The Fall 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey May Illustrate a Significant Shift: eDiscovery Trends

It’s time for the Fall 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey, published (as always) on Rob Robinson’s terrific Complex Discovery site.  Where does the confidence of individuals working in the eDiscovery ecosystem stand when compared to previous surveys?  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 look at all surveys conducted to look at trends over time, while displaying a rolling four years’ data for clarity as the entire history (six full years now!) makes for a very crowded graph.

The Fall 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey response period was initiated on October 5, 2021, and continued until October 12, 2021.  This quarter’s survey experienced a solid response rate with 73 eDiscovery professionals sharing their opinions on the business of eDiscovery in just a week.  Let’s get into it!

Another Provider Influenced Survey: Software and/or Services Provider respondents were the top group once again with 42.5% of all respondents (6.8% more than the lifetime average and the most since Winter 2018).  Law Firm respondents remained at second with 24.7% of all respondents (6.1% lower than the lifetime average of 30.8%).  Consultancy remained third at 17.8% (0.5 percent the 17.3% lifetime average).  And Corporation respondents were fourth at 6.8%, 1.2% lower than the lifetime average of 8.0%. If you count law firms as providers (they’re technically both providers and consumers), providers account for 85.0% of total respondents, the highest percentage since Fall 2018.  Here’s a graphical representation of the trend over the last sixteen surveys:

Right click and open in new tab to see it expanded

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

Current Business Jumps Higher: This quarter, we saw a 7.1-point rise to 67.1% of respondents that considered business to be good, which is above the average of all surveys (52.2%) by 14.9% and the highest since Spring 2018!  26.0% of respondents consider business to be normal, leaving 6.8% of respondents that rated business conditions as bad (below the lifetime average of 10.1% and over 2% lower than last time).  During the pandemic last Fall, those rating business as good were only 38.6%, which means this year is 28.5% higher!  Here is the trend over the last sixteen surveys:

Right click and open in new tab to see it expanded

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

Still Optimistic Down the Road, But Slightly Less: Almost all respondents (95.9%) expect business conditions will be in their segment to be the same or better six months from now, though the percentage of those expecting business to be worse to rose slightly from 2.2% to 4.1%.   For expected revenues, the number of respondents that expected the same or better on revenues also slipped a bit (down 2.1 points to 94.5%), with 5.5% of respondents expecting lower revenues.  As for profits, respondents expecting higher profits slipped slightly to 50.7% (0.4% lower than last quarter and the expectation on lower profits rose to 11% (1.9% below average for lifetime surveys).  So, there is still plenty of optimism even though the growth has plateaued a bit.  Here is the profits trend over the last sixteen surveys:

Right click and open in new tab to see it expanded

Will the optimistic trend move back up next quarter?  We’ll see.

People Who Need People: I mentioned yesterday another source to illustrate the eDiscovery personnel crisis and here it is!  For the first time ever, Lack of Personnel took the top spot as most impactful at 27.4%, which is more than twice the lifetime average of 12.9% and 7.2% higher than the previous high percentage.  Increasing Types of Data was second at 26.0%, but still 1.6% higher than last time and 8.6% higher than the lifetime average. Increasing Volumes of Data was third at 16.4%, 5% lower than the lifetime average and Budgetary Constraints remained fourth for a second consecutive time at 15.1% the lowest since Fall 2018 (and 12.5% below average).  Inadequate Technology took fifth at 8.2% (0.3% higher than the lifetime average of 7.9%) and Data Security was last at 6.8% (6% below the lifetime average of 12.8%).  The graph below illustrates the distribution over the last sixteen surveys:

Right click and open in new tab to see it expanded

The “Great Resignation” is real, folks.

Lead On: Executive Leadership respondents reclaimed the top spot at 45.2%, 7.2% higher than average. Operational Management slipped to second at 37.0% (3.9% over the lifetime average of 33.1%.  And Tactical Execution respondents remained as the lowest group for the fourth time in a row at 17.8% (10.1% below the lifetime average of 28.9%).  Here’s the breakdown over the last sixteen surveys:

Right click and open in new tab to see it expanded

The Fall 2021 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey appears to be heavily executive influenced!

Again, Rob has published the results for the Fall 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?  Are you optimistic about eDiscovery business?  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.

Leave a Reply