After the 55-vendor RFP, what made vendors stand out?
At the end of the comprehensive vendor selection process, the key deciding factors deviated significantly from my expectations. Throughout the vetting process it became apparent that the factors I assumed would most dictate the selection process (computational power, speed and price) were not the make-or-break qualities I expected them to be.
I found that there was not as much light of day between most providers in terms of technology, cost or speed as I initially anticipated. Instead of serving as a differentiator, sufficient speed, capacity and appropriate pricing were the floor. Anyone with a major deviation in terms of capability and/or pricing was given an opportunity to explain before being removed from consideration.
For those that remained, we were laser focused on a few key factors: support of weird data, innovation around AI/TAR/managed review, transparency, collaboration with my team, and willingness to adapt to our firm’s way of conducting discovery.
1) Innovation around weird data
Innovation around atypical data sources (like Slack) has become increasingly mission-critical. Today’s cases increasingly rely on mobile devices, data from apps, collaboration tools, ephemeral messaging, and social media, so having a partner that can handle these data types is imperative. A vendor stood out if it demonstrated innovation not just around extraction from the various data sets, but also the parsing and visualization of the data in a usable and reviewable format.
2) AI and analytics
Another key factor was, more broadly, innovation around embracing emerging technology, whether data visualization, social network analysis, or technology optimized review (TAR 1.0 or CAL). Not every case requires these advanced analytics, yet. However, with the complexity, volume, variety, and velocity of data today, the pure linear approach is starting to become problematic.
Vendors actively embracing efficiency-driving tools and workflows showed a better alignment with the goals of my program and the firm. Those who clearly presented these capabilities came out head and shoulders above the crowd.
3) Collaboration and transparency
Providers with a clear approach to provide visibility, especially over multiple matters, that sought to engage my team throughout the process also fared well. This meant discussing collaborative generation of a playbook, or standardization of processes or SLAs based upon the way that my firm managed ediscovery. Frankly, vendors who understood that this partnership would be mutually beneficial were ultimately selected.
Some providers came in with a chip on their shoulder or even an adversarial stance against the litigation support team or the firm, not realizing that an integrated approach would ensure repeat engagement and an increase in revenue. Having a clear message and path to collaboration was a huge factor in selecting partners.
4) Flexibility and scalability
Providers that demonstrated a willingness to provide flexible pricing, workflows, and methods of engaging with my team also were well-received. As a law firm, our needs can vary greatly matter to matter: full outsourcing at top dollar; a hybrid approach working jointly with our internal infrastructure and provider; or only engaging with a vendor for tasks we did not support (advance do forensics or review). Providers who got this and showed alternative workflows and a willingness to be flexible as necessary not only were selected but also ultimately gained the largest piece of the pie.
The largest deciding factor, despite the tech-centric nature of ediscovery, came down to the human component. Meeting and engaging with the case management experts and workflow experts that would serve as the day-to-day points of contact, and understanding how the account management and project management professionals would mesh with my team and the attorneys we support were huge factors. Having a partner that sought to make my life easier by clearly presenting simple pricing and adjusting as needed on a case-by-case basis will provide me with insight into their process was a pivotal factor as well.
In the end, this effort should result in having a group of partners that are engaged in supporting your execution as a program leader, understand the needs unique to your organization, and are willing to adapt as needed.