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Archive for June, 2009

With so much mainstream attention on the business impact of cloud computing such as a Business Week special section on How Cloud Computing Will Change Business – BusinessWeek and the New York Times Magazine article on mega data centers I’m talking a lot more about what we’re doing with the cloud.

And the first issue I generally approach is that we’re using the cloud to manage ESI, not as a potentially discoverable source of ESI!

But inevitably we think the coming developments will impact e-discovery in a significant way because it will be the defining technology model that decides who survives and who is made obsolete.

Technologies that can be deployed in cloud environments – not hypothetically, or on a whiteboard but actually operating in a multi-tenant cloud environment – will survive and winners from there will emerge.

Technologies that don’t operate in the cloud – like legacy document management and litigation databases, hand-tooled and local install-based native file processing work flows, analytics tools that are not scalable, the list goes on and on frankly – will be obsolete.

So the corollary is that the entities that adopt cloud based models – be it service bureaus, technology companies, corporate legal departments or law firms – will also survive, emerge and reshape themselves in a new landscape.

Companies and firms in any part of the ecosystem are faced with a set of choices.

Do we adopt and move toward the cloud? Do we place one foot in each camp? Or do we reinvest in competing with the cloud?

Companies that get it, will be fine, and can get back to work.  Companies that try to do both will do neither well.  And finally, companies and firms that attempt to compete with the clouds from Amazon, Google, Sun, IBM, or Oracle will do what legal entities have generally done over the past twenty years. Which is to throw money at the problem, with no strategic or business plan in place, and no measurable results.

The question for those entities is not if they will be successful.  That much is clear, they will not be.

The question is can they survive being wrong.  Any legal entity – corporation or law firm – that either under-invested or invested poorly in legal technology could survive before.  Technology was not a true differentiator in the legal space.

It is now.  So the ramifications of being wrong are much higher.

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Let the arguments start rolling in.  Sure, you might need seat warmers in Texas for any number of reasons but most likely those aren’t the primary uses of the car.  Keeping bagels warm?  Probably doesn’t justify the extra expense.

Every time I make a big purchase, like a car, I get pulled into more and more options that I never thought I’d need.  It’s the value hunter in me.  I can get $4k in options for $2k.  Nevermind that $2,500 of those options I don’t really want.  But what you forget about is the long term complexity that gets created by that upgrade.  It’s not that I spend extra money for things I didn’t need once.  But that I won’t get that money back on resale, and that those options are expensive to maintain, and in many cases make the vehicle more difficult to operate.  If you need seat warmers, those little buttons are welcome additions.  If you don’t, they are just buttons that accidentally get pressed in the summer heat while you are getting your car washed.  Not fun on the ride home.

E-discovery technology is no different.  Most people make a list (or find one on the internet) of the features that they are expecting to see in the application.  Then they evaluate the options based on cost per feature, not realizing that unneeded features are costing them money up front and throughout their use by adding complexity.  If you only need 5 features, you should buy the product with 5 features… even if it costs the same amount of money.

And here’s the kicker.  In my experience, fewer features means higher quality.  Aren’t those extra features just distracting us from what really matters?  Safety, performance, and economy.  Okay, and maybe style.  Those are the most important factors for buying a car or e-discovery technology.  Save yourself the hassle of buttons you don’t need, accessories that always fail, and a sweltering tail end.

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