Emerging technologies seminar

Last week I had the great pleasure of talking to a select group of BIALL members about some of the "emerging" technologies I believe will have the biggest impact on Law Libraries. You can view the full presentation below, although you may not get much from it as most of the slides are pictures only.

For an impartial report of the seminar look no further then the View from the Hill blog which has a good summary of the seminar. The observant among you will see that there are several videos embedded within the PowerPoint presentation. For once technology didn't let me down and these actually played, but they wont if you're looking at the embedded presentation below.

So because I'm nice I've included links to all 3 videos below. They are in the order I played them.

  • Social Media Revolution 2011 a video that will convince you, if you're not convinced already about the power of Social Media. There are some fascinating statistics in this video so if you haven't watched it I'd encourage you to do so. If you look the music then you might be interested in knowing that this song "Baba Yetu" was the first video game piece to ever win a Grammy award, for "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)". Performed by the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, you can listen to it on YouTube as well.
  • The second video is called "What is Google+ and do I need it" this video scares me slightly as it seems to indicate that Google is going to take over the world, which probably isn't that far from the truth. Aside from that the video is actually a very useful introduction to circles in Google+ and some of the other features that make this a direct competitor to Facebook and other social networks.
  • The last video I showed was one of several commercials that Microsoft showed recently which highlight how "difficult" tasks could be transformed by going "To the cloud". I love the fact that each of these videos includes a line saying "Internet connection required" well yeah duh!
Anyway enjoy the videos, the first two are really quite interesting and if you have any questions about the seminar or any of the technologies I mention I'd be happy to answer those.

Intranetters - October 2011

Yesterday I attended the latest in the quarterly meetings of the Intranetters group. Intranetters are an informal group of Intranet managers that meet to discuss issues affecting their work and as was the case on Tuesday to walk-through members Intranets.

At the latest meeting we were lucky enough to hear from Nigel Williams at Romec who walked through their very impressive Intranet. There were a lot of features on this Intranet that I can see us using or at least borrowing the idea and trying to replicate, which I think is the same thing as using!

I also, despite some technical difficulties, did a walk-through of our Intranet. This seemed to go down well and there were certainly plenty of questions, which I always think is a good thing. Last but not least we heard from the great James Robertson of Step Two Designs who was in London to attend this meeting and to present the Intranet innovation awards to some very worthy UK winners. If you haven't seen the list of winners already you can review the list of on the Step Two Website.

My congratulations to UK Parliament, ARUP and Framestore who were all present at the meeting to collect their award from James. Later this week a number of the attendees, including myself, will be attending the Interact Intranet conference. I'm looking forward to hearing from some of these speakers again about how we can and should be developing our Intranets.

Outsourcing, offshoring and right sourcing for the future

This is the title of an interesting blog post on the Practice innovations site which provides an introduction to the concept of outsourcing and offshoring for anyone who hasn't come across the terms before. If you work in a Law Library in the UK and aren't aware of these terms, where have you been!?! From the introduction to the blog post.

So what does this mean for Law Libraries and Law Librarians? Well as it happens and as outlined in the post "Law libraries have been outsourcing supporting functions for decades. By outsourcing looseleaf filing, cataloguing, indexing, document retrieval, technical services, legislative history compilations, subscription management, and interlibrary loan, an information professional is free to perform highly skilled core business needs" and this market is growing as Law Firms merge and firms feel the pressure of a market that is becoming even more competitive more and more firms are looking at outsourcing as a way to streamline some of their internal processes, free Library professionals up to do more value added work and of course save money.

You only have to look to the recent CMS/Integreon partnership to understand how important the outsourcing market is, both in the UK and overseas. The author of the article makes a good point about how and why services are outsourced though. "One would think these decisions are not simply quick cost-cutting measures, head count ratio, or a reaction to competitive behavior. One would hope it also isn't a problem or a "mess" that a firm or administrator wants to be rid of. Having a grasp on the function and process helps direct improvement and the value proposition for the firm, clients, and employees. The best cases for outsourcing are those that have a strategic broad view of the firm's core business, vision, mission, and culture"

The author then looks at some examples of how outsourcing elements of Library teams can work well in practice, citing Allen & Overy as a good example of where the management team has worked closely with the outsourced team and those team members who were retained to provide a "blended" service. "Sarah (Fahy) has engaged a blended partnership with Integreon to produce business development reports. Relying on scalable models to support business development needs allows Allen & Overy's research team to create bespoke standards of research, business intelligence analysis, and deeper core legal research while working with an outsourced team. The ability to draw upon outsourced professionals who support non-billable, non-confidential projects while freeing dedicated professional staff to work on client research is an example of operating with a broad-spectrum strategic view of the business."

Then the question that everyone automatically thinks of when anyone mentions outsourcing or offshoring. "Aside from centralizing noncore functions, what about outsourcing? Are we hung up on the concept of outsourcing that has been maligned in the press and viewed as causing job loss and producing lower quality work? Is it really a threat to law librarians or is it an opportunity to elevate our position and influence knowledge strategies by representing the firm's commitment to knowledge excellence, translating into a competitive advantage?" From the conversations I've had with people I'd say yes. Certainly there are some opportunities for Law Librarians, but there will also be some pain and having read this blog post in full it looks like for some there may be more pain to come as the market for outsourcing grows and continues to develop.

If you build it, they will come, but will they come back?

This isn't you'll be pleased to know a blog post about the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams" but a reference to an excellent post on the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog called "If you build it, they will come. But will they return?" What you might wonder are they referring to with this statement. Well as it happens they're talking about Intranets and the answer is a resounding NO.

So what's wrong with Intranets within Law Firms at the moment? The blog post outlines the current state of affairs; "The problem with the conventional view of Intranets is that it is an enterprise approach to what should be a consumer experience.  In order to succeed, the Intranet needs to be an adaptive, ever learning, ever growing aggregate of my view in the firm as well as my web based social interactions. It needs to allow me to organize information in a way that makes sense to me and it needs to have robust search that makes information easy to find.  As we all know, users are more likely to use a Google style search to find information than they are to look through various sub-sites trying to figure out how to reserve a conference room.  But, robust search on its own does not solve the problem"

I absolutely agree that an Intranet should be visually engaging, intuitive and needs to contain fresh content. The problem is as the author outlines is that most content currently published to Law Firms intranet is that it doesn't compel people to keep coming back for more. Yes, it's crucial that someone knows about the latest development with the SRA or news about our latest panel appointment, but does this encourage them to return to the Intranet day after day, unless they don't get out much probably not.

So what can Intranet managers do about this? The author has a suggestion;  

"We need to do build Intranets that reflect the interests of the reader. A site needs to be able to look and feel different for each user to address each user's unique perspective. An effective Intranet needs to blur the lines of personal and professional, because most of today's workers do not have clear cut delineations between work and play.  For those few who still want the delineation, a well designed site will accommodate their wishes too. Intranets need to embrace social media, both external and internal. They need to foster a sense of community and quickly adapt to changing times" 

This is an interesting idea and there has certainly been some moves toward providing more social Intranets. However the problem with Law Firms in particular is that they tend to be quite conservative when it comes to providing content and the methods by which content is delivered to users. So moving to an Intranet or an application that not only reflects the needs of the users but blurs the lines between personal and professional will for many be a step too far. "The biggest challenge we face in making this move is changing management's perception that all this social media stuff is not only a waste of time, but also a time waster"

We also need to move beyond Intranets being useful to essential, which is the subject of the presentation I've embedded below.

SharePoint might be worth the "hassle"

I know I know it has been a while...a combination of being ill and not being in the country has meant the blog has been sorely neglected, but I'm back now and filled with a new determination to blog more regularly.

And what better way to start then with a post on how SharePoint 2010 might be worth the hassle from the excellent Intranet blog, in the post the author reports on the latest Forrester report on SharePoint 2010 (SharePoint Adoption, 2011). I haven't read this report (the report costs $499 unfortunately) but the author has provided a good summary of some of the pros and cons associated with using SharePoint 2010.

Here are the highlights from the blogpost:


  • 57% of SharePoint organizations have deployed or in the process of upgrading to SP 2010
  • Early successful deployments encourage rapid uptake and use
  • 79% of respondents reported that SharePoint meets IT’s expectations
  • Benefits outweigh the problems
  • Strong collaboration capabilities
  • 54% say that it is meeting technical expectation
  • SharePoint 2010 fills critical functional gaps left by the 2007 version
  • No one is using SharePoint mobile as it won’t work for Blackberry, iPhone & Androids
  • Lengthy deployment (including 2,000 of deployment documentation and hidden features)
  • Problematic and expensive to customize
  • Often fails to satisfy as a standalone product; needs augmentation (57% of customers have bought third-party tools to augment/improve SharePoint, particularly BPM, workflow, reporting, and administration)
  • Not enough expertise / skills to implement and customize
  • Cost (expensive)
  • Usage (not getting the use as hoped)
  • Technical issues (performance, technical complexity)
  • Lack of governance
  • Functional operation (54% say SP 2010 fails to live up to functional expectations)
SharePoint 2010 certainly appears to be a better product then SharePoint 2007 but it still seems to need a lot of resource thrown at it in order to make it work effectively. What do you think, are you using SharePoint successfully?