Perception vs. Reality: BI in Litigation Support and eDiscovery

Pundits and legal industry watchers often describe law firms as laggards in directly adopting new technologies, but that trend is rapidly changing. The drive among law firms to raise client service levels and consider dynamic business models is encouraging adoption of business intelligence applications in law firms. As corporate legal organizations take back control of case management in an effort save money by relying less on outside counsel, their interest in business intelligence grows in parallel.

To date, the legal industry has been relatively slow to incorporate business intelligence into their eDiscovery operations.  The 451 Group survey of law firms and corporate legal teams captured a snapshot of the wants, needs and desires of legal and IT professionals who are involved in litigation and eDiscovery processes.  The study revealed a desire for tools and capabilities to analyze data and report on performance metrics throughout the EDRM lifecycle.

Fewer than half of law firm respondents reported that they are currently using automated reports or dashboards.  In the same vein, fewer than 25% of responders across all roles said they have been using analytic reporting applications for more than 5 years.  By contrast, 72 percent surveyed across all legal job roles polled ranked metrics visualization as important or very important.  A wide gap exists across the legal space between the desire for business intelligence tools and structured implementation of the same.

As with any cycle of adoption for new technology, early perceptions of the nature, costs and benefits of a new technology are mixed. The legal industry is becoming more sophisticated about applied data analytics, data mining, and business intelligence, but before adoption can broaden a few common misperceptions must be addressed.

A few common misperceptions threaded through the 451 Groups survey responses.  The following are four of the most common and interesting misperceptions and a dose of reality about each.

Perception:  It’s about technology; the right software package is the key

What is BI, anyway?  Respondents described BI in a variety of ways.   About 49 percent of responders agreed that they would define BI as a “technology-driven process supported by actionable data to make data-driven decisions”. Another 15 percent referred to BI simply as “software to analyze raw data”. Gartner’s definition is a touch different: Gartner defines BI as the toolsets and processes that “enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.”  That broader lens includes a look at the ways data is gathered and interpreted, two crucial elements of successful BI program.  Only 36 percent defined BI broadly as an integration of technology and best practices for the collection and presentation of business information.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, between 70 and 80 percent of corporate business intelligence projects fail, according to research by analyst firm Gartner.  In our experience, a successful BI program relies heavily on defining achievable objectives and gathering consistent (or normalizing) relevant data. Here is an easy starting point:  focus on existing reports and discuss the business purpose of each.  Discuss what each report accomplishes for you, then discuss data points you could use to improve.  Test the process of gathering new desired data and gauge interest in your results.  End-user buy in will help you drive process implementation.

Perception: BI is only for strategy formulation by executives and partners

Executives and business partners gain much from reports and visual dashboards summarizing eDiscovery consumption, invoicing activity, and measures of profitability.

A successful BI implementation can, however, provide practical, actionable information to a wide array of users within an eDiscovery organization.

Division or program managers may plan structured spending, project managers may check on production status and overall data delivery timeliness, and a senior associate might look at Relativity access levels for people on a review team.  While needs vary, the ability to provide these and many other types of reporting are limited only by an organization’s ability to gather and present the relevant data.

Perception: Our work is unique and reporting can’t be standardized

Today, most legal teams – 63 percent of law firms surveyed – routinely load data from one or more sources into spreadsheets to track eDiscovery processing rates, review status, project schedules, budgets and other business processes.  This manual practice is time-consuming and expensive. Every corporation, firm, practice, or individual has its own current reporting formats and practices, but huge time and cost savings are possible by standardizing and automating manual reporting.  This can be challenging.  Effective BI programs depend on normalized data, which requires gathering the same type of data points over time and across cases.

Automated reporting can be challenging, but its benefits can absolutely be realized.  A thoughtful BI process can pull key information from finance & accounting, project management, review, and other activities.  The analytical and predictive power of that combined data is far more powerful than each type of data on its own.  Consider structured procurement, for example.  A corporation that gathers information about processed data volumes, hosting volumes, and even review can procure year-over-year and take advantage of purchasing at scale in a way that is not available to corporations requesting bids for one case at a time.  BI programs evaluating standardized data points connect the important dots and provide actionable information to business decision makers across functions.

Perception:  BI is best suited for larger firms

Mid-size and smaller organizations often believe that BI applications are complex, expensive, and therefore only within reach of larger organizations.  That said, the ILTA 2016 Technology survey of law firms indicated that medium size firms were responsible for 47 percent of purchase activity in BI medium last year.  They followed close behind the 53 percent of purchase activity by large firms.  The value of BI to organizations of all sizes is becoming clearer over time.

The leading platforms and technologies used in eDiscovery project management and review are compatible with business intelligence program development.  Many eDiscovery document repositories are secure hosted applications with available APIs (application interfaces) through which BI architects can draw data.  Mid-size businesses and law firms are increasingly finding that an investment in business intelligence can help them analyze their performance, predict their future, and make better decisions.

Assessing the ROI of a Business Intelligence Portal

It’s no secret that eDiscovery can be expensive. Cases with large document volumes drive up direct discovery costs, and the volume of data increases every day. Which costs do organizations track? In the 451 Group survey, 62 percent of responders analyze their Total Processing Costs.  Total Collection Cost are analyzed by 58 percent and Total Review Cost by 50 percent.  Fewer than 50% of responding eDiscovery consumers across all segments currently push to visualize their eDiscovery consumption in a holistic way.  Without framing eDiscovery in a structured BI program, organizations cannot realize the available opportunities for cost reduction, structured spending, and process optimization.

FRONTEO works with the director of practice support at a mid-size national law firm who recently implemented a BI portal that integrates eDiscovery project and schedule data, processing and costs, billable hours, and IT software licensing data into a single BI application. The firm reported immediate benefits of the litigation and eDiscovery BI portal that include:

  • Faster, more accurate information for clients and for firm management
  • Significant savings achieved on SaaS licenses, due to improved usage management
  • Information driving decisions on staffing, service forecasting, and strategic eDiscovery-focused proportionality arguments
  • Detailed cost tracking, informing more effective pricing of firm services
  • Metrics on data volume enable strategic advice to clients on information governance, data retention, and litigation readiness

The age-old method for making an informed decision about a new technology project is to calculate the return on investment. The benefits of accelerated access to information, data-driven decision making, and client service enhancements that may distinguish a firm or organization from its peers cannot be overstated.

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