Time to Update Your eDiscovery SWOT Analysis! (If You Even Have One)

Time to Update Your eDiscovery SWOT Analysis! (If You Even Have One)
Written by Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today

Periodically, it’s a good idea to reassess your SWOT analysis and update as appropriate to address changing environmental opportunities and threats.  And with the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on so many businesses, there has never been a better time to consider updating your SWOT analysis – or creating one in the first place if you didn’t already have one.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

What the heck is a “SWOT” analysis? It’s a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated with a specific business objective. That business objective can be a specific project or all of the activities of a business unit (e.g., your discovery practice). And it involves not only identifying that specific business objective but also identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective.

The SWOT analysis breaks down as follows:

  • Strengths: Characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others, such as activities your business unit does well, skills of your internal resources, etc.
  • Weaknesses: Characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others, such as attributes that you don’t have (but your competitors do), resource limitations, etc.
  • Opportunities: Elements in the environment that the project could exploit to its advantage, such as emerging need for your products or services, lack of competition, etc.
  • Threats: Elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project, such as emerging competitors, change in economic conditions, etc.

Strengths and opportunities are helpful to your business unit; weakness and threats are harmful to it. Strengths and weaknesses are internal in origin and are attributes of your business unit, while opportunities and threats are external in original and are attributes of the environment that affects your business unit – many of your strengths or weaknesses may in fact be in response to those opportunities and threats.

Defining your “competitors” depends on what your business unit is designed to do. If you’re a litigation unit (in a corporation and/or law firm), your competitors could be the other side in a specific case. If you’re an eDiscovery provider, your competitors could be other providers with which you’re competing for business.

How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis:

To conduct a SWOT analysis, create a 2 x 2 matrix with the strengths and weaknesses on one row and the opportunities and threats on the following row.  You can easily create one using Excel or Word tables. Here is an example of what an empty SWOT analysis can look like, courtesy of Wikipedia.  Once you have constructed an empty SWOT analysis, you then proceed to list your business unit’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats affecting your business unit in the respective boxes.  The exercise can help you make decisions about areas for your business unit to address to maximize its success.

Example eDiscovery SWOT Analysis:

While there are certainly threats during this challenging time, there are also opportunities that can impact your business as well, if you’re prepared to take advantage of them. Let’s take a look at a few of both:


  • While this would be considered a “threat” for non-litigation related businesses, there is expected to be a large swell of litigation cases filed related to the pandemic and associated economic challenges derived from it that could lead to additional business for litigation and eDiscovery providers.
  • Layoffs at many eDiscovery providers and law firms have led to a huge available talent pool of qualified talent in eDiscovery. There has never been a better time to add talented and experienced staff to move your company forward.
  • The move toward remote work has opened up the talent pool available to fill open positions. Geographical location/willingness to relocate has been effectively limited as a position requirement for many positions, causing the list of potential qualified candidates to expand considerably.


  • Court closures have slowed case dockets, which have (in turn) reduced requests for eDiscovery services, at least in some cases in the short term.
  • Business uncertainty has led to fewer requests for eDiscovery services, extended payment cycles for services and software or even potential defaults on payments for companies going bankrupt.
  • Lack of in-person interaction with clients and prospects in meetings and at conferences have affected the ability for eDiscovery providers to attract new customers or retain existing ones.

Sometimes, a factor could be either an opportunity or a threat, depending on your situation. For example:

  • Closing of offices has forced eDiscovery providers to offer their services remotely.

This could be a threat if your company wasn’t prepared to offer remote services when the pandemic hit. But it could be an opportunity if you were already providing a well-defined remote alternative for those services as your organization is now ahead of those who did not have a well-defined remote offering.

Regardless, the opportunities and threats derived from the COVID-19 pandemic are unique to each business, and it’s an ideal time to update your SWOT analysis to address them to maximize the success of your business unit.

Be sure to tune in to hear Doug Austin, Tom O’Connor, and Jim Gill discuss:
How to Conduct a Legal SWOT Analysis on 9/9!