We've seen another acquisition in the shifting eDiscovery market this week as kCura, the developer of Relativity, announced its acquisition of Content Analyst Company, the brains behind the CAAT analytics engine (kCura’s press release is here). The acquisition is not entirely surprising. kCura has been relying on the CAAT engine to power its analytics offering for eight years. According to kCura, use of its Relativity Analytics offering “has grown by nearly 1,500 percent” since 2011, with more than 70% of current kCura’s customers with licenses.
What does this acquisition mean for kCura, its customers, and Content Analyst Company customers?
This is more than just one vendor acquiring a partner to bring its tech in-house. The markets kCura competes in are changing. Customers want better predictive coding workflows, reporting, and visualization capabilities. The momentum around technology-assisted review (TAR) in eDiscovery is growing globally. In February 2016, the Pyrrho Investments Limited v. MWB Property Limited case gave the green light to predictive coding software in the UK, with the decision (PDF) citing acceptance in US and other jurisdictions. Interest and adoption of analytics for eDiscovery and other investigative use cases will only grow. Now that machine learning and technology-assisted review processes have been OK’d by the courts, many of the objections to using software for automated categorization, security classifications, and other analysis of textual data will dissipate.
For kCura, it immediately means control over the CAAT road map, so it can be steered toward the needs of its customers and overall company strategy. A vendor like kCura already has recognition and reputation among risk-averse roles, such as legal, privacy, or compliance officers, and so they are in a stronger position to keep pace with shifts in eDiscovery in light of the court decisions. Moreover, this acquisition opens the door for kCura to address use cases beyond eDiscovery. A proven analytics platform could mean a range of new opportunities: investigations, customer intelligence programs, or other systems of insight designed to guide businesses to better, smarter actions. (What is a system of insight? Read this blog post from my colleagues Ted Schadler and Brian Hopkins to learn more.) These new opportunities make this particular acquisition interesting and show how the broader trend toward analytics is shaping vendor strategies
For kCura customers, it means more influence over the direction of the analytics offering now that the developers behind CAAT will be fully aligned to the kCura’s current — and future — product direction. This is important because even longstanding OEM relationships have an element of “the middle man” when it comes to product plans and priorities.
For Content Analyst Company customers, particularly of other eDiscovery vendors that license CAAT, don’t panic, but assess the mid- to long-term implications. kCura has made it clear that the next 90 days or so will be business as usual. But vendors that use CAAT and compete against kCura will be thinking about their plan B — history shows the tech market is rife with vendors that have had to rip and replace search engines after a pure-play provider was acquired by a competitor (hello FAST, Verity . . .).
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