Out of the Woods? Eighteen Observations on eDiscovery Business Confidence in the Winter of 2021

In the winter of 2021, 85.0% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey respondents felt the current business conditions are good or normal. This combined confidence level represents a 7.8% increase in these same feelings when compared to the fall of 2020 where 77.2% felt the conditions were good or normal. Additionally, exactly 43.3% of survey respondents characterized the current business climate as good. This represents an increase from 38.6% of respondents who viewed the business climate as good in the fall of 2020. This increase from the fall of 2020 may represent a cautious optimism in the current general business climate for eDiscovery.

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

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

94%

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 winter 2021 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 twenty-one surveys that have been administered to eDiscovery professionals since the inception of the eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey. Initiated in January 2016, the survey has been administered twenty-one times with 2,332 individual responses.

The Business of eDiscovery in the Winter 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 winter of 2021 and had 60 respondents in roles that included executive leadership (45.0%), operational management (36.7%), and tactical execution (18.3%). Industry segments represented in the survey included software and service providers (41.7%), law firms (28.3%), consultancies (13.3%), corporations (5.0%), governmental entities (5.0%), media and research professionals (5.0%), and others (1.7%).

Based on the aggregate results of twenty-one past 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 winter of 2021, 85.0% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey respondents felt the current business conditions are good or normal. This combined confidence level represents a 7.8% increase in these same feelings when compared to the fall of 2020 where 77.2% felt the conditions were good or normal.
  • Exactly 43.3% of survey respondents characterized the current business climate as good. This represents an increase from 38.6% of respondents who viewed the business climate as good in the fall of 2020. This increase from the fall of 2020 may represent a cautious optimism in the current general business climate for eDiscovery.
  • Only 15.0% of respondents classified the current business condition as bad. This represents a decrease of 7.9% in this area over the last quarter. This is also the fourth-highest percentage of respondents viewing the current business conditions as bad since the inception of the survey, only trailing percentages in this area seen during the COVID-19 time frame of spring, summer, and fall 2020.
  • In the winter of 2021, 50.0% of eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey respondents felt that business climate conditions will be better in six months. This is 1.8% higher than sentiment in the fall of 2020, where 48.2% of survey respondents felt that the business conditions would be better in six months. This is also the highest percentage since the winter of 2019 when 52%  of respondents felt that 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 moderately to 45.0%. This increase from 41.0% in the fall of 2020 represents optimistic warming of business confidence.
  • The number of respondents expecting the business climate of eDiscovery to be worse in six months decreased strongly to 5.0% in the winter of 2021, down 5.8% from the fall of 2021. This percentage of respondents who felt the business climate will be worse in six months appears to portray a decreasing COVID concern regarding business confidence.

Revenue Expectations (Chart 3)

  • In the winter of 2021, 51.7% of survey respondents felt that revenue in the next sixth months will be higher than today. This percentage is significantly higher than sentiment on this metric in the fall of 2021 (42.2%) and represents continued cautious optimism.
  • Slightly higher than a third of the survey respondents (35.0%) felt that revenue in the next six months would not change. This represents a strong decrease of 9.6% quarter over quarter from 44.6% in the fall of 2020.
  • The percentage of respondents who felt that revenue in six months will be lower than today was the same as in the fall of 2020, stabilizing at 13.3% in the winter of 2021. This percentage also is the second-highest percentage of respondents who felt this sentiment in this area since the inception of the survey.

Profit Expectations (Chart 4)

  • 41.7% of survey respondents felt that profits will be higher in six months than they are today. This is a solid increase from the fall of 2020 when 36.1% 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 slightly quarter over quarter from 47.0% in the fall of 2020 to 43.3% in the winter of 2020.
  • The percentage of respondents who felt that profits in six months will be lower than today decreased slightly quarter over quarter, with 15.0% expressing this sentiment in the winter of 2021, as opposed to 16.9% in the fall of 2020. However, this percentage is the lowest percentage of respondents with this sentiment in this area since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Observations on Business Impact Factors (Chart 5)

  • In the winter of 2021, 43.3% 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 winter 2021 survey and also is the fourth-highest rating for any business performance concern since the inception of the survey. It also should be noted that the four highest ratings of budgetary constraints as a primary concern for survey respondents have all occurred during the current COVID-19 pandemic, beginning with the spring 2020 survey. This is also the thirteenth time in twenty-one surveys that the issue of budgetary constraints has been the top concern or tied for the top concern by survey respondents.
  • Increasing data volumes continue to be a consistent concern for eDiscovery professionals with 18.3% of winter 2021 survey respondents viewing data volume challenges as potentially having a substantial impact on business in the next six months. This was a significant increase in this area from the 12.0% response rate in the fall 2020 survey.
  • The percentage of respondents that viewed increasing types of data as a top business concern decreased slightly in the last quarter from 18.1% in the fall of 2020 to 16.7% in the winter of 2021.
  • The percentage of respondents viewing the impact of data security as a top business issue increased strongly from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by 13.3% of survey respondents. 
  • The impact of a lack of personnel on eDiscovery business performance decreased during the last quarter and is the top concern for 5.0% of respondents, down from 8.4% in the fall of 2020.
  • In the winter of 2021, the impact of inadequate technology as the top business issue decreased by 1.5% from the last quarter and is now viewed as the top concern by 3.3% of survey respondents. This is the lowest rating of any business performance impact concern in the winter 2021 survey. It is also is the nineteenth time in twenty-one surveys that the impact of inadequate technology has been rated as the lowest area of business performance concern by survey respondents.

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 – General Climate Overview – Winter 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 – General Climate Overview + Six Months – Winter 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 – Revenue Overview + Six Months – Winter 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 – Profits Overview + Six Months – Winter 2021

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

5 – Issues Impacting eDiscovery Business Performance – Winter 2021

Chart 6: Survey Participant Overview

6 – Survey Respondents (Individual and Aggregate Overview) – Winter 2021

Chart 7: Survey Participant Level of Support Overview

7 – Survey Respondents by Level of Support – Winter 2021

Chart 8: Survey Participant Industry Segment Overview

8 – Survey Respondents by Industry Segment – Winter 2021

Running Listing of Survey Results

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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ComplexDiscovery is an online publication that highlights data and legal discovery insight and intelligence ranging from original research to aggregated news for use by business, information technology, and legal professionals. The highly targeted publication seeks to increase the collective understanding of readers regarding 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 data and legal discovery organizations. Registered as a private limited company in the European Union country of Estonia, one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world, ComplexDiscovery OÜ operates virtually worldwide to deliver marketing consulting and services.

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