filter through to the way eDiscovery is provided.
Anything that isn’t digital today, expect there to be pressure to transform it, to leverage technology wherever possible and expect Microsoft to continue to be the leading enterprise technology platform enabling that journey.
Look to the tools you have already own to solve business challenges. There is so much power in the platforms we all use every day and M365 is creating a citizen developer ecosystem by providing the tools everyone can use.
eDiscovery specialists are already comparatively very technical – my recommendation is using that power to automate what you are doing today. Be part of your exciting digital future!