Entries from February 2008 ↓

Legal – IT backwater no more

I’ve been attending LegalTech here in New York for the past few years, but this year things seemed to be different.Firstly, and most noticeably, every inch of available space at the New York Hilton on 6th Avenue was taken, spread across three floors. The corridors, which in less busy shows simply lead you to rooms, were lined with stands as were the exhibition spaces. It reminded me of the annual SIFMA Technology Management conference, which is a bit of a zoo and in the same location. But unlike the financial services industry, the legal industry and general counsel offices of corporations haven’t traditionally been seen as major buyers of IT, let alone cutting edge stuff.But there’s nothing like regulations to fuel a surge in the market. The changes the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which took effect in December 2006 and mandated that all electronic records were discoverable and that parties needed to be ready within 120 days of the start of a lawsuit to discuss their eDiscovery terms. This made eDiscovery a very hot market in 2007 (and helped Stratify to a nice valuation when it was bought by Iron Mountain in July 2007 for $158m).

But one of the messages I picked up pretty loud and clear is that law firms and legal departments have their eye on a much bigger problem, currently being done largely manually, but ripe for automation: document review. Figures of a $15bn market for document review now and a bill of $40bn by 2011 for overall review expense raised more than a few eyebrows among some prospective customers of document review vendors (many of which are also eDiscovery vendors, a market pegged at about $3bn). Jay Brudz, senior counsel, Legal Technology at GE, put it bluntly, “you know how many freaking lightbulbs we’ve gotta sell to pay for that?,” before making it clear that he had no intention in paying what vendors are asking.

The other point of tension I’m picking up is the one between intelligent archiving and search – the battle of ideas between those that think it’s better to do all the tagging at archive time and do some culling at that point (to avoid storing dupes and garbage) and those that think you should store everything and develop smarter search engines.

It’s clear – admittedly without any empirical evidence to hand – that protagonists in this space, be they general counsel departments, outside law firms or the vendors feel the rate is increasing so fast, their ability to cull the data at archiving time to make it more easily discoverable later can’t keep pace. There’s clearly somethig to that, given how rapidly talk has moved from gigabytes, to terabytes to petabytes to something an IBMer who handles data governance strategy for the company told me his clients call Goog-bytes – a generic term to mean so much data they can’t get their heads around it. After all, at this rate it won’t be that long before we talk of yottabytes in this arena, and what comes after that?

Search and archiving is something we at 451 Group have spent a lot of time on already and that is sure to continue in 2008.

Google Apps Team Edition

An interesting follow-up to yesterday’s post about Google’s role as a provider of enterprise social software. A free Team Edition of Apps (lacks email) will make it easier for business groups within the same domain to use Google Docs and shared calendars without involving IT. So it has some benefits over simply using individual Google accounts, at least if those you want to collaborate with are on the same domain. Another way for average users to get their own access to web-based collaborative tools

How much information?

Given this blog’s name we were very interested to meet up again with Michael Nelson, recently of IBM and now visiting professor at Georgetown University, teaching courses including “The Future of the Internet” and “What Shapes the Global Information Society.” Nelson was until last year director of IBM’s Internet technology and strategy, helping to implement the thoughts of people like the recently retired Irving Wladawsky-Berger and John Patrick, as well as deep involvement in various Internet Society and United Nations efforts in Internet governance. I met him in the 1990s during the various meetings that led to the creation of ICANN in 1998, during which time he left the FCC (after a stint at the Clinton White House) and joined IBM.

We met at an IBM event announcing its plans for Cognos, the acquisition of which closed at the end of January. Nelson chaired a panel of a couple of Cognos customers – one that sold pizza and one that sold gardening tools, but both of which were grappling with rapidly increasing volumes of data within their corporations and both of which used Cognos’ tools to try and do more than just figure out what they have – to actually figures out how their business are performing and how they might to do in the future – performance management tools, leading to business optimization in IBM-Cognos parlance.

Nelson’s only been there for three months, but one of the projects his students are working on is to measure the amount of data on the Internet; of course he acknowledges that depending on what you count as being ‘on the Internet’ (is a company’s Salesforce.com on the Internet?) he and his students could be out by factors of 5, 10 or whatever. I will be finding out more soon and will report back here.

Google as a social app

We did a webinar this morning on enterprise social software, mostly presenting some high-level results of a survey we did with ChangeWave Research and analysis of the survey data and the market for our new special report on social software.

We had some Q&A at the end of the session using the web meeting software. I didn’t get to answer all the questions on the call as we ran out of time but have been going through the questions that queued up. There were several on Google and specifically on whether or not Google’s current enterprise offerings (Google Apps mostly) are “social.”

I don’t think it’s particularly useful to spend time debating whether or not Google Docs is social software. It’s a useful tool – I use it fairly regularly to collaboratively author documents and to share them with folks inside and outside of the company. That’s certainly a collaborative app and in some ways it’s definitely more collaborative than Microsoft Office (though I find the revision tracking with Google much more difficult).

But what strikes me about all these Google questions is the mindshare Google already has in the market, whether or not it has the tools. That’s part of what we found in our survey and what I discussed this morning on the webinar. In our survey, 18% of those currently using or planning to use social software (defined in this report as social networking, blogs, wikis and social bookmarking) in their organizations use or plan to use Google. I’m not sure what products / services exactly as Google doesn’t even really have enterprise offerings in these specific categories. But there you have it. And then a good chunk of the questions I had on the content were on Google. It’s definitely a ripe market for Google, if and when it decides to pick it.