You may think that title contains a typo, but it’s intentional. If you’re an eDiscovery software provider, you might think that if you keep track of what customers are asking for and you’re delivering many of those, you’re doing a great job. Actually, it’s possible that nothing could be further from the truth – basing your product enhancement philosophies on listening to your customers could be holding you back.
An Inc. article (This Was Steve Jobs’ Most Controversial Legacy. It Was Also His Most Brilliant, written by Jason Aten), discusses how one of the more well-known legacies about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is his assertion that, contrary to popular belief, the customer isn’t always right. Over the years, Jobs shared the sentiment in a variety of different ways, though the idea was similar–that many times, customers have no idea what they’re talking about.
That’s not meant to insult the customer, it’s just that if the thing you’re building is new or unfamiliar, there’s a pretty good chance your customer will have no idea what they want. They may even have no idea that they even want it at all.
A quote attributed to Jobs goes as follows:
“Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
A lot of times you customers won’t understand something until you show it to them, especially when it’s something new. Your customers don’t know what they don’t know, which means that most of the time they can’t possibly tell you what they want in a completely new or unfamiliar product.
That’s one of the reasons Steve Jobs was considered such a visionary–he had an uncanny ability to understand how devices would add value to people’s lives, even when people couldn’t have dreamed there was a place for them in their lives.
Let’s apply that concept to eDiscovery software solutions. Many of them fit a particular mold and often have the many of the same features and capabilities. Sure, they each have “special sauce” features that make them a little bit unique, but, as a general rule, they do the same things. They ingest data, they provide filtering and culling capabilities, they provide search capabilities to identify potentially responsive documents, they provide an interface to support document review. Many of them support a multi-reviewer managed review capability to support the needs of review teams to complete larger-scale reviews, some of them provide predictive coding capabilities to automate document classification based on algorithm training. They provide the ability to generate production sets to enable parties to satisfy their production obligations.
There are “boxes to check” with regard to feature availability to be considered as a potential review platform to be selected by a customer, even if that customer doesn’t anticipate using those features extensively. Existing customers identify enhancements they want which become high priority items in the product roadmaps as keeping those existing customers happy keeps them renewing and helps ensure survival.
As I’ve noted before, there is one type of technology that lawyers and legal professionals have become comfortable with and, in many cases, downright proficient – the iPhone. The concept of the iPhone (or Android) is simple, modular and unique. Need some new functionality to do something? There’s an app for that! It’s that simple, yet incredibly powerful.
Will some provider within the eDiscovery software market soon learn to break the mold to deliver new capabilities to the legal market that customers didn’t even know they needed? We’ll see. Many claim they do, but how do they address innovation? By listening to their customers? In an industry that tends to operate “behind the curve” with regard to technology, that could doom them to mediocrity. Instead, to really innovate and deliver something the customer really wants (even if they don’t know it yet), quality may be Jobs 1.
So, what do you think? Do you think that there are eDiscovery software providers that are truly innovative? Or are they all pretty much the same? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.