kCura’s recent decision to bring the UK launch of its SaaS eDiscovery platform RelativityOne forward to the summer of 2017 is not intended to create a war with its local hosting partners but, according to at least one senior figure in the industry, that is precisely the effect it will have.

The eDiscovery leader announced at its London Relativity Fest at the end of April that RelativityOne will be available in an Azure data centre in the UK in 2018, but it has since expedited that and the cloud solution will be available in a matter of months.

Behind the scenes, kCura has been growing its London team, including in March hiring Duncan Morley from Millnet, which was acquired by Advanced Discovery in January. In the last 12 months, kCura has added six new people to the London team across support, customer success, solutions, and sales. The move is a natural progression for the Chicago headquartered company, not least because the UK is its second largest market outside of the US and that London is home to its EMEA office. However, it will undoubtedly put pressure on the sophisticated network of UK hosting partners that kCura has built up to deliver its until now on premise eDiscovery solution.

To date partners that provide data hosting have had to buy, install and maintain their own infrastructure – charging a premium to companies that need eDiscovery services as a result. Going forward the hardware and software are all available within RelativityOne, prompting one adviser to say shortly after Relativity Fest: “kCura doesn’t see this as a war with its hosting partners but it is. The small ones exist on hosting but kCura is hosting its own data centres and I expect it will be able to do it more cheaply and pass on those savings.”

Asked if kCura is entering into competition with its partners, vice president of international, Steve Couling said unequivocally: “No, we’re not. e-Discovery is a complex industry, and software and services will always go hand-in-hand.” He adds: “With RelativityOne, our partners can take better advantage of the expanding e-discovery services market by focusing on their differentiators – their core capabilities and services – rather than Relativity upgrades, or setting up and managing infrastructure. Additionally, we’ll also continue to support the on-premises version of Relativity, and we see having the choice to leverage a hybrid offering of RelativityOne and the on-premises product as a major benefit for end users. We’re actually developing new functionality that facilitates the hybrid approach, such as a unified workspace portal, where end users can log in, see all of their Relativity workspaces, and access any of them, whether they’re on-prem or in the cloud.”

One of the first to become a designated RelativityOne certified partner by kCura is JND eDiscovery, a subsidiary of JND Legal Administration, which was announced on 11 May prompting Couling to say: “Many of our partners see the benefit and flexibility that a hybrid or cloud solution can provide, and in the U.S. we already have partners offering the platform, such as JND, who announced it just last week.”

At Millnet, one of only two Orange level Relativity hosting partners in Europe, which was acquired by Advanced Discovery in January 2016, UK managing director Julia Chain said: “We have years of experience of how data needs to be collected and what makes sense in the context of your investigation. We’ve built defensible tools on top of the Relativity platform – tools that are not available as part of the Relativity offering, which is a wonderful enabler. And there are potential privacy issues that will require sophisticated analysis and always require expert vendors.”

It is likely that the commoditised portion of Millnet’s eDiscovery work will be impacted, and that goes for all of kCura’s hosting partners. But Chain adds: “You can download a basic will off the internet but if you need something more complex then you will ask a lawyer for help.  We will always offer commoditised work but our focus is becoming more on providing a managed, end-to-end service where the client no longer simply buys so many gigabytes of data to process but asks for a more sophisticated approach. We help clients take a more strategic approach to managing data in litigation or a regulatory investigation and data mapping is a key area of focus – we are now providing far more pre-emotive advice helping clients get their data ready so when GDPR comes into force or a Dawn Raid or investigation hits clients are ready – they know exactly where and how their data is stored: it saves a huge amount of time and cost in the long run.”

One senior eDiscovery adviser says: “The most overused term in the next 12 months will be ‘managed services’, as companies like Millnet say they have solid project management skills and that Relativity is important but that they are not making their living on hosting and processing fees.” But he added: “Some of the smaller companies that do make their money from those margins are doing to find life difficult.”

The eDiscovery market is already under pressure from increasingly demanding clients who want either highly specialist eDiscovery services or a truly global capability – or both – sparking a wave of consolidation and flux over the past 18 months. The latest is Altep, a best in service Orange Relativity hosting partner, which at the end of May was acquired by Advanced Discovery.

Whether it means to or not, the launch of RelativityOne in the UK may well accelerate that trend.

caroline.hill@liti.co.uk

This article first appeared in the May Legal IT Insider newsletter – sign up here for your free monthly copy: http://www.legaltechnology.com//latest-newsletter/