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A Look Inside the Shark Tank: e-Discovery Style

Sam Bock

In seven short months, the 2019 Relativity Innovation Awards will be given to the brightest and most creative minds in our community during Relativity Fest.

We’re humbled to say that, for some, making it on the list of nominees each year has become an organizational priority.

Contact Discovery Services, for example, has taken a playful and highly competitive approach as they begin the march toward October’s Innovation Awards: a Shark Tank-style competition that empowered their cross-functional teams across North America to pitch their ideas and earn the resources they’ll need to build innovative solutions on top of Relativity.

Contact held this competition last week to great success. So how did they do it?

A Culture of Innovation Origin Story

Speaking with Rich Albright and Dave DiGiovanni, two of Contact’s partners, revealed that innovation is at the heart of the company’s culture and origins.

“We’re not an e-discovery services firm—we’re an engineering firm that happens to work in this space,” Rich explained. “That’s an important distinction because it complements the culture by keeping employees interested in finding new ways to innovate, and reminds them that our partnership and management group is behind that.”

The result?

“We’re not focused on being slightly better than everyone else, but on thinking very differently than the herd,” Rich emphasized.

Opening the Door to Creativity

Talking about innovation is all well and good, but it takes work to put culture into practice.

This is something the Contact team has been working on for years. One of their solutions—MobileRev, which helps attorneys handle data collected from mobile devices during e-discovery—is a result of their commitment to empower their teams to create new and exciting solutions from the ground up.

“MobileRev was an idea our project management and engineering teams brought to us because they thought they had a creative way to solve for common challenges with mobile discovery. Those challenges are a bigger part of our business than ever before, so we were excited to see what they came up with,” Rich said. “They were able to build it out and demo it for us.”

It’s not an uncommon story at Contact.

“We’ve worked hard to allow team members the freedom to take some of their day and invest it in these projects,” Dave explained. “Our people aren’t 100 percent allocated to case work, so if they have an idea, they have time and the technical resources to explore it.”

The Shark Tank competition was designed to build off of that freedom, offering a platform for teams to “build something even bigger than people might’ve been able to do on their own,” Dave went on.

Building a Better Shark Tank

Looking to incubate some potentially award-winning ideas for new Relativity applications, the Contact team decided that giving employees a collaborative, competitive platform to pitch their ideas was both true to their culture and a sure way to generate some standout options.

Though employees are always encouraged to come to the table with such ideas, Contact’s leaders believe that recruiting them to do so “in an organized fashion” will put the opportunity within reach of more people in the organization.

“We have someone from every group—sales, engineering, project management, consultants, forensics—on different teams, and they were challenged to come up with an idea that will change the customer experience in the context of Relativity implementation,” Rich explained.

“Everyone had 30-45 minutes to do their pitch. Our three owners were the ‘sharks,’ so we heard them out, asked questions, challenged their ideas, and made them think deeper about the problems they’re trying to solve,” Rich went on. “The end goal was to pick a winner, invest in their idea, build it out, and bring it to the Innovation Awards in October.”

Chummy Waters

The competition was a bright spot of collective fun for the far-reaching teams. With many disciplines represented in each group, the ideas they brought to the proverbial tank were creative and technically impressive—and pitches included key insights on marketability and sales opportunities.

Plus, the collaboration was a boon for morale across Contact.

“The event was a success and we will most certainly do it again. Cross-departmental collaboration and a greater sense of community made this all worthwhile,” Rich said after the presentations wrapped. “Getting everyone at Contact thinking about what our industry may be missing and how to continue to create a unique client experience is a good reminder of our mission.”

Standout solutions featured everything from project management tools to fresh, search-enabled data repositories, and the teams’ hard work and imagination showed in their presentations. Overall, teams understood that the winning solution must make clients’ lives easier and present a game-changing opportunity for Contact’s team.

“Solutions that encouraged the adoption of Relativity for less traditional clients stood out the most,” Rich explained. “Underserved and often overlooked markets were the most interesting.”

He added: “Relativity is a powerful solution that can be used for a lot more than document review.”

Next Steps

Contact is keeping the winning solution close to their chest as development begins ahead of the Innovation Awards application period, which will open in a few months. However, they said three key differentiators gave it a leg up in the internal competition.

“This solution would help Contact capture less traditional clients and bring value to an underserved market; create a unique client experience in Relativity without depending on a companion solution or interface; and, perhaps most importantly, competition on such a project is, at the moment, almost non-existent,” Rich explained.

The team says they’re excited to move forward with the idea and see how it shapes up for the Innovation Awards come October.

The event, Rich said, “absolutely” helped build community and feed the culture of innovation at Contact.

How could it not?

We can’t wait to see the results for ourselves.

Follow Along with Relativity Fest All Year Long

Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.