The Winter 2022 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey Highlights the Personnel Challenge: eDiscovery Trends

It’s time for the Winter 2022 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 provide some analysis. While I’m continuing to look at all surveys conducted to look at trends over time, I’m displaying a rolling three years’ data for clarity as the entire history of six plus years makes for a very crowded graph. This year, I’ve reduced from four to three years of data to try to make the graphs even clearer.

The Winter 2022 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey response period was initiated on January 6, 2022, and continued until January 12, 2022.  This quarter’s survey experienced a solid response rate with 54 eDiscovery professionals sharing their opinions on the business of eDiscovery in just six days.  Let’s get into it!

Providers Continue to Influence: Software and/or Services Provider respondents were the top group once again with 46.3% of all respondents (10.1% more than the lifetime average and the most ever).  Law Firm respondents remained at second with 18.5% of all respondents (11.8% lower than the lifetime average of 30.3%).  Consultancy remained third at 16.7% (0.6 percent behind the 17.3% lifetime average).  And Corporation respondents were tied for fourth at 5.6%, 2.3% lower than the lifetime average of 7.9%. If you count law firms as providers (they’re technically both providers and consumers), providers account for 81.5% of total respondents.  Here’s a graphical representation of the trend over the last twelve surveys:

So, how confident is a provider influenced group of respondents in eDiscovery business confidence in the Winter 2022 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey?  See below.

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Current Business Dips a Bit at the Top: This quarter, we saw a 4.1-point fall to 63.0% of respondents that considered business to be good, which is still above the average of all surveys (52.7%) by 10.3% and the highest Winter percentage ever!  33.3% of respondents consider business to be normal, leaving only 3.7% of respondents that rated business conditions as bad (well below the lifetime average of 9.9% and 3.1% lower than last time). Here is the trend over the last twelve surveys:

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So, do respondents in the Winter 2022 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey expect business to continue to rise in six months?  See below.

More Middle of the Road, Down the Road: Almost all respondents (98.1%) expect business conditions will be in their segment to be the same or better six months from now, though half of all respondents expect it to be the same. For expected revenues, the number of respondents that expected the same or better on revenues was the same as last quarter at 94.5%, but with an 11.9% drop of those expecting higher revenues (59.3% compared to 71.2% last quarter). As for profits, respondents expecting higher profits dropped sharply to 40.7% (10.0% lower than last quarter, but still 0.3% higher than the lifetime average), while half of respondents expected flat profits.  Here is the profits trend over the last twelve surveys:

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Will respondents be more optimistic next quarter?  We’ll see.

The “Great Resignation” is Real: For the second time in a row, Lack of Personnel took the top spot as most impactful at 35.2%, which is 21.4% more than the lifetime average of 13.8% and 7.8% higher than last quarter’s previous high.  The typical leaders (Budgetary Constraints, Increasing Volumes of Data and Increasing Types of Data) all tied for second at 18.5% (lifetime averages 27.2%, 21.2% and 17.5% respectively).  Data Security took fifth at 7.4% (5.2% lower than the lifetime average of 12.6%) and Inadequate Technology was last at 1.9% (5.8% below the lifetime average of 7.7%).  The graph below illustrates the distribution over the last twelve surveys:

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Yet another example of how the Business Confidence Survey reflects industry sentiment – and beyond the industry too!

A View From the Top: Executive Leadership respondents held on to the top spot at 53.7%, 15.1% higher than average and the highest number since Spring 2016. Operational Management stayed at second at 24.1% (8.7% below the lifetime average of 32.8%.  And Tactical Execution respondents remained as the lowest group for the fifth time in a row at 22.2% (6.4% below the lifetime average of 28.6%).  Here’s the breakdown over the last twelve surveys:

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As the title of Rob’s post indicates, the Winter 2022 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey appears to be even more heavily executive influenced than ever!

Again, Rob has published the results for the Winter 2022 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.

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