This is Part 3 of a multi-part series on how to select a qualified vendor for eDiscovery.
- View Vendor Selection, Part 1 – Don’t Forget About the Dealership
- View Vendor Selection, Part 2 – Learning What You Want to Know
In Part 2 of this series, we discussed strategies for determining what is important in a service provider and how to gather relevant information about those factors. This week we will discuss how to evaluate vendor responses to your information requests, how to make your final choice and how to initiate your new vendor relationship.
EVALUATING RESPONSES – STEP 1
The most challenging part of the vendor selection process is evaluating the provided responses. If left up to interpretation, vendors will provide information in a way they feel comfortable with – versus how you might need it.
In last week’s post, I mentioned the use of “real-world” scenarios, which have truly helped me in the past to compare apples to apples. By directing a potential vendor “partner” and dictating the format and content you want to receive, you’ll be able to more effectively stack and compare responses side by side.
To not fully restrict the responses, I recommend including a final requirement of response format, and providing an option (or opportunity) for the responding vendor to showcase any additional technologies they might offer, such as predictive coding, analytics, near duplicate identification or even email threading.
EVALUATING RESPONSES – STEP 2
Once the responses are reviewed and compared, a handful of vendors should be allowed to present in-person or via web-based conference. This will allow both of you to ask additional questions or request further detail to some of the information provided. I recommend accomplishing this in one day and inviting all vendors to present back-to-back to a panel comprised of you and designated colleagues from various departments. (Note – panel members should reflect all departments that interact with or are part of the litigation management process such as attorneys, paralegals, litigation support, IT and even information security.)
When inviting the respondents to present, make sure you set the agenda and expectations of what you want them to cover. Topics might include: company overview, workflow and process questions, technology options, contracting and other pertinent items. I recommend polling your other panel members, so that everyone has the opportunity get information pertaining to their area of expertise or relevance. I also encourage sending the agenda to the presenters in advance to gather feedback as well, as they may suggest a topic useful to both audiences. Once a final agenda has been determined, distribute it along with other useful information, like building access, timing and who exactly they will be presenting to.
I recommended keeping the allotted sessions to 60 minutes and to schedule the presentations with 15-30 minute breaks in between to allow for email, beverage and bathroom breaks. Because you want to be fair to all presenters, do not schedule lunch to be taken or delivered during a presentation.
MAKING A FINAL CHOICE AND NEXT STEPS
Now that the presentations are done and you’ve had the opportunity to evaluate potential providers based on their written responses and in person, it’s time to make a final decision on who you want to work with. I recommend assembling the same panel members (maybe over lunch) to discuss the responses, presentations, questions and concerns.
Whether you are selecting a single, preferred provider, or identifying a preferred provider list, the ultimate decision should be based upon a mix of:
- The panel members’ opinions
- The written responses
- The pricing provided
Selecting the right vendor (or vendors) for your firm can be a long and intensive process. There will be many things to consider outside of pricing, but the payoff at the end of this selection process will result in smoother engagements, better case support and clearer focus.
Take your time to properly evaluate potential providers and don’t shy from dictating as to how you want to receive information, contract with them and require the adherence to engagement guidelines or rules.
Lastly, make sure to periodically re-evaluate your vendor(s) of choice, as in this ever-changing industry; service levels, tools and people can dramatically change and impact future performance and engagements on your cases.
This is Part 3 of a multi-part series on vendor selection for eDiscovery.