Should We Be Afraid? World Domination Pt. 3

When I wrapped-up the last post, I summarized some of the challenges to getting the @Microsoft Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery suite setup in your O365 account. Although once setup, use of the tools is similarly arcane. But with that said, the tools do work. As it was explained to me, part of the reason that the setup and operation is so byzantine is because of the different teams that created and operate the different facets of Office 365. For example, it is no surprise to anyone reading this post that the Equivio module was added to the tail-end of the Advanced eDiscovery Suite. Thus, the interfaces between the modules is where the complexity arises. I have no doubt that Microsoft is already working very hard to ease the handoffs between modules.

Currently, the tools work by setting up an eDiscovery case, placing a hold on email and other documents or importing email and other documents into O365, searching those documents, and then performing an initial review in native form either using Equivio (if you have the Advanced eDiscovery tools) or using the Microsoft FAST search engine alone. The review is binary, meaning documents are tagged for inclusion in a larger, more complete review, or they are not. There is no review tool per se. That said, you have to believe that Microsoft is working hard to create – or acquire – a review tool. After documents are initially reviewed in native, the tagged documents can be exported in Concordance-compatible load file for more extensive search, review, and production.

So, should we be afraid? It has been said that a benevolent dictatorship is the highest and best form of governance. The problem with that theory lies in finding a truly benevolent dictator. It was Lord Acton who wrote (in 1877) that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” World history is strewn with ostensibly benevolent dictators that power eventually corrupted. Today, even the word “dictator” carries a connotation of caprice and irreverence. I believe that this is at the root of why many members of the IT community harbor an almost visceral distrust of anything Microsoft. From what I’ve heard, it certainly holds true for Microsoft’s Advanced eDiscovery tools amongst many in the eDiscovery world. I didn’t attend RelFest last year, but I have heard stories about an informal audience poll indicating that Microsoft was the biggest threat to the eDiscovery industry as we know it. Now, that may or may not be true but it’s important to remember that, not so long ago, Kcura, Recommind, and even Equivio itself were the disruptors of the legal world. I remember a litigation partner at a former law firm employer telling me emphatically that “electronic discovery is ruining litigation.” It is interesting how quickly an industry can move from disruptor to disrupted. So I ask again: should we be afraid? I believe that it ultimately depends on your tolerance for change and your place in the eDiscovery industry. Microsoft’s foray will undoubtedly have an impact. How much and how quickly remains to be seen. At least initially, there will simply be less data to collect, process, host, and review. For vendors in those lines of business, I don’t think that fear is warranted just yet. But perhaps a bit of uneasiness is warranted…