Editor’s Note: The results of the recent Summer 2020 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey present the continuing impact of COVID constraints on the business of eDiscovery. However, for these pandemic-driven results and their potential impact on the business of eDiscovery to be fully understood, they should be viewed through the contextual lens of the results of all nineteen surveys that have been administered to eDiscovery professionals since the inception of the eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey in early 2016.

Budgetary Constraints: A Current Concern for eDiscovery Professionals

The eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey is a nonscientific quarterly survey designed to provide insight into the business confidence level of individuals working in the eDiscovery ecosystem. The survey consists of nine core multiple-choice questions focused on factors related to the creation, delivery, and consumption of eDiscovery products and services. Additionally, the survey contains three optional questions focused on the business operational metrics of days sales outstanding (DSO), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and revenue distribution across customer bases.

Initiated in January 2016, the survey has been administered nineteen times with 2,189 individual responses. The survey is open to legal, business, and information technology professionals operating in the eDiscovery ecosystem, and individuals are invited to participate primarily via direct email invitations.

The latest survey was administered in the summer of 2020 and had 100 respondents in roles that included tactical execution (40%), operational management (30%), and executive leadership (30%). Industry segments represented in the survey included software and service providers (31%), law firms (28%), consultancies (22%), corporations (12%), governmental entities (4%), media and research professionals (1%), and others (2%).

One of the questions in the quarterly survey asks participants to select from a listing of six choices the issue they view as potentially having the most impact on their eDiscovery business during the next six months. The issues presented include:

  • Budgetary Constraints
  • Data Security
  • Inadequate Technology
  • Increasing Types of Data
  • Increasing Volumes of Data
  • Lack of Personnel

While not all-inclusive, the listing of issues provides a realistic overview of potential areas that appear to have a direct and ongoing impact on the business of eDiscovery.

Based on the aggregate results of past surveys, the following findings and charted overviews of responses to the question of issues impacting business may be helpful in understanding the collective mindset of many industry experts regarding these issues and their impact on the business of eDiscovery.

Six Key Findings in the Summer of 2020

  • In the summer of 2020, 56% of respondents viewed budgetary constraints as potentially having the greatest business impact on their business in the next six months. This percentage is the highest of all concerns represented in the survey and also is the highest rating for any business performance concern since the inception of the survey. This is also the eleventh time in nineteen surveys that the issue of budgetary constraints has been the top concern or tied for the top concern by survey respondents. (Charts 1,2, and 3)
  • The percentage of respondents that viewed increasing types of data as a top business concern increased strongly in the last quarter from 8.1% in the spring of 2020 to 14% in the summer of 2020. This is a solid rebound from spring 2020 which had the lowest rating in the category since the inception of the survey. (Chart 4)
  • Increasing data volumes continue to be a consistent concern for eDiscovery professionals with 14% of summer survey respondents viewing data volume challenges as potentially having a substantial impact on business in the next six months. However, the level of respondent concern in this area is the lowest since the inception of the survey. (Chart 5)
  • The percentage of respondents viewing the impact of data security as a top business issue decreased slightly from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by 7% of survey respondents. The level of respondent concern in this area is also the lowest since the inception of the survey. (Chart 6)
  • The impact of a lack of personnel on eDiscovery business performance decreased during the last quarter and is the top concern for only 6% of survey respondents. (Chart 7)
  • In the summer of 2020, the impact of inadequate technology as the top business issue decreased by 2.2% from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by only 3% of survey respondents. This is the lowest rating of any business performance impact concern in the summer 2020 survey. It is also is the seventeenth time in nineteen surveys that the impact of inadequate technology has been rated as the lowest area of business performance concern by survey respondents. (Chart 8)

Considering Nineteen Quarters of Results from 2016 to 2020

From a top issue perspective, the following potential issues and the number of quarterly times they have been considered the top concern by survey respondents is shared to create context as to the cyclical concerns of eDiscovery professionals.

  • Budgetary Constraints: The top concern eleven times in nineteen quarters (3x Winter*, 3x Spring, 3x Summer, 2x Fall).
  • Increasing Volumes of Data: The top concern six times in nineteen quarters (2x Winter*, 2x Spring, 1x Summer, 1x Fall).
  • Increasing Types of Data: The top concern three times in nineteen quarters (1x Winter, 1x Summer, 1x Fall).
  • Data Security: Never ranked as the top concern.
  • Lack of Personnel: Never ranked as the top concern.
  • Inadequate Technology: Never ranked as the top concern.

* Top concern tie between Budgetary Constraints and Increasing Volumes of Data in the Winter of 2017.

Survey Charts

(Charts Can Be Expanded for Detailed Viewing)


Chart 1: An Aggregate Overview of Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance

1 – Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance – Summer 2020


 


Chart 2: An Overview of Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance in the Summer of 2020

2 – Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance – Summer 2020


 


Chart 3: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Budgetary Constraints as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

3 – Impact of Budgetary Constraints on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Chart 4: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Increasing Types of Data as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

4 – Impact of Increasing Types of Data on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Chart 5: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Increasing Volumes of Data as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

5 – Impact of Increasing Volumes of Data on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Chart 6: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Data Security as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

6 – Impact of Data Security on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Chart 7: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Lack of Personnel as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

7 – Impact of Lack of Personnel on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Chart 8: An Overview of the Percentage of Respondents Viewing Inadequate Technology as the Top Issue Impacting eDiscovery Business

8 – Impact of Inadequate Technology on eDiscovery Business – Summer 2020


 


Running Listing of Survey Results


Chart 9: Survey Participant Overview

9 – Survey Respondents (Individual and Aggregate Overview) – Summer 2020

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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