Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business

The Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey is Out!: eDiscovery Trends

It’s time for the Fall 2023 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, which is now in its eighth year!

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 eight years makes for a very crowded graph. Also, I should note that Rob reported results with two decimals again this quarter instead of the traditional single decimal (my reporting of the results are rounded to one decimal for consistency with previous quarters).

One additional change that’s new with this survey. For the first time, Rob added new questions regarding the use of large language models and generative AI. I’m reporting on the results of one of those questions this time (in case you missed Rob’s coverage) and dropping trends coverage for the level of support question that I’ve covered over the years. Assuming that the LLM and gen AI questions continue, I’ll begin to report on trends over time for those.

The Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey response period was between September 11 and September 28, 2023. This quarter’s survey saw 64 eDiscovery professionals sharing their opinions on the business of eDiscovery. So, let’s get into it!

Providers Remain at The Top: Software and/or Services Provider respondents were the sole leading group for the second quarter in a row with a whopping 43.8% (8.3% above the lifetime average and the largest percentage since Winter 2022). Law Firm respondents remained at second at 28.1% (2.7% below the lifetime average). Consultancy was third at 10.9% (5.4% below the 16.3% lifetime average). If you count law firms as providers (they’re technically both providers and consumers), providers account for 82.8% of total respondents (2.5% higher than last quarter). Corporation respondents were fourth at 9.4%, 1.1% higher than the lifetime average of 8.3%.  Here’s a graphical representation of the trend over the last twelve surveys:

Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business
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So, how confident is a provider influenced group of respondents in eDiscovery business confidence in the Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey?  See below.

Current Business Slides a Bit More: For the second quarter in a row, respondents that considered business to be good slid, this time back to 46.9% (6.0% below the lifetime average and the third lowest number in the past three years). Another 46.9% of respondents consider business to be normal (8.6% above the lifetime average). 6.3% of respondents rated business conditions as bad (2.5% below the lifetime average of 8.8%). Here is the trend over the last twelve surveys:

Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business
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So, do respondents in the Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey expect business to rise in six months?  See below.

Optimism AND Pessimism Grows: Yes, that seems illogical, but bear with me. 93.8% of respondents expect business conditions will be in their segment to be the same or better six months from now (but that’s down from last quarter’s 100%, which means 6.3% expect them to be worse. 57.8% expect business to be better (almost a 3-point jump over last quarter) while only 32.8% expect it to be the same (leaving 9.4% expecting lower revenues). As for profits, respondents expecting higher profits rose 8.6% to 43.8% (which is 4.3% higher than the lifetime average of 39.5%), while 42.2% expected flat profits and 14.1% expected lower profits (1.6% higher than the average and 5.6% higher than last quarter).  Here is the profits trend over the last twelve surveys:

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Will we head higher or lower from here?  We’ll see.

I’m running out of “Type” puns: Increasing Types of Data continued at the top spot with yet another record of 37.5%, which is a whopping 17.2% above the lifetime average of 20.3% and the sixth time in eight quarters at the top spot. Budgetary Constraints remained at second with 21.9% (4.1% lower than the lifetime average). Increasing Volumes of Data was third with 20.3% (0.2% below the lifetime average). Lack of Personnel was fourth at 10.9% (3.0% below the lifetime average), Inadequate Technology moved up to fifth place at 6.3% (0.9% lower than the lifetime average of 7.2% and the first time not in or tied for last place since Spring 2022). Data Security fell to last at 3.1% (the worst ever by a whopping 3.5% and 9.0% below the lifetime average). Who says it’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month? The graph below illustrates the distribution over the last twelve surveys:

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Will any issue ever top Increasing Types of Data again? We’ll see.

Delivery, er Delivers in the First Results on LLM/GAI Benefits: Regarding the question “which do you perceive as the primary benefit of integrating LLMs and GAI into your organization’s operations or offerings?”, Improved Service/Product Delivery was the top choice at 35.94%, followed by Enhanced Decision Making at 20.31% and Competitive Advantage at 18.75%. No Perceived Benefit was tied with Cost Savings for fourth at 10.94%, which left Risk Mitigation in last at 3.13%. Sure, Rob already told you that, but I’ll start tracking trends next quarter!

The Fall 2023 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey does reflect optimism from a provider influenced group, but also more pessimism as well. What will happen next quarter? Check back here!

Again, Rob has published the results for the Fall 2023 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.

Image created using Microsoft Bing’s Image Creator Powered by DALL-E, using the term “autumn optimism using impressionism”.

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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