Why testimonials are important

We want testimonials from customers and end users.  Testimonials serve a couple of different purposes.  First, they provide an effective means for people who have never used the product to see others honest assessments of the product based on real world experience using Disco.  Secondly, testimonials tend to cause the customer to use Disco again.

For testimonials to be effective, the research indicates they need to concretely show the benefits of using the product, such as how reviewers were able to go from never having seen the software to using it effectively in a review in under an hour or how Disco allowed the review to proceed must more quickly than other review tools.  Testimonials should also substantiate the claims being made when the channel partners are selling Disco.  For example, a good testimonial might say that Disco is remarkably (10x) faster than any other review tool they have ever used.

Good testimonials are from people to whom other potential customers can relate (paralegals or attorneys) and be credible.  Testimonials are most credible when the witness is willing to attach their name, picture, and city to it.

Good testimonials also tend to cause the customer to use Disco again.  Social psychologists have known for decades that people experience strong personal and interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with commitments those people have made. Consistency is a powerful motivator because it is a socially desirable trait while inconsistency is seen as undesirable.  Commitment is the key, however.  Once a person has taken a stand on something, that person has a natural tendency to behave in a manner consistent with the commitment they have made.  Publicly made commitments tend to be more powerful and last longer than private commitments.

Getting a customer to publicly commit to Disco’s excellence will cause them to view it more favorably in the future.  Likewise, a testimonial where a user commits to using Disco again will increase the likelihood that the customer provides repeat business.

Overcoming Objections: The Two Minute Demo

One objection potential customers raise is they are too busy to see a demo. The customer expects to spend 30-60 minutes looking at the software and doesn’t want to commit the time.  The solution is the two minute demo.

Instead of asking for and scheduling a time to show the software, the next time you are in a potential customer’s office or have a customer on the phone ask if the person can spare two minutes to see something.  When you get a yes, have them go to the demo website (demo.csdisco.com). It is important to have them do the typing and to do it from their work computer. Have them log in using the pre-populated fields. Have them select any of the three cases and have them run a search. Do any search they want, but I recommend using “Ken Lay” because it will return slightly more than 20,000 results.  That’s it. That’s the two minute demo.

By doing this, you let the customer see Disco’s two biggest selling points: speed and ease of use. You’ve also demonstrated Westlaw-style search syntax and show the potential customer how fast Disco will run on their system and over their Internet connection, using a 60gb document set running on our production servers.  Coupled with the most recent whitepaper describing Disco’s features, the two minute demo is a great introduction to the product and should be enough to get you a real, longer demo in front of decision makers.

Disco Release Notes

Like most pieces of software, Disco is being updated constantly.  In an effort to share some of the most recent updates, below are the release notes for December 16, 2013 to January 20, 2014.

12/16/13

  • Near-native PDFs now display in the review tab for unknown file types
  • Extra whitepace in Concordance load files is now supported
  • Added ImagePath as supported load file metadata
  • Addressed a concurrency issue to allow more than one production to be run from a single database at the same time
  • Improved production speed by using batch inserts

12/23/13

  • Improved date range search speed
  • Addressed concurrency issue to ensure all documents are timely marked for production
  • Increased page responsiveness by changing the way audit events are written
  • Use load file supplied PDF and OCR text if a native document fails to load
  • Improved production performance
  • Fixed attachments of deduplicated parents not receiving all deduplicated metadata
  • Fixed range queries for bates numbers that contain spaces

1/6/13

  • Improved text encoding detection for files using UTF-8 without a BYTE ORDER MARK
  • Made custom fields available for searching in search builder
  • Added custom fields to search results report
  • Supported searching on custom field names that contain spaces
  • Fixed bates extraction from email file names
  • Added support for overlay files that only use custom fields
  • Search builder was changed to handle custom names with spaces

1/13/14

  • Upgraded to a newer version of RavenDB
  • Improved PDF rendering in IE 11
  • Improved searching in the DocumentNote field to include quoted phrases
  • Improved mass tagging speed
  • Improved searching with proximity clauses that contain phrases

1/20/14

  • Improved search syntax to handle unusual searches (eg a/n (b c d))
  • Changed indexing to better capture Powerpoint notes
  • Improved handling of quotes from search syntax copied from Word documents
  • Altered processing to leave zip files and other containers in a load file as natives

Suggested Pricing: Not For The Faint Of Heart

We believe our technology is the best on the market, and we think people who see the product will believe so as well.  Based in part on that belief, we have chosen not to set any suggested pricing for Disco.  We think our channel partners know their particular markets and know what customers are willing to pay.  E-discovery pricing also has different structures in different markets, and that fact does not generally allow for one suggested price. For example, customers are used to paying for productions by the hour in some markets and by the page in others.

One approach to pricing seems to apply regardless of the market, though, and brings the emphasis back to the superiority of the product:  match the competitions’ prices on hosting and offer a 25-30% discount on everything else, sight unseen. 

This approach has several benefits aside from always being the lowest price.  It shows a strong belief in the technology, which is important because a customer should be reluctant to use something in which the vendor doesn’t believe.  Second, it allows the channel partner to make more money than other pricing models because of the currently inflated pricing in the field.  Third, and I think most important,  the discount percentage is high enough that most of the competition won’t be willing or able to match the price.  This forces the conversation back to which product is superior.  Given what Disco does and how fast it does it, we feel that is a conversation that will favor us every time.

Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Three

Everyone has heard the old joke:  “Fast, good, cheap: pick any two.”  We believe you can have all three with Disco.

We have the fast part down.  As detailed in an earlier post, Disco is extremely fast and beats the advertised speeds of any eDiscovery software out there.

We think we have the good part handled.  The software is easy to use with searching syntax that lawyers already know and an interface that is familiar to anyone who has ever done an internet search.  The software also provides an ingestion engine and production page which allow users to run a review from start to finish with plain English explanations and little support required.

We also have the cheap part covered.  We offer Disco for what we believe to be some of the lowest prices in the market.  Our price includes everything: ingestion (including deduplication, threading, and deNISTing among others), review (with near-native PDF, text only, and native views), and production.  There is simply no need to have separate tools for ingestion, ECA, and production (and pay the associated costs).  Since Disco is offered in a software as a service model, users also get the latest improvements and upgrades immediately when they are rolled out for no additional cost.

So, why settle for two when you can have all three?

The Technology Underlying Disco

From time to time we receive questions about Disco’s technology underpinnings and whether it is robust enough to handle large amounts of data.  The short answer is yes:  Disco can handle some of the largest datasets likely to be found in litigation. 

While our engineers can provide a more detailed description, a high level, layman’s description is often helpful.  Disco uses RavenDB as the underlying database and Apache Lucene to handle the searching and indexing.

RavenDB is an open source, document oriented database. Document oriented databases are what help drive companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook.  As the name suggests, document oriented databases are ideal for data organized as discrete collections (figuratively called “documents”), which becomes an obvious choice to store the literal documents of a document review platform like Disco.  When retrieving a document, the database has to make only one call to the database instead of the many calls necessary to retrieve the data from multiple tables in a SQL based database. 

RavenDB has a 16 terabyte limit for data in a single database and no limit on individual file size.  If storage needs are greater than 16 terabytes, several strategies exist, such as compression and sharding, which allow for even bigger data sizes.  Let’s put that in perspective.  While there is no effective way to determine file size except by looking at each file, a fairly well recognized average is that one gigabyte of data is approximately 16-17,000 Word documents.  Very roughly speaking, this means that RavenDB could handle about 256,000,000 Word documents in a single database.

A different measure common in the legal industry is the banker box.  A banker box holds between 2,700 and 3,000 pages.  The average scanned size of paper documents is about 125 megabytes per box or 8 boxes per gigabyte.  16 terabytes of storage space means RavenDB could handle roughly 128,000 banker boxes in a single database.

Lucene is a similarly robust, open source, full text information retrieval software library.  Lucene is used by companies such as Apple, Twitter (for their real-time search), and LinkedIn.

In order to allow fast searching, Disco runs searches against document indexes created when documents are ingested into the database.  Lucene provides those indexes and runs the searches.  Lucene has the capability to handle approximately 2.1 billion documents as an upper limit.  From a practical perspective, Lucene indexes won’t reach that limit and will rarely get above a few hundred million documents except in the absolute largest of cases.

Sunk Costs

Occasionally we run into customers who are reluctant to use Disco because they have large sunk costs in the software they currently use.  While people are free to make decisions based on whatever criteria they choose, we think that particular analysis is not correct.

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Compare that with a prospective cost, which is a cost that might be incurred when a decision is made.  Economic theory states that people should consider prospective costs but should not let sunk costs influence decisions because doing so does not allow for making a decision exclusively on the merits. However, sunk costs greatly affect many people’s decisions because they don’t want to “lose” the money they have already spent. This is the sunk cost fallacy.

The sunk cost fallacy is often seen in a reluctance to abandon projects in which a person has already invested considerable resources. People want a good return on their investments and have a genuine interest in making their efforts worthwhile. People also tend to hold on to an investment despite evidence that the investment will not produce the returns they had hoped.  No one wants to feel that they wasted time or money.  

The key to avoiding the sunk cost fallacy is to remove any past investment from the decision making calculus.  Since the costs have been incurred and cannot be recovered, they should simply not be considered at all in making future decisions.

Let’s take an e-discovery software to illustrate the point.  Let’s say Company X has been marketing review software for one year and is presented the opportunity to sell Disco at the end of that first year.  Chances are that Company X had to pay a yearly license fee for its current review software.  It likely had a yearly fee to license the software it used to process the data for loading into the review software.  It also likely paid 2-3 employees to run the processing software.  Hypothetically, if the review license costs $10,000/year, the processing license costs $15,000/year, and the employees are paid $25,000/year each, Company X had costs of $75,000-$100,000.  The company has also likely invested significant resources hiring salespeople to sell the review software and training people how to use it.  This is in addition to the per gigabyte fee for storage in the review platform.  Those are sunk costs that cannot be recovered.   These same costs are also prospective costs for year two for the incumbent review platform, costs which Disco does not have.

It’s easy to see why Company X might feel tied to the software package it currently offers. However, the correct economic analysis is to ask which software will make the most money in the future (including evaluating prospective costs), and not to think about how much has already been spent.  When the company applies the correct economic analysis, however, we think the correct decision becomes clear.