The Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey Shows that the eDiscovery Market Continues to Heat Up: eDiscovery Trends

It’s time for the Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey, published (as always) on Rob Robinson’s terrific Complex Discovery site.  Has the confidence of individuals working in the eDiscovery ecosystem in the business of eDiscovery continued to rebound from last year’s COVID-19 downturn?  Let’s see.

As always, Rob provides a complete breakdown of the latest survey results, which you can check out here.  I’ve covered every quarterly survey since its inception and, 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, while displaying a rolling four years’ data for clarity as the entire history makes for a very crowded graph.

The Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey response period was initiated on June 22, 2021, and continued until July 6, 2021.  This quarter’s survey experienced a solid response rate with 90 eDiscovery professionals sharing their opinions on the business of eDiscovery.  Let’s get into it!

Oasis

Another Provider Influenced Survey: Software and/or Services Provider respondents were the top group once again with 36.7% of all respondents (1.3% more than the lifetime average).  Law Firm respondents remained at second with 28.9% of all respondents (2.2% lower than the lifetime average of 31.1%).  Consultancy remained third at 13.3% (which is 4% below the 17.3% lifetime average).  And Corporation respondents were fourth at 11.1%, 3% higher than the lifetime average of 8.1%. If you count law firms as providers (they’re technically both providers and consumers), providers account for 78.9% of total respondents, a higher percentage than the last survey by 0.9%.  Here’s a graphical representation of the trend over the last sixteen surveys:

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So, how confident is a provider influenced group of respondents in eDiscovery business confidence in the Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey?  See below.

Current Business Continues to Rise – Somewhat: This quarter, we saw a 3-point rise to 60% of respondents that considered business to be good, which is above the average of all surveys (51.6%) by 8.4%!  31.1% of respondents consider business to be normal, leaving 8.9% of respondents that rated business conditions as bad (below the lifetime average of 10.3%, but slightly up from last time).  During the pandemic last summer, those rating business as good were only 40%, while those rating it bad were a whopping 24%.  What a difference a year makes!  Here is the trend over the last sixteen surveys:

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So, do respondents in the Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey expect business to continue to rise in six months?  See below.

Continued Optimism Down the Road: Almost all respondents (97.8%) expect business conditions will be in their segment to be the same or better six months from now, which caused the percentage of those expecting business to be worse to drop from 3% down a bit more to 2.2%.   For expected revenues, the number of respondents that expected the same or better on revenues rose (up another 4.6 points to 96.6%), with only 3.3% of respondents expecting lower revenues.  As for profits, respondents expecting higher profits grew again(!) to 51.1% (7.1% higher than last quarter and the highest number since Spring 2018!) and the expectation on lower profits dropped to 8.9% (4% below average for lifetime surveys, and just over half of what it was one year ago).  So, it appears that optimism is also up for six months down the road.  Here is the profits trend over the last sixteen surveys:

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Will the optimistic trend continue next quarter?  We’ll see.

Budgets, Schmudgets: After being selected by an average of half of respondents as the most impactful factor over the next six months for four surveys, Budgetary Constraints dropped all the way to fourth at 17.8% of the respondents as being most impactful, a drop of 7.2% from last time (and 10.4% below average).  Instead, Increasing Types of Data led the way at 24.4% (7.4% above the lifetime average).  Increasing Volumes of Data and Lack of Personnel tied for second at 20% — for the latter, that represents 7.7% above the lifetime average of 12.3%. And Data Security (4.1% below the lifetime average of 13%) and Inadequate Technology (1% higher than the lifetime average of 7.9%) tied for last at 8.9%.  The graph below illustrates the distribution over the last sixteen surveys:

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Increasing Types of Data has become an important factor for eDiscovery business for obvious reasons – perhaps even THE top factor when the survey isn’t as pandemic influenced as it was last year.

Managers Rule, Others Drool: Operational Management respondents remained the top group at 43.3% (10.4% over the lifetime average of 32.9% and the highest percentage ever).  Executive Leadership respondents remained second at 31.1% (6.6% below the lifetime average of 37.7%.  And Tactical Execution respondents remained as the lowest group for the third time in a row at 25.6% (3.8% below the lifetime average of 29.4%).  Here’s the breakdown over the last sixteen surveys:

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Clearly, the Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey is heavily manager influenced and managers certainly appear to be bullish on the prospects for eDiscovery business!

Again, Rob has published the results for the Summer 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey on his site here, which shows responses to additional questions not referenced here.  Check them out.

So, what do you think?  Do you think eDiscovery business is fully back post-pandemic?  Or do you think there is more turbulence to come?  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.

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