Comparing eDiscovery Providers: Where to Start?


Editor’s Note: This slightly updated repost of frameworks for comparing eDiscovery providers appears as relevant today as when it first published in 2012. With the exception of industry consolidation, fourth-generation technologies, and changes in comprehensive provider directories, the frameworks still provide a salient starting point for comparing and contrasting eDiscovery providers.

Comparing Providers:  Competencies, Attributes, and Distribution Frameworks

Comparing and contrasting eDiscovery providers is a daunting task when one considers the multiple stages of eDiscovery, the many providers of eDiscovery offerings, and the fact that most provider comparisons today are based on solely on stage (EDRM¹) or feature/function capabilities. While there are definitions, tools, and directories² available for comparing provider capabilities at the eDiscovery stage and feature/function level, there does not appear to be a generally accepted or regularly used set of elements that are used to describe the high-level competencies, attributes and distribution frameworks of providers.  Understanding that a provider’s organizational character is made up of more than capabilities, it seems reasonable that a common set of descriptive elements for competency, attributes, and distribution frameworks might be beneficial for the provider comparison process.

With the goal of helping to provide objective elements for use in eDiscovery provider comparisons, provided below in simple bullet point form are suggested competency, attribute, and distribution framework elements that may help in the establishment of cogent and complete comparisons between eDiscovery providers. These elements are not all-inclusive.  However, they may still be highly beneficial for describing, positioning and differentiating eDiscovery providers.

General Competencies of eDiscovery Providers

Three General Competency Classifications of eDiscovery Providers

  • Developers: Organizations that create and sell proprietary technology or services.
  • Integrators: Organizations that combine* and resell technology and services developed by or purchased from others.
  • Aggregators: Organizations that consolidate** and resell technology and services developed by or purchased from others.

* Combining technology and services refers to architectural and procedural integration.
** Consolidating technology and services refers to the making available of standalone offerings without architectural or procedural integration.

General Attributes of eDiscovery Providers

Attributes of Developers

  • Focus: Research and Development
  • Expertise: Understanding of a Specific Technology or Service
  • By-Product:  Advancement of Technological Capabilities that Serve the Industry

Attributes of Integrators

  • Focus: Expertise and Integration
  • Expertise: Understanding of How to Combine Technologies and Services
  • By-Product:  Comprehensive Understanding of Current and Future Industry Offerings Based on Relationships with Multiple Developers

Attributes of Aggregators

  • Focus: Flexibility and Choice
  • Expertise: Understanding of How to Evaluate, Package and Resell Technologies and/or Services
  • By-Product:  Strong Ability to Examine and Evaluate the Business and Legal Utility of eDiscovery Offerings

General Distribution Frameworks for Legal Technologies/Services

  • Developers: Organizations that have developed and provide technology and/or services to end users either directly, through aggregators and/or through integrators.
  • Integrators: Organizations that specialize in combining technologies and/or services purchased from developers and/or aggregators and providing a complete capability directly to end users.
  • Aggregators: Organizations that provide technology and/or services purchased from developers and/or from other aggregators to end users either directly, through other aggregators and/or through integrators.

These general distribution framework elements can further be described as leveraging either Pure or Hybrid distribution models.

  • Pure Distribution Model: Organizations that are focused specifically on the legal technology/service distribution role of either Developer, Aggregator or Integrator.
  • Hybrid Distribution Model: Organizations that support two or more of the legal technology/service distribution roles.

Distribution framework and distribution models are important as they many times determine the way in which a whole product³ is ultimately delivered to the final end user.

Additionally, providers may in fact at times serve client’s in multiple roles as developers, integrators and/or aggregators using pure and/or hybrid distribution models. However, most providers have a core competency that is further defined by a primary distribution framework and primary distribution model.

Comparing Providers:  Differing Offerings. Different Capabilities. Different Delivery.

Comparing different providers with differing offerings and different capabilities delivered in different ways is challenging given the complexity of today’s provider landscape.  Hopefully, the aforementioned objective comparison elements, when combined with conventional stage and feature/function comparison criteria, will help legal professionals as they seek to understand and consider complex discovery decisions concerning eDiscovery provider selection.

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References:

(1) Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) – EDRM.net, January 17, 2017.
(2) Tools and Directory Examples:  The eDJ Tech Matrix, G2 Crowd, Capterra, ComplexDiscovery.
(3) Whole Product – (Whole Offering): Definition – Wikipedia, September 24, 2012.