In the weeks leading up to our conference, we blogged extensively about our vendor sponsors and what they each planned to offer our attendees: everything from forensic tower giveaways to labs featuring free pizza and beer.
The sponsors didn’t just make these offers as part of a sales pitch; they did it also because they’ve been part of the community for many years, because HTCIA members have provided them with invaluable feedback, helping them shape products and services into whatever the users needed.
Which was exactly the reason why AccessData founder Eric Thompson showed up at the conference. While it’s not unusual for executives of small companies to attend events, it might not be expected for the founder of a multinational corporation, one of the largest in our industry.
Yet Thompson has made a point of attending events since becoming involved with HTCIA in the early ’90’s. The reason: he wants to be able to hear directly from users about the software. “Software development is ever changing,” he says. “I like to be able to sit down and talk informally, rather than users having to think about crafting an email when they need help. I want to know their needs, what we’re doing that is correct versus how we can improve.”
Doing so face to face is absolutely essential for AccessData’s business, not only because of the chance to interact with many people in a short period of time, but also because personal interactions remove the filters from focus groups and other, more formal marketing structures.
Thompson says this model has been so successful for such a long period of time that he has come to regard many of the conference’s regular attendees and customers as friends. “This event is as much social as it is business,” he says. “It’s often the only time of year we have the chance to go to dinner, sit and talk about how things are going for them.”
Looking into 2011: connecting e-discovery and investigation
The recent merger with CT Summation made AccessData the only company with technology to address every phase of the e-discovery process. However, Thompson is quick to point out that this strategic move does not represent a shift away from digital forensics – but rather what he calls a “natural merger.” “It’s not about exporting knowledge from one and importing it into another; it’s about connecting both parts more efficiently,” he explains.
While both FTK and Summation development teams will have the benefit of each other’s expertise, Thompson adds, neither will be dual-tasked. That means the FTK development team will continue to focus on law enforcement and forensic examination needs, while the Summation development team will still focus on their original e-discovery customers.
“People have been asking how it’s going. So much of what we’ve been doing since the merger is communicating with each group, working to ensure the customers are comfortable with our vision,” says Thompson.
Other sources at AccessData tell us that that vision has always been to enable digital investigations of any kind, and that they view e-discovery as falling under that umbrella. The integration of Summation review technology with AccessData solutions thus promises to be of value to the investigative community, as well as litigation support teams and attorneys.
Because HTCIA has been such a big part of AccessData’s success (which the company recognizes by maintaining Platinum sponsorship in our Star Supporter program), members on both e-discovery and digital forensics sides of the equation can expect to remain integral to software development.
Readers: what are your thoughts on the merger and what it means for the community at large?