Gartner’s “2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software” Provides a Useful Roadmap for Legal TechnologistsTuesday, May 29th, 2012
Gartner has just released its 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, which is an annual report that analyzes the state of the electronic discovery industry and provides a detailed vendor-by-vendor evaluation. For many, particularly those in IT circles, Gartner is an unwavering north star used to divine software market leaders, in topics ranging from business intelligence platforms to wireless lan infrastructures. When IT professionals are on the cusp of procuring complex software, they look to analysts like Gartner for quantifiable and objective recommendations – as a way to inform and buttress their own internal decision making processes.
But for some in the legal technology field (particularly attorneys), looking to Gartner for software analysis can seem a bit foreign. Legal practitioners are often more comfortable with the “good ole days” when the only navigation aid in the eDiscovery world was provided by the dynamic duo of George Socha and Tom Gelbmanm, who (beyond creating the EDRM) were pioneers of the first eDiscovery rankings survey. Albeit somewhat short lived, their Annual Electronic Discovery[i] Survey ranked the hundreds of eDiscovery providers and bucketed the top tier players in both software and litigation support categories. The scope of their mission was grand, and they were perhaps ultimately undone by the breadth of their task (stopping the Survey in 2010), particularly as the eDiscovery landscape continued to mature, fragment and evolve.
Gartner, which has perfected the analysis of emerging software markets, appears to have taken on this challenge with an admittedly more narrow (and likely more achievable) focus. Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant (MQ) for the eDiscovery industry last year, and in the 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software report they’ve evaluated the top 21 electronic discovery software vendors. As with all Gartner MQs, their methodology is rigorous; in order to be included, vendors must meet quantitative requirements in market penetration and customer base and are then evaluated upon criteria for completeness of vision and ability to execute.
By eliminating the legion of service providers and law firms, Gartner has made their mission both more achievable and perhaps (to some) less relevant. When talking to certain law firms and litigation support providers, some seem to treat the Gartner initiative (and subsequent Magic Quadrant) like a map from a land they never plan to visit. But, even if they’re not directly procuring eDiscovery software, the Gartner MQ should still be seen by legal technologists as an invaluable tool to navigate the perils of the often confusing and shifting eDiscovery landscape – particularly with the rash of recent M&A activity.
Beyond the quadrant positions[ii], comprehensive analysis and secular market trends, one of the key underpinnings of the Magic Quadrant is that the ultimate position of a given provider is in many ways an aggregate measurement of overall customer satisfaction. Similar in ways to the net promoter concept (which is a tool to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships simply by asking how likely that customer is to recommend a product/service to a colleague), the Gartner MQ can be looked at as the sum total of all customer experiences.[iii] As such, this usage/satisfaction feedback is relevant even for parties that aren’t purchasing or deploying electronic discovery software per se. Outside counsel, partners, litigation support vendors and other interested parties may all end up interacting with a deployed eDiscovery solution (particularly when such solutions have expanded their reach as end-to-end information governance platforms) and they should want their chosen solution to used happily and seamlessly in a given enterprise. There’s no shortage of stories about unhappy outside counsel (for example) that complain about being hamstrung by a slow, first generation eDiscovery solution that ultimately makes their job harder (and riskier).
Next, the Gartner MQ also is a good short-handed way to understand more nuanced topics like time to value and total cost of ownership. While of course related to overall satisfaction, the Magic Quadrant does indirectly address the query about whether the software does what it says it will (delivering on the promise) in the time frame that is claimed (delivering the promise in a reasonable time frame) since these elements are typically subsumed in the satisfaction metric. This kind of detail is disclosed in the numerous interviews that Gartner conducts to go behind the scenes, querying usage and overall satisfaction.
While no navigation aid ensures that a traveler won’t get lost, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software is a useful map of the electronic discovery software world. And, particularly looking at year-over-year trends, the MQ provides a useful way for legal practitioners (beyond the typical IT users) to get a sense of the electronic discovery market landscape as it evolves and matures. After all, staying on top of the eDiscovery industry has a range of benefits beyond just software procurement.
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About the Magic Quadrant
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[i] Note, in the good ole days folks still used two words to describe eDiscovery.
[ii] Gartner has a proprietary matrix that it uses to place the entities into four quadrants: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players.
[iii] Under the Ability to Execute axis Gartner weighs a number of factors including “Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services or programs that enable clients to succeed with the products evaluated. Specifically, this criterion includes implementation experience, and the ways customers receive technical support or account support. It can also include ancillary tools, the existence and quality of customer support programs, availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.”