Intelligent file management services in 2011 and 2010 Year in Review
It is the end of 2010 and the start of a new year. It is always kind of good to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. This posting attempts to do just that and to provide some insights into the next year.
Year in Review
The year started off with everyone claiming to be the “leader in Early Case Assessment” (ECA). Every product on the market was touting their ECA functionality (whether they had anything new or not). Figuring out what to do with volumes of case data was clearly top of mind for customers and understanding it was key but it was really a lot of the same stuff warmed over. There were some items that everyone recognized and in many cases tried to sell around, but the theme of the year was ECA, ECA and more ECA. While this customer requirement was real, the tone had changed somewhat when customers saw that only a couple of companies had a combined offering that would allow them to intelligently and cost-effectively reduce the amount of data that attorneys need to review.
The industry realized by mid-summer that the real need was for a scalable and cost-effective data processing and reduction capabilities. The same old shortcomings in the same old products with new user interfaces or slight improvements here and there were not what the world needed. Increasingly, 2010 became the year when the importance of scale became clear. Every vendor in the industry had some announcement around scaling their solution; especially after Digital Reef announced its Teraperformance benchmark numbers of 17.3 Terabytes of processed data in a 24 hour period. Other vendors made announcements but there has not been another near this performance level.
Other than raw scale it became important to note that cost-effective processing includes a set of analytic functions that scale as well as the processing functions of the system. Being able to find similar data in a sea of documents that exceed the capability of other products ability to handle index search became the accepted norm for a number of Digital Reef customers. The ability to quickly identify what documents go with other documents without much human intervention let a few legal service providers to take on cases that they would not have been able to handle in prior years. Scalable search, analytics and export capabilities were seen by actual customers as unique capabilities that could build business productivity into the operations of Digital Reef customers. Integrated and orchestrated workflow along with scale became the watchword of the day in many industry leading customer environments.
Please see Figure One Below for a look into what orchestrated workflow means. It is a set of integrated and automated operations that need to be handled to complete a thorough review of data. Further, these orchestrated operations can be set up to facilitate key business processes that need insights into unstructured documents so that these documents and messages can be retained or managed.
Figure One – Business Process Logic
Last but not least, there has been significant interest, particularly from larger enterprise litigation, Corporate Security Information Officers and CIO level managers for cloud services. The buy on demand and elastic capacity models of IT management is very real in corporate America and in the government areas. The use of cloud services (as I have written many times) requires analysis capabilities and a “data history” component that requires both scale and the automated business process logic capabilities that have been driving productivity in the legal service processing arena. As I have blogged previously: (http://www.digitalreefinc.com/blog), this cloud service capability is getting adopted in a number of ways and requires robust discovery capabilities.
A Look Ahead
For 2011 I see the trend of customers wanting products that let them see and analyze more data in more intelligent ways. They will also tend to seek automated ways to alert them when data of certain types has entered their network. This birth of “intelligent storage and content awareness” will be a key initiative in the storage and legal discovery/compliance expertise domains in the coming year.
- In the coming year the difference between legal case-processing tools that are stand-alone and the full featured enterprise data processing analysis and management platforms will become evident. The customer wanting to deploy an enterprise-class expandable platform with both a elec tronic discovery application and a file services application will begin to articulate a “file governance” initiative within many companies. They may have Clearwell for legal review, but to get the relevant data into Clearwell they will use Digital Reef to get the data they care about identified and managed beforehand.
- The use of a scalable platform with applications for data management (file governance) will become a budgeted line-item in many environments. Many corporate customers will realize that this is as important as a data warehouse was for their structured database data items.
- The integration of unstructured data with structured data analytic applications will be a common concept within many enterprise accounts. BI that extends over an unstructured “treasure trove” of information like the email for the company sales people will become an item that IT begins to budget and investigate. Applications that can marry structured analysis with unstructured data items that have been “normalized” to fit the BI DB model will become serious items that will get investigated and budgeted for in the year ahead. A healing of the economy and thinner corporate margins for profits will help drive this trend.
- At least one company in the ECA space will likely go public or be acquired in a very big transaction. This will drive the interest in the overall data analysis and management sector for M&A.
- There will be several new creative announcements this coming year about how the automated analysis and management of data is driving productivity in legal as well as non-legal discovery areas. In this sense this will be the year of “intelligent and automated orchestrated discovery” within not just legal discovery circles but storage management and other industries.
- The analyst community will begin to recognize and tout the scale and automation mantra of Digital Reef that we have started around file governance.
- Electronic Legal Discovery will be seen as an application on top of a scalable architecture that supports file governance at scale. This will be the paradigm shift that the industry will tout for a year of more.
It should be a fun year. Happy New Year and good wishes to everyone.