No Maps for These Territories

Data Mapping, Part 1

A discussion of the practice of data mapping for eDiscovery – and how to do it effectively for significant savings of time and money, as well as reducing risk and increasing defensibility

Preservation, collection, and other eDiscovery activities continue to be complicated by the explosive growth of both data volumes and data sources.  Today’s custodians are likely to have potentially relevant and discoverable data and documents on enterprise systems, personal devices, assorted physical media, and potentially, social media and cloud services.  Enterprise networked systems and deployed applications, too, continue to expand, evolve, and multiply.

When both the enterprise itself and each custodian are constantly-evolving, multi-source projects, it can become an expensive, unpredictable challenge to ensure that all potential sources are accounted for, preserved, and collected.  One step organizations can take to mitigate these challenges and reduce these risks is the completion of a proactive data mapping project.

What is Data Mapping?

Data mapping is the process of mapping out various data stores and sources within an organization.  Many organizations do some version of this already for another purpose.  The IT or IS department will typically have “maps” of the organization’s networked servers, computers, and enterprise systems.  The will also typically have a directory or inventory of all software platforms and applications officially in use within an organization.  Other departments, such as Records Management, may have more content-oriented “maps” of where different kinds of materials generated by the organization and its employees are stored.

A data map for the Legal Department, however, is a distinct entity from these others.  To have optimal utility for legal activities – including and especially eDiscovery, this data map will need to combine both the kinds of system and source type information tracked by IT and the kinds of content-oriented information tracked by Records.  Plus, additional useful information about ownership and control, output and extraction, and legal significance will need to be added.  We’ll review each of these data map elements in more detail in subsequent Parts of this series.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is.  But the organizational benefits – particularly for larger organizations – make it well worth the effort.

Why Undertake Data Mapping?

Undertaking a proactive data mapping effort can produce significant savings of time and money as well reducing risk, increasing defensibility, and providing other benefits over time:

Saving Time and Money

Most organizations approach litigation and eDiscovery as a series of discrete, ad hoc efforts.  This results in a great deal of inefficiency and repetition of effort across projects, including repeating the process of identifying all the materials requiring preservation and collection and figuring out how to go about preserving and collecting them.  That process is essentially a reactive data mapping effort in miniature, repeated again and again and again.

Undertaking a comprehensive, proactive data mapping effort once (and then engaging in minimal, periodic effort to keep it current) can replace those repeated, ad hoc efforts.  The identification process becomes fast, easy, and inexpensive when all the information you need to make decisions is readily available to you in one set of centralized, purpose-designed documentation.  Preservation and collection, too, are rendered faster and more efficient by the enhanced scoping and planning process the “map” facilitates.

Reducing Risk and Increasing Defensibility

As we noted above, both the enterprise itself and each custodian have become constantly-evolving, multi-source projects, and eDiscovery case law is littered with motions for spoliation sanctions based on the inadvertent loss of some ESI.  We reviewed a sampling of last year’s spoliation decisions here in our recent series, and among other things, they made clear that inadvertent loss of ESI remains an area of legal risk for organizations.

Working from an up-to-date data map of your organizations potential sources and source types greatly reduces the risk of a source being overlooked, and having documentation of owners and other details at the ready greatly reduces the risk of an automated janitorial function going unsuspended.  Moreover, working from a data map increases your process consistency across cases, which increases the defensibility of those processes and serves as evidence of your good faith efforts (and, therefore, of inadvertency) in the event of loss.

Other Benefits Over Time

In another recent series, we discussed the relationship between eDiscovery and business intelligence concepts, and we reviewed how tracking, aggregating, and analyzing relevant data on your eDiscovery program over time can yield valuable intelligence that empowers you to make better decisions, implement better processes, and find better solutions.  Many of the potential benefits we reviewed were related to gathering data across cases about the materials being identified, preserved, and collected at the beginning of each case process

Creating a comprehensive organizational data map synergizes with those metric tracking efforts by providing a standardized, comprehensive framework for the tracking of metrics about materials and their sources.  Working from a central set of normalized source names and related details makes it easier to standardize tracking and aggregate those metrics across cases.

Upcoming In This Series

In the next Part of this short series, we will begin our review of the five-phase process involved in the creation and maintenance of a useful data map for eDiscovery.

VP, Marketing Content
Advanced Discovery

Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible.  A nine-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design.  As VP, Marketing Content, for Advanced Discovery, he leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.

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