eDiscovery Daily Blog

Is This the Winter of Our eDiscovery Business Confidence Discontent?: eDiscovery Trends

It’s that time again!  I’m here to cover the results of the Winter 2020 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey, published (as always) on Rob Robinson’s terrific Complex Discovery site.  So, how confident are individuals working in the eDiscovery ecosystem in the business of eDiscovery?  Let’s see.

As always, Rob provides a complete breakdown of the latest survey results, which you can check out here.  As I’ve done for a couple of years now, I will provide some analysis and I’m continuing to take a look at all surveys conducted to look at trends over time.  So, this time, I will look at the results for all seventeen surveys to date, from January 2016 to present.  I’m also continuing to look at some of the numbers compared to their averages over all seventeen surveys as additional historical comparison.  And, I’ve changed up the bar charts to hopefully be easier to gauge historical numbers.

The winter 2020 survey response period was initiated on December 28, 2019 and continued until the registration of 146 responses this past Saturday.  Another high number of participants, thanks in part to support and promotion from both EDRM and ACEDS.

Software and/or Services Provider and Law Firms Still One-Two: As usual, Software and/or Services Provider respondents was the top group with 39.0% of all respondents, the highest percentage since Summer 2018 and about two percent higher than average for the seventeen surveys (36.9% average over that time).  Law Firm respondents were once again second at 30.8% of all respondents (slightly above the lifetime average of 30.4%).  Consultancy rose one spot to third at 13.0% (well below than the 17.8% lifetime average).  And Corporation respondents were fourth at 8.9%, higher than the lifetime average of 7.4%, but more a five percent drop from last survey. If you count law firms as providers (they’re technically both providers and consumers), providers account for 82.8% of total respondents, the least diverse survey since Fall 2018.  Here’s a graphical representation of the trend over the seventeen surveys to date:

So, how confident is another large group of respondents in eDiscovery business confidence?  See below.

Exactly Half of Respondents Consider Business to Be Good: This quarter, we saw a 1.3 point rise to 50% of respondents that considered business to be good, the lowest Winter number since 2017.  It’s also below the average of all surveys (54.1%) by 4.1%.  41.1% of respondents consider business to be normal, which is above the lifetime average of 38.5%.  And 8.9% of respondents rated business conditions as bad, which is the highest percentage since last Winter and 1.5 points above the lifetime average of 7.4%.  Just about every Winter shows a jump in “bad” votes, for some reason.  So, why is Winter a more pessimistic time of year?  Hmmm…  Here is the trend over the seventeen surveys to date:

So, how good do respondents expect business to be in six months?  See below.

A Majority of Respondents Once Again Expect Business to be the Same Six Months From Now: While most respondents (87.3%) expect business conditions will be in their segment to be the same or better six months from now, the percentage of those expecting business to be better was only 43.8%, while those expecting business to be the same was 53.4%. Those expecting worse business conditions dropped to 2.7%.   However, less than half of respondents also expected the same on revenues (only 44.5% for Same, with 51.4% for Higher), yet more than half of respondents expected the same on profits – 54.1% respectively.  So, it appears that respondents expect to make more, but not necessarily net more.  Capisce?  The percentage of respondents expecting higher profits did rise from the last survey another 2.3 points to 35.6%, but that’s still the second lowest Winter number ever and is 4.7% lower than the lifetime average.  Here is the profits trend over the seventeen surveys to date:

Will profits continue to be a damper on revenue projections in the future?  We’ll see.

Type This!  Increasing Types of Data Considered to Be Most Impactful to eDiscovery Business: Increasing Types of Data was the top factor for the third time ever at 25.3%, which was considerably higher than the lifetime survey average of 17.0%. Budgetary Constraints dropped one spot at 23.3% (half a percent lower than the 23.8% lifetime average).  Increasing Volumes of Data fell back to third at 18.5%, nearly 5 percent lower than the lifetime average of 23.3%.  Lack of Personnel was fourth at 13.0% (which is its lifetime average), Data Security was fifth at 12.3% (lifetime average 14.2%) and Inadequate Technology (once again) brought up the rear at 7.5% (even lower than its puny average of 8.7%).  Most everybody seems to be happy with their technology, or at least it’s not their biggest challenge.  The graph below illustrates the distribution over the seventeen surveys to date:

Budgetary Constraints, Increasing Volumes of Data, and Increasing Types of Data continue to consistently be the top three factors quarter after quarter with Increasing Types definitely trending up over the past several surveys.

Distribution of Respondents is Once Again Reasonably Even: Broken record time!  Operational Management respondents were once again the top group at 34.2% (2.2 points over the lifetime average of 32%) and Tactical Execution respondents were second at 33.6% (still 5.4 points over the lifetime average of 28.2%) and Executive Leadership respondents were last again at 32.1%, another 2.1 percent higher than last quarter (but 7.7 points lower than the lifetime average).  Here’s the breakdown over the seventeen surveys to date:

Clearly, we’ve shown that larger overall respondent groups (around 140 or more) leads to a much more even distribution than the earlier surveys where Executive Leadership respondents were consistently the largest group.

Again, Rob has published the results on his site here, which shows responses to additional questions not referenced here.  Check them out.

So, what do you think?  What’s your state of confidence in the business of eDiscovery?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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