Reconnoitering Your Territory

Data Mapping, Part 2

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

In the first Part of this short series, we reviewed the concept of data mapping for eDiscovery and the benefits that can accrue from completing such an effort.  Creating a data map that is useful for eDiscovery (or for other legal purposes) is a five-phase process: (1) Legal Inventory; (2) Source Inventory; (3) Initial Map Creation; (4) Analysis and Alignment; and, (5) Connection and Maintenance.  In this Part, we review the first three of these five phases.

At the outset, it should also be noted that completing these five phases requires a collaborative, cross-departmental effort within an organization.  Besides Legal, departments like IT/IS, Records, and Compliance are likely to be in possession of needed information and affected by process outcomes.  Stakeholders from all affected departments will need to be consulted and involved in the process to ensure a complete, accurate picture can be created and maintained.

Legal Inventory

As we discussed, an eDiscovery data map is a hybrid combining system and source type information, content-oriented information, and additional annotation.  The legal inventory phase provides information and context for all three categories.  Among the records maintained by the Legal Department will be information about the organization’s typical and recent litigation activities, overall numbers and types of matters, document volumes and types involved, frequently implicated materials (or sources, or custodians), and more.  This is the kind of information that must be gathered, aggregated, and analysed for the legal inventory.

The industry in which an organization operates will dictate a lot about its litigation portfolio, which will in turn dictate the types of materials likely to be relevant to matters in that portfolio.  The relative prevalence of each matter type can also reveal how likely different materials and sources are to be implicated in the future.  Depending on the records available, you may also be able to gather additional details about the custodians and data sources most often collected, the types of materials gathered from them, and how often they were ultimately produced.

Source Inventory

The next phase of the data mapping process is the source inventory phase.  The goal of this phase is to investigate and document the sources and systems within the organization.  The source inventory comes second so that it can be guided by the findings of the legal inventory, ensuring that no relevant sources are overlooked and that the most important sources can be more thoroughly investigated and documented.

The source inventory is going to be completed using information primarily gathered from the IT/IS Department (and the Records/Document Management Department, if applicable).  Here you will be looking for relevant details about the actual hardware and software systems that have been or might be sources, including:

  • Types, models, and years for enterprise systems and organization-issued computers and devices;
  • Software platforms and applications in use within the organization, information about how they’re used and what they generate, and details of any built-in export or discovery tools;
  • Particulars of what is stored where internally and of what organizational data is in the possession of third-party service providers, if any; and,
  • Identification of the roles and current individuals within the organization (and outside it, if applicable) who own, control, or are responsible for each the systems and sources documented.

Absolute, granular detail is not required for every potential source in an organization.  The information from the legal inventory phase can be used to prioritize the source inventory into tiers or categories receiving different levels of depth in their documentation.


Next up is the initial map creation phase, when you integrate the relevant information from the legal and source inventories into one data map.  The source inventory provides the framework (e.g., what there is, where it is, and how/through whom it can be gotten), onto which the additional information from the legal inventory can be added (e.g., whether/why it matters, how much it matters, in what contexts it’s likely to be relevant).  Together the two information sets make a powerful tool for scoping and planning eDiscovery efforts.

Although referred to as a “map,” the tool in question is most often created as a spreadsheet or database rather than a literal map.  For maximum utility in a legal context, a visual map of the materials is not the best option.  That can be useful for some purposes (e.g., as an aid to seeing the big picture), but a searchable, sortable, filterable tool is much more useful for many more purposes.

Upcoming In This Series

Next, in the final Part of this short series, we will complete our overview 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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