Calm Before the Storm? Eighteen Observations on eDiscovery Business Confidence in the Fall of 2021

In the fall of 2021, 71.2% of survey respondents felt that revenue in the next sixth months will be higher than today. This percentage is markedly higher than sentiment on this metric in the summer of 2021 (63.3%) and represents continuing optimism toward positive revenue expectations for the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. This is also the highest percentage of respondents believing revenue will be higher in the next sixth months since the inception of the quarterly survey in the winter of 2016.

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Content Assessment: Eighteen Observations on eDiscovery Business Confidence in the Fall of 2021

Information - 95%
Insight - 90%
Relevance - 100%
Objectivity - 95%
Authority - 100%

96%

Excellent

A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the recent post highlighting observations on eDiscovery business confidence.

Editor’s Note: The results of the recent Fall 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey present the confidence, challenges, and constraints on the business of eDiscovery through the eyes of industry experts. However, for these 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 the surveys that have been administered since the inception of the eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey in early 2016.

Currently, the survey has been administered twenty-four times with 2,595 individual responses. The latest survey was administered in the fall of 2021 and had 73 respondents.


The Business of eDiscovery in the Fall of 2021

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.

Specific survey questions include:

  • Which of the following segments best describes your business in eDiscovery?
  • How would you rate the current general business conditions for eDiscovery in your segment?
  • How do you think the business conditions will be in your segment six months from now?
  • How would you guess revenue in your segment of the eDiscovery ecosystem will be six months from now?
  • How would you guess profits in your segment of the eDiscovery ecosystem will be six months from now?
  • Of the six items presented below, what is the issue that you feel will most impact the business of eDiscovery over the next six months?
  • In which geographical region do you primarily conduct eDiscovery-related business?
  • What are best describes your primary function in the conduct of your organization’s eDiscovery-related business?
  • What are best describes your level of support in the conduct of your organization’s eDiscovery-related business?
  • How would you characterize the trajectory of your organization’s Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) during the last quarter?
  • How would you characterize the trajectory of your organization’s Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) during the last quarter?
  • Which of the following statements best describes the distribution of your organization’s revenue across your customer base during the last quarter?

The latest survey was administered in the fall of 2021 and had 73 respondents in roles that included executive leadership (45.2%), operational management (37.0%), and tactical execution (17.8%). Industry segments represented in the survey included software and service providers (42.5%), law firms (24.7%), consultancies (17.8%), corporations (6.8%), governmental entities (0.0%), media and research professionals (4.1%), and others (4.1%).

Based on the aggregate results of twenty-four surveys, the following findings and charted overviews of responses to survey questions may help in understanding the collective mindset of many industry experts regarding the business of eDiscovery.

Eighteen Survey Observations

Observations on Business Conditions (Charts 1-4)

Business Climate (Chart 1 and 2)

  • In the fall of 2021, 93.1% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey respondents felt the current business conditions are good or normal. This combined confidence level represents a 2.0% increase in these same feelings when compared to the summer of 2021 when 91.1% felt the conditions were good or normal.
  • Exactly 67.1% of survey respondents characterized the current business climate as good. This represents an increase from 60.0% of respondents who viewed the business climate as good in the summer of 2021. This increase from the summer of 2021 may represent continued optimism in the current general business climate for eDiscovery.
  • Only 6.8% of respondents classified the current business condition as bad. This represents a decrease of 2.1% in this area from the last quarter. This is also the lowest percentage of respondents viewing the current business conditions as bad since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.
  • In the fall of 2021, 54.8% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey respondents felt that business climate conditions will be better in six months. This is a 4.1% decrease from sentiment in the summer of 2021 when 58.9% of survey respondents felt that the business conditions would be better in six months.
  • The number of survey respondents that felt the business conditions will remain the same in six months increased slightly to 41.1%.
  • The number of respondents expecting the business climate of eDiscovery to be worse in six months increased to 4.1% in the fall of 2021, up 1.9% from the summer of 2021. This percentage of respondents who felt the business climate will be worse in six months may portray potential increasing concern regarding business confidence.

Revenue Expectations (Chart 3)

  • In the fall of 2021, 71.2% of survey respondents felt that revenue in the next sixth months will be higher than today. This percentage is markedly higher than sentiment on this metric in the summer of 2021 (63.3%) and represents continuing optimism toward positive revenue expectations for the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. This is also the highest percentage of respondents believing revenue will be higher in the next sixth months since the inception of the quarterly survey in the winter of 2016.
  • 23.3% of the survey respondents felt that revenue in the next six months would not change. This represents a decrease of 10.0% quarter over quarter from 33.3% in the summer of 2021.
  • The percentage of respondents who felt that revenue in six months will be lower than today increased to 5.5% in the fall of 2021.

Profit Expectations (Chart 4)

  • 50.7% of survey respondents felt that profits will be higher in six months than they are today. This is a slight increase from the summer of 2021 when 51.1% of respondents estimated profits to be higher in six months.
  • The percentage of respondents who felt that profits will be the same in six months decreased quarter over quarter from 40.0% in the summer of 2021 to 38.4% in the fall of 2021.
  • The percentage of respondents who felt that profits in six months will be lower than today increased quarter over quarter, with 11.0% expressing this sentiment in the fall of 2021, as opposed to 8.9% in the summer of 2021.

Observations on Business Impact Factors (Chart 5)

  • In the fall of 2021, 27.4% of respondents viewed lack of personnel 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 fall 2021 survey. This percentage is also the highest rating in the area of lack of personnel concerns since the inception of the survey in the winter of 2016. This is also the first time in twenty-four surveys that the issue of lack of personnel has been the top concern of survey respondents.
  • The percentage of respondents that viewed increasing types of data as a top business concern increased in the last quarter from 24.4% in the summer of 2021 to 26.0% in the fall of 2021. This is the highest rating in the area of types of data concerns since the inception of the survey in the winter of 2016.
  • Increasing volumes of data continued to be a consistent concern for eDiscovery professionals with 16.4% of fall 2021 survey respondents viewing data volume challenges as potentially having a substantial impact on business in the next six months. This was a decrease in this area from the 20.0% response rate in the summer 2021 survey.
  • The percentage of respondents that viewed budgetary constraints as a top business issue decreased 2.7% from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by 15.1% of survey respondents. This is also the second-lowest rate of concern in this area since the inception of the survey.
  • In the fall of 2021, the impact of inadequate technology as the top business issue decreased slightly by 0.7% from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by 8.2% of survey respondents.
  • The impact of data security on eDiscovery business performance decreased slightly during the last quarter and is now the top concern for 6.8% of respondents, down from 8.9% in the summer of 2021. This is the lowest rating of any business performance impact concern in the fall 2021 survey. It is also is the lowest concern rate in this area since the inception of the survey in the winter of 2016.

Survey Charts

(Charts Can Be Expanded for Detailed Viewing)


Chart 1: How would you rate the current general business conditions for eDiscovery in your segment?
Subjective feeling of business performance when compared with business expectations.

1 - Aggregate General Climate Overview - Fall 2021

Chart 2: How do you think the business conditions will be in your segment six months from now?
Subjective feeling of business performance when compared with business expectations.

2 - Aggregate General Climate Overview + Six Months - Fall 2021

Chart 3: How would you guess revenue in your segment of the eDiscovery ecosystem will be six months from now? Revenue is income generated from eDiscovery-related business activities.

3 - Aggregate Revenue Overview + Six Months - Fall 2021

Chart 4: How would you guess profits in your segment of the eDiscovery ecosystem will be six months from now? Profit is the amount of income remaining after accounting for all expenses, debts, additional revenue streams, and operating costs.

4 - Aggregate Profits Overview + Six Months - Fall 2021

Chart 5: An Aggregate Overview of Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance Challenges that may directly impact the business performance of your organization.

5 - Aggregate Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance - Fall 2021

Chart 6: Survey Participant Overview

6 - Aggregate Survey Respondents - Fall 2021

Chart 7: Survey Participant Level of Support Overview

7 - Aggregate Survey Respondents by Level of Support - Fall 2021

Chart 8: Survey Participant Industry Segment Overview

8 - Aggregate Survey Respondents by Industry Segment - Fall 2021

Past Survey Results

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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ComplexDiscovery is an online publication that highlights cyber, data and legal discovery insight and intelligence ranging from original research to aggregated news for use by cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals. The highly targeted publication seeks to increase the collective understanding of readers regarding cyber, data and legal discovery information and issues and to provide an objective resource for considering trends, technologies, and services related to electronically stored information.

ComplexDiscovery OÜ is a technology marketing firm providing strategic planning and tactical execution expertise in support of cyber, data and legal discovery organizations. Focused primarily on supporting the ComplexDiscovery publication, the company is registered as a private limited company in the European Union country of Estonia, one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. The company operates virtually worldwide to deliver marketing consulting and services.

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