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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Everyone (And Their Grandmother) Is Jumping Into E-Discovery

At some point in his blog last year, David Hornik, a venture capitalist, lamented the fact that VideoEgg, one of his investments, had 38 competitors in the online video market – and those were only the ones that he knew about.

A casual observer could be forgiven for seeing the same thing happening in e-discovery. Barely a day goes by without some company in a completely different market announcing that they too now have an “e-discovery solution”. Debra Logan at Gartner, who is fast emerging as one of the leading lights of the e-discovery world, tells me she is speaking to 30 vendors for her forthcoming research – and could easily have covered twice that number. Brian Babinau, the insightful and witty analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, jokes that: “nowadays, people either build a social networking product or do e-discovery.”

For example, last week Zimbra, an open source email platform which has nothing to do with e-discovery, announced its new “e-discovery features”, which sound a lot like keyword search. Kazeon, which wins the prize for creating the world’s most complex e-discovery workflow diagram, has added e-discovery as one of its primary “solutions”, while Endeca takes a more measured approach, proposing only that its financial services customers use it for e-discovery. The list goes on and on.

Despite the worsening signal-to-noise ratio, all the activity will ultimately make it easier for customers to figure out which e-discovery solution makes sense for them. There’s more coverage from leading analysts, who can help explain the different products; large vendors such as EMC, Symantec, and HP are gradually educating the market; and the industry is coalescing around the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, which breaks e-discovery down into its key elements and explains how they fit together.

If e-discovery follows the path of online video and other fast-growing categories, lots of companies will continue to throw their hat into the ring. But for every hundred “VideoEggs”, there will only be one YouTube.

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