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How Apps on SaaS Platforms Make Project Managers' Lives Easier

Drew Deitch

Editor’s Note: This article was first published by Law Technology Today.

One of the most exciting aspects of legal tech is the acceleration of innovation, driven by cloud and development platforms. SaaS solutions built on public utility clouds have already delivered unprecedented performance and security to end users. The legal industry has seen game-changing applications built and delivered on top of existing SaaS platforms, often more quickly and at a fraction of the cost that would have been required to build from scratch.

Platforms with open APIs allow developers to turn their ideas into reality, while gaining scale, security, and administrative functionality. The wide variety of applications built on top of these platforms makes life easier, especially for project managers (PMs) who work in e-discovery.   

“As a developer, I was surprised to see that so many platforms have closed APIs, but open APIs make a big difference for developers like me,” said Stu Craft, director of technical services at Anexsys, an XDD company. “The biggest differentiator with a platform like Relativity is that it was open from the beginning and we had the ability to jump in and do things in the platform to better serve our clients.”

Organizations with technical capabilities in-house, but whose focus is not building software often use platforms to build apps. These can be low-code or no-code, rapid application development tools; or, extensible, configurable enterprise applications that include a robust API surface. No matter the size of the organization, the goal for building on a platform is to remove overhead and let the developer focus on business logic or the unique functionality being built.

Daniel Gold, managing director of BDO’s managed services practice, and his team developed Athenagy, an application built on top of RelativityOne that provides transparency to legal professionals along with insights into an organization’s data for the entire litigation, e-discovery, and investigations lifecycle.

“With Athenagy, we sought to solve the data transparency problem in the market. We wanted to empower legal professionals to be more successful, which meant we needed to develop something to increase efficiency to then enable that success,” said Gold. “Our goal is to give these professionals an opportunity to make better business decisions by understanding how the data is flowing in the platform and enable them to take advantage of custom insights.”

BDO’s team is developing highly customized compliance and monitoring tools that help clients visualize their own data and gain valuable insight. Corporate monitors are typically independent entities that report to an oversight agency (e.g., Department of Justice). The monitor provides the compliance knowledge and expertise to help ensure settlement terms are met.

BDO’s technology aggregates documents and data from various entities, putting that data at project managers’ fingertips and eliminating manual tracking in spreadsheets. Automating data aggregation, combined with BDO’s project management expertise, allows crucial efficiency gains in the face of ever-growing data volumes. As any PM will tell you, the less manual work, the better. 

BDO is not alone in driving automation. Teams at Aon’s Cyber Solutions/Stroz Friedberg (Aon) and Anexsys are also building and implementing applications to automate manual work and minimize human error. An open platform allows legal tech developers to build and test applications quickly, allowing an agile approach to both current and future data models.  

Ericka Browne, VP of cyber solutions at Aon, and her team take advantage of the organization’s tools called ExportOne and Export QC Wizard to make their work exporting productions less manual and more efficient. It’s no secret that humans make errors, but these tools let teams more easily see and find them. They also help project managers track changes made by clients—for instance, editing a particular field—ensuring data consistency within and across projects. 

Before these apps existed, Browne recalls that they had to rely on the same teams to create production deliverables, and they didn’t have the ability to automate quality control checks to speed up the production process. Now, these tools have allowed them to use those hours to build even better tools that offer more efficient deliverables for not only the PMs, but the engineers.

“The applications our technical solutions engineers developed are our lifesavers and they enable us to deliver a higher quality, more accurate product in an efficient timeframe,” said Browne. “Managing a team that may have to work 12-, 14-hour days or longer, and on weekends, it pains you to see so much correcting and re-exporting. I look to the engineers to design tools so our PMs can have a better work-life balance—creating a tool is just as important for us as it is our clients.”

Another element that can really bog down e-discovery and review teams are redactions. An app like Anexsys’s Mask It can speed up marking redactions to allow for more focus on quality control. While there’s no direct artificial intelligence (AI) technology in Mask It, Craft explained that they work with PII Tools, which uses context-sensitive AI detectors to help detect personally identifiable information when searching for it in spreadsheets or documents.

Speaking of AI, Craft also notes that AI is, and will continue to be, a key part of the growth of the industry, but it’s important that people know how to use AI and understand it. For instance, BDO’s monitorships utilize AI within their machine translation capabilities in international cases. BDO also plans to incorporate AI into the next phase of its Athenagy app.

“We want to add predictive analytics into the app, which will help determine what the next matter will cost us from the very start of a case all the way to deposition. Such technology can provide the breakdown of what the cost difference may be between handling a case and going to court in Atlanta versus Chicago or Kansas City,” Gold added. “Teams need to know more than the cost of simply collecting and reviewing case data; they need to see the entire cost of the case.”

AI certainly offers powerful new ways to save time and money, and influence the strategies crafted by PMs and e-discovery teams. The rise in AI applications and use cases further reinforces the trend toward cloud platforms. Public utility clouds have the most data, putting them in the best position to train algorithms that power AI. Additionally, platforms allow developers and users to bring their preferred AI capabilities to their platform of choice, embedding analytics and machine learning alongside their workflow tools. These trends will continue to drive innovation in the industry, making PMs’ lives easier, and allowing them to do what they do best: strategize and execute on projects.  

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Drew Deitch is commercial lead of Relativity Patents, where he helps patent attorneys and searchers work faster with AI. He's been at Relativity for 10 years, in roles supporting our strategic partnerships, executive team, and product strategy.

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