The changing face of corporate information services

Last night I attended the SLA Europe organised event "The changing face of corporate information services – new service models and partnerships" this was billed as an opportunity to hear about how Information Services are being delivered to customers in the new world of outsourcing and was unsurprisingly very well attended with a number of familiar faces and Tweeters in the audience including KDPlee, BarbaraGordon, Tinamreynolds, LibClare, Nataliafay and MichaelRobson

I'm certain there were other people tweeting from the event, including Greg Simidian CEO of Perfect Information and another Librarian who I met very briefly after the event so apologies to them for not including their Twitter accounts here. Unfortunately one of the first things the Chair said was that "chatham house rules" applied to this event. This would be fair enough if the panelists were imparting confidential information but Allen & Overy's and CMS Cameron McKenna's work with Integreon has been well publicised. But stick to the rules we must...:(

Once the introductions were over the Chair asked each of the panelists to share their thoughts about outsourcing, where they thought it was going and why it was changing the face of corporate information services. It was interesting to hear these initial thoughts which really just introduced where the organisations were and what they thought outsourcing meant, surprisingly one panelist thought using Lexis Nexis was outsourcing, I'm not so sure about that. Certainly using a product like PLC might be considered outsourcing as they have lawyers available to answer questions but Lexis Nexis?

Of course we all know that outsourcing isn't a new concept, firms have been outsourcing legal work to other firms for as long as I can remember, documents are sent externally to be transcribed and Libraries have been using subscription agents for as long as I've been a professional librarian. However outsourcing ALL back office support functions or creating offshore service centres is new and should be a concern for every information professional. So why the new world of outsourcing, well traditionally outsourcing was a way of controlling costs but wouldn't have created much value. Nowadays outsourcing is seen as a way of controlling costs, providing better value and as a way to solve business problems. This drive for better value comes of course from law firms clients, they expect more for less, which means in turn the fee-earners expect more from less from their support

One of the most disappointing aspects of the evening was that nobody was suggesting an alternative to outsourcing or arguing against using outsourcing companies. Perhaps that was the point of the seminar, that there aren't any alternatives and that we must accept that corporate information services have changed beyond recognition and will no doubt continue to do so. Don't get me wrong I'm not totally set against outsourcing I just don't believe anybody has asked the difficult questions of people who have outsourced and Integreon.

Could we be more collaborative?

Two interesting articles here on how companies are missing out on or doubt the benefits of collaboration tools. The first from Read Write Web called "Companies doubt benefits of collaboration tools" reports on a survey undertaken by Forrester which looked at the benefits associated with using Social Media:

"...most companies are seeing very few, if any, benefits from online collaboration software, at least according to a new report by Forrester. Of the survey's respondents, 64% said they saw anywhere from zero to four benefits after implementing collaboration software"

Fortunately it's not all bad news "The biggest advantage such software does offer is in reducing travel costs, which 62% of businesses reported as a payoff. Improved communication and project management were also cited"

The second article from ZD Net called "Are businesses missing the benefits of collaboration technology?" also looked at the research undertaken by Forrester. In it the author asks whether reducing travel costs, teaches us the right lessons about the value of Social Media. The author argues that it's too easy to reach for the "low hanging fruit" or quick gains rather then invest time in a collaboration tool. This second article is definitely worth reading!

SharePoint training not required

In SharePoint, Training not required Lorette S.J. Weldon looks at how Librarians can use SharePoint without necessarily having to undertake SharePoint training or understand complex coding language.

From her article on the website:

"The secret (to SharePoint) understanding the site templates that Microsoft has given librarians through SharePoint "out-of-the-box". These templates are based on social networking abilities and not program coding. It is through a "plug and play" effort that librarians can find the features in SharePoint that they would need to help them manage their library collections" This is great news, especially when Lorette outlines some well used Social Media sites and their online alternatives:

  • iGoogle > SharePoint option Portals

  • Google Groups > Discussion board

  • Slideshare > Document Library

  • FlickR > Picture Library

  • Wikipedia > Wiki Page Library

  • Google DOCS > Documents for Review

  • Delicious > Links

  • Google Calendar > Calendar

  • LinkedIn Polls > Surveys

  • Huddle Workspaces > Sites and Workspaces

Lorette then reports on some of the search results from a survey she underook which looked at how Librarians were using SharePoint. The conclusion is also very interesting if you're considering using SharePoint within your organisation:

"SharePoint can be customized through social networking skills without the help of "add-on" applications. In order to gain this "power" to customize their sites, librarians need to develop a working relationship with their organization's IT department. The IT staff can grant them access to their own section on the organization's SharePoint-based intranet. Once the librarian has access to their "own" SharePoint-based site, they will be able to use "out-of-the-box" features to "plug and play" what components they would want to help with their library management. This approach takes minimal training and would create a happier environment for librarians"

SharePoint as an Intranet or as Collaboration platform?

Apologies to anyone who doesn't watch Harry Hill, but to coin a phrase from his TV show. I like SharePoint as an Intranet and I like SharePoint as a collaboration platform, but which is better? There's only one way to not really...

...but hang on though what are some of the differences between SharePoint as an Intranet and SharePoint as a collaboration platform, well this is the subject of James Lappin's post on his blog "Thinking records" James points out some key differences between using SharePoint as an Intranet and SharePoint as a collaboration platform. Some highlights from his post:

  • Managing a collaboration/document management environment is a different ball game from managing an intranet environment
  • The scale is different. In an intranet environment you can expect a sub-section of the organisation to contribute a small amount of content on a monthly basis. In a collaboration/document management environment you may reach the point where most of the organisation are contributing on a daily basis.
  • The risks are different. In the collaboration/document management environment there will be material with sensitivites (personal/commercial/political). Such material is not typically contributed to intranets.

James makes a lot more points in his post, which will be of interest to people who currently manage SharePoint environments but as an Intranet Manager and someone who also manages a collaborative platform the above points were of most interest. I certainly agree with the second point and talking more generally this is one of the biggest difference between these two types of environments.

CLSIG AGM and Professionalism Seminar

Earlier this week I attended the CLSIG AGM and Professional Seminar the latter run by Susie Kay. The venue was the always impressive City Business Library, which I've now been to a total of 2 times in 6 months despite working in the City for 11 years. After the official business of the evening was completed Susie started her presentation.

One of the first things she asked us to do was to think about some of the things that were important to us for example how important is it that you're on time, or that you dress "professionally" (like the chap on the right - does this say "professional to you?). This was an interesting and engaging way to start the presentation and certainly made me think about some of the things that are important to me.

Susie then looked in more detail at some of the attributes that make someone "professional" Susie described these as the ABC's of professionalism. This acronym translates as (A)ttitude, (B)ehaviours (C)hoosing excellence. You can find out more about each of these aspects of professionalisms on Susie's Blog "The Professionalism Blog" under the following titles:

To finish off the evening Susie demonstrated how important it was for us to look after ourselves by doing the pinch test. In this test you grab a little piece of your skin and see how long it takes to return back to your hand. If it takes a long time then you're officially dehydrated.

This seminar was part of the CLSIG professional development club series of seminars, which I've always found very informative and well worth attending if you have a chance.

Is there a better way to do (legal) research?

Mary Abraham at the Above and Beyond KM blog has suggested that there might be a better way for fee-earners to undertake research on Lexis and Westlaw. From her blog post;

"With the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious that the current approach to legal research is fundamentally flawed. Lexis and and Westlaw have created these enormous databases of case law that cannot be completely mastered unless you have world class research skills. In fact, what they’ve created is a frustrating game of “find the needle in the haystack.” The problem is that the people who need the cases aren’t always the best equipped at finding the cases, and the people who are expert at finding cases aren’t the best equipped to analyze and use them"

There is no denying that fee-earners generally aren't the best at undertaking Legal Research although in my experience some trainees have excelled at finding and using content from Lexis and Westlaw. It's also true to say that Law Librarians or Researcher aren't necessarily best equipped to analyse the information we find from Lexis and Westlaw. Law Librarians certainly aren't paid to do this and in fact to do so borders on the downright dangerous.
So what is Mary suggesting Lexis and Westlaw should do, well it's quite an interesting proposal.;

"...instead of forcing lawyers to come up with appropriate search queries, Lexis and Westlaw should ask lawyers questions to elicit information about the case at hand. In other words, the role of the lawyer searching for precedent would be to analyze their own case and strategy and provide that information to Lexis and Westlaw: what are the pertinent facts of the case, what jurisdiction, what procedural approaches is the lawyer considering. Then, Lexis and Westlaw would deliver to you links to groups of cases that match your facts within your jurisdiction..."

What's great about this proposal is that fee-earners would no longer need to know complicated boolean search techniques or how to construct the perfect search. What's not so great is the role of the previously mentioned Law Librarian? Isn't if part of their role to elict information about the case in hand as part of a reference request and to guide and assist the fee-earner with finding the most pertinent results?
The 3 Geeks and a Law blog also have some thoughts on Mary's post, which are well worth reading.

A gentle introduction to Twitter

I love this video which has been published to the Dissident blog this is quite literally a gentle introduction to Twitter for those people who are new to Twitter. I've embedded the video below for your viewing pleasure.

For more detail on some of the things you can do in Twitter look no further then "Twitter Clinic: #FF, DM and RT explained" this is a great post explaining some of the features of Twitter. The post is one of several in a series called the "Twitter clinic" on the Connectegrity blog.

Nancy White & Suzy - An Intro to Twitter from CommunityMatters on Vimeo.

Avoiding social media depression

Someone I'm following on Twitter recently retweeted this blog post and I felt compelled to have a look at why you could become depressed using Social Media.

The blog post is actually very interesting and quite compelling. In it the author outlines the concept or idea behind Social Media depression:

  • While the premise of Social Networking is to connect with others to build relationships, if we're not careful we can become much more isolated than before we started communicating online

  • We engage in comparison. When we see our connections online posting all the wonderful things going on their world, we cannot help but wonder why things are going so well for them - especially if we're in a down or flat time

As the author explains the combination of these two factors "have the potential to create an emotional downward spiral which is the gateway to depression"

So how do you avoid social media depression...the author suggests two ways:

  1. Don't believe it - Someone might be telling you they're having a fantastic time but they're probably not telling you about bad stuff that is happening to them. This is really about taking everything in the context in which it is written.
  2. Mix it up - Yes use Social Media but don't rely on it as a communication form face time is still the best way to network and to keep up to date with your contacts.

Developing your Intranet in a week

Develop your Intranet in a week, are you crazy? Well apparently it can be done according to the blog post "7 Daily tips for developing your Intranet in a week" on the Intranet Connections blog.

There are some great tips here for developing your Intranet in a week although you couldn't feasibly do all of these during a single working week!

  • Monday – Go social
  • Tuesday – Make your intranet easy to access > Part 1
  • Wednesday – Make your intranet easy to access > Part 2
  • Thursday – Bring the intranet to your employees
  • Friday – Make people the heart of your intranet
  • Saturday – Make your intranet business critical
  • Sunday – Create personalized digital destinations

This is a summary of a blog post on the blog.

How to Use LinkedIn With Twitter

Are you using both Twitter and LinkedIn? have you thought about how you could use Twitter to assist with your networking on LinkedIn? No, well the Social Media examiner has published a blog post called "How to use LinkedIn with Twitter for better networking" which looks at how you can integrate your Twitter posts with LinkedIn and the benefits of doing this.

They list the major benefits of doing this:

  • Follow your LinkedIn connections on Twitter
  • Post status updates simultaneously to both Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Monitor and interact with your Twitter streams from within LinkedIn
  • Create a LinkedIn-specific Twitter list

The blog post goes on to explaine how you can:

  • Add your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile
  • Install the LinkedIn Tweets application
  • Identify and follow all your connections who have Twitter accounts
  • Create a Twitter list of all your connections

This is a really interesting and practical article. However a word of warning only add your Twitter account to your LinkedIn account if you're comfortable displaying all your Tweets here. If you're not then you'll be better off just adding the #in hashtag to your Tweets. This will publish your tweet to your LinkedIn profile.

[Photo > Twitter from Flickr]

LinkedIn magic...

Recently I've been having a lot of conversations with individuals about the value (or not) of LinkedIn. It's really quite surprising how much people don't know about LinkedIn. Most people assume that LinkedIn is simply a place where you can post your work experience (CV) connect with a few people and that's it.

In reality LinkedIn has a lot more to offer and you don't need to be a wizard to start using these features. If you're a BIALL member you can read my thoughts about LinkedIn in the next newsletter. I'll link to the article on here once it's live on the BIALL website. In the meantime if you don't use LinkedIn or use it but aren't sure about some of the extra features you could be using I recommend having a look at the LinkedIn Learning site

Jack Vinson has also written an article on his blog Knowledge Jolt with Jack called "Things I've learned about LinkedIn recently" this has some really good tips on how to make the most of LinkedIn and some useful tips on updating your profile.

[Photo credit - LinkedIn Merlin Wizard]

Defining good support

What is good support and how do you define it? This is the question asked by Ron Friedmann in his blog post "Defining good support for Lawyers"

In his post Ron looks at the different ways support can be defined, this is especially important if law firms are considering outsourcing support departments and the issue of quality arises.

From his blog post "...defining good support requires metrics, service level agreements (SLA), and a governance structure. Without these, managers cannot assess if they provide good service, where improvement opportunities lie, or the viability of alternative support approaches. When I asked for a show of hands of who had instituted metrics or SLAs, few hands went up. This is pretty typical in law firm audiences"

So if you're a law firm Librarian what sort of things should you be measuring? Ron makes an interesting suggestion "Once you know what to measure, you have to define the right service level to offer. For libraries that might mean, for example, categorizing research requests by complexity and, for each complexity level, specifying a turn-around time"

This is certainly something that IT Helpdesk teams have had in place for a long time, so when you contact your IT Helpdesk they will probably assign it a complexity level or more likely a priority level so Priority 1 might be that your PC isn't working and Priority 4 might be that you cant access a particular site. One of the question I would ask is how easy it is to take this model and apply it to the type of enquiries law libraries undertake. Especially if you're then setting time limits or turn-around times on particular types of enquiries. I'd like to think it would work but then in my experience all enquiries are urgent!

As it happens I'm a huge fan of metrics and SLA's although they have to be rigorously enforced in order to work. Used right metrics can provide an insight into a service which might not be possible otherwise. However metrics can also be analysed incorrectly, misconstrued and generally misused so it's vital to identify what you're going to be measuring and how you're going to do it early in the process. If you're really interested in Metrics (blatant self promotion warning) you could read an article I wrote in 2009 called "Stat's the way to do it"

BIALL Cheese & Wine

Last Friday I attended the BIALL Cheese & Wine event. This was held in the jaw dropping Old Hall at Lincoln's Inn. Depsite the cold evening the wine and conversation flowed freely and it was great to catch-up with some old and new friends

I also had a very interesting conversation about Social Media and Yammer with one Law Librarian which has made me think about the potential to use Yammer within my organisation.

Many congratulations to Catherine McArdle for organising another successful evening!

[Photo from FlickR - OMG Cheese]