Back in March, I wrote about an interview which I had conducted with Warwick Sharp, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Equivio (see Podcast summarisises Equivio benefits). A transcript of the interview was first published in Enterprise Technology Management (ETM), Q1 2009. ETM is produced by Informed Market Intelligence (IMI), London.
IMI’s primary audience is described thus:
Information technology has evolved to be the cornerstone of all business activity. Business strategy and technology solutions have become so intertwined that IT is now the driving force behind business success or downfall.
As a result of this convergence, a new type of IT executive has emerged: one who spends the majority of his or her time on business strategy, working hand-in-hand with business colleagues to not only support but actually drive business success.
Today’s global companies need to be strategic thinkers, able to move beyond reactive and even responsive behaviour. They need to be predictive, setting the technology agenda based on their understanding of where business and technology are moving. They need to ensure that all technology investments are driven by business strategy, and that IT is being used to ensure agility and innovation throughout the organization.
My own primary audience is further along the chain, the lawyers and judges who are responsible for handling electronic discovery for litigation, regulatory and related purposes, and the suppliers who serve them. There is, however, a close relationship between the two audiences – it is the corporate IT executives who own and control the data which ends up as the raw material for disclosure. There are two ways in which we can influence the latter to be more strategic and predictive – by anticipating the company’s disclosure requirements in their information management strategies, and by working more closely with the company’s lawyers both to be ready for any disclosure eventuality and when an actual requirement arises.
This is partly for the negative-sounding reason that such a requirement, when it arises, can be a major disruption to business as the lawyers try to establish what data exists which may be relevant. The executives responsible for the business rarely know much about the documents and other data which constitute the discoverable material; the IT department was not involved in the business events which triggered the requirement. The result is often a large legal bill as the lawyers try to workout what they need and where it might be found.
There is a more positive reason for getting on top of this predictively: bringing or defending litigation, showing a regulator that the company is in control, and being able to investigate fraud or other internal problems, are part of a company’s strategic armoury. It is one thing to lose a case or to have to abandon or settle litigation because the law and the facts are against you, quite another to have that decision driven by an inability to find your own documents cost-effectively.
The role of the in-house IT executives goes beyond being ready for discovery as and when it happens. Two developments are discernible as document volumes drive litigation costs ever higher. One is a bigger say by the corporations in how this aspect of the litigation is run, extending to the actual choice of lawyers and service providers. The other is a trend towards taking some of the work in house, buying or developing applications to reduce the volumes before they reach the lawyers. It is these trends which Equivio is riding when it says that its proponents exist among corporates as well as (and often instead of) law firms.
The cynic might say that lawyers are never going to take much interest in applications which cut down their chargeable hours. Call me naive, but I do not see that as a driver, at least at the better (which does not always mean bigger) firms. Those who are seriously competing for work from corporate clients of any size know that they cannot win work in 2009 without a clear plan for handling documents cheaply – I use that word rather than “cost-effectively” because pure cost is the deciding factor just now, along with risk-management. The risk, of course, is the risk of missing something vital and the aim, which is Equivio’s primary objective, is to minimise cost and risk simultaneously.
This is well-covered in the interview and I will not repeat it here. Equivio’s e-discovery products – for handling near-duplicates, e-mail threads, document comparison and their new Relevance application (which I will write about shortly) – are well-described on their web site which remains one of the most useful and attractive of the supplier sites. By that, I mean that it describes the problems which must be addressed in a way which goes beyond mere promotion of their products. The names on the list of Equivio’s Installed Base should be enough to encourage you to take a look at its functions.