Two from Step Two!

Two excellent posts here from the team at Step Two Designs, from their blog "Column Two" The first "How is a digital workplace team different from an intranet team?" looks at how with the increased use of new technologies within organisations what was traditionally called an intranet team is now shifting towards being called a digital workplace team.

Whilst you might think the tools could be managed in the same way there are some differences in the technologies which mean organisations may need to rethink who manages their digital strategy.

The post begins by looking at the composition and roles of intranet and digital workplace teams. You wont be surprised to learn that the main role of an intranet team is to manage the intranet. This will usually consist of:


  • "A strong skill set relating to content publishing and management.
  • A responsibility for corporate news (particularly when the intranet team sits within internal comms).
  • Involvement in collaboration and social tools
  • Very limited focus on projects, business solutions, and technology in general"

Whilst there are some similarities between intranet and digital teams, they're also very different as they're trying to achieve different things.

To start with the digital workplace is the world of “intranet plus” so that might be“intranet plus collaboration” or “intranet plus mobile”, “intranet plus BI”. This is a much larger scope and vision, beyond just a traditional content-centric intranet.

As a result digital workplace teams will need a different set of skills:

  • "Very strong skills in projects and business solutions, including full-time BAs and project managers
  • Sufficient levels of tech savvy to help guide technology projects, with a very close working relationship with IT project teams and the CIO
  • A “centre of excellence” for UX
  • Owner of the intranet and collaboration platforms"

 So some quite significant differences for existing intranet managers and for organisations that are looking to develop their digital workplaces. The second post from the Step Two blog is called "SharePoint best practice 7/25: what roles in a SharePoint intranet dream team?" In the post James Robertson looks at a SharePoint dream team. When I first saw the list of potential team members I was struck by how many they are, that's certainly something to bear in mind if you're thinking about implementing SharePoint.

As James says in the post "For the most successful results from your implementation you will need to ensure that the various roles detailed in the diagram above are covered to some degree" James also talks about two vital but sometimes undervalued roles, they are; The Project Manager and Content Champions.

Whilst the Project Manager could be played in some part by an existing intranet manager, the content champion roles are harder to fill but perhaps even more important. "Involving content champions is an opportunity to engage with different parts of the business and receive invaluable feedback. Having an effective dialogue with these individuals will help to create a group who continue to support the intranet after the project has launched, and will champion it inside their own business division"

These are excellent posts from the Step Two blog, which if you haven't already read I would encourage you to do.

Help! I need an intranet but IT want SharePoint!

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be sent a link to an Interact Intranet webinar recording about SharePoint as an intranet.

The webinar was designed to be for communication specialists who are faced with an increasing "problem" within organisations. They would like an intranet but IT want to develop SharePoint. Whilst SharePoint can be an excellent tool.SharePoint isn't necessarily the best solution to meet all business objectives.

The first thing the webinar presenters said (and this is something I agree with very strongly) is that it's important to have a strong and productive relationship with your IT department. They're likely to be involved in any intranet project you undertake so it's good to keep them on-side and whilst they are important at the end of the day "there role is to keep the lights on" rather then understand what the requirements of an intranet project are. Which is why the presenters described SharePoint as an IT Project and intranets as communications projects, which are run by internal communications teams, Marketing teams, HR or Knowledge teams.

The presenters then explained briefly the three challenges that many organisations are looking to resolve when rolling out an intranet, they are:

  • To shorten communication channels
  • To foster collaboration between teams
  • To provide rapid access to content

The presenters then outlined some of the key problems for organisations thinking about using SharePoint as there intranet. They are;

Branding & Design issues - this is really important given that a positive initial experience is important for adoption. Whilst SharePoint can look amazing if you have tons of money for the average organisation SharePoint out of the box leaves users wanting more. In addition to this SharePoint doesn't provide the tools to modify the user interface out of the box. Users can change the look and feel of a SharePoint site via pallettes, for most organisations this isn't going to cut it. Another issue with the most recent version of SharePoint (SharePoint 2013) is that the SharePoint designer now doesn't allow you to create apps on the fly. This essentially scales down extensibility.

The next issue discussed by the presenters was around usability and for this they asked a guest speaker from Cross Country Trains to talk about their experiences with SharePoint. These were mostly negative with the speaker explaining that most people weren't trained, there was poor navigation and there was very little interest or engagement with the intranet. They also explained that there was no user manual so when it came to training it had to be delivered by expensive external organisations. This was followed up with their requirements for their next intranet, these included being interactive and collaborative, a two way communication tool and a tool that people want to use rather then tool of last resort.

The next issue the presenters looked at was the long release cycle associated with SharePoint. Whilst there have been a huge number of social media tools released since 2009, there has only been one release of SharePoint and this release didn't include much in the way of collaborative or social features. SharePoint 2013 is being lauded as the version of SharePoint that is really collaborative, especially with their recent acquisition of Yammer, but I guess we'll have to wait an see on this front.

The next issue discussed was around the difficult upgrade path. This as the presenters explained is a complicated workflow that needs to be undertaken for each instance (SharePoint site). The presenters also reported on the results of some research undertaken recently, which showed that 78% of organisations using SharePoint would wait at least 12 months before upgrading to SharePoint 2013.

The penultimate area of discussion was around the use of 3rd Party tools within SharePoint. There are a significant number of 3rd party tools used within SharePoint to support functionality that isn't available within SharePoint. 3rd party applications include those provided by Yammer, Socialcast, Newsgator, Bamboo and FAST. These tools are often used as social layers as up until the most recent version of SharePoint, collaborative features have been somewhat lacking. The last area was discussed was the hidden cost associated with SharePoint, these include using external consultants, the costs associated with updates and migration, design costs, user training costs and the cost associated with maintenance and adminstration.

To conclude the webinar the authors then outlined what SharePoint is and isn't.

SharePoint is:

  • A platform
  • Powerful
  • Flexible
  • Good at document management
  • Extendable

SharePoint is not:

  • An intranet
  • Easy to configure
  • Easy to update
  • Social (yet)
  • An out of the box product

This was an excellent webinar from the team at Interact and has certainly highlighted some areas of concern around SharePoint.

10 ways to completely ruin your intranet

Whilst you might not deliberate set about to create a rubbish intranet, sometimes it just happens. So a blog post on the Jostle.me blog made me giggle with some suggestions on how you could completely ruin your intranet!

So how can you ruin your intranet - well these are the suggestions from the team at Jostle.me.

  1. Make it content heavy. Text, text, text it all needs to be about text and no photos, especially of anybody important like employees
  2. Make it impossible to use. Instead of making the site intuitive to use, via the use of a content management tool instead rely on complicated code or having to ask a supplier or IT to update a page.
  3. Build it internally. People might disagree with this one, instead of buying a custom solution from a supplier ask your IT department to create it internally at great expense.
  4. Dismiss it. If you really want to destroy your intranet complain to anyone who will listen that your intranet is just “one more tool that gets in the way of productivity.” Tell others that like a fax machine, the intranet is just a phase.
  5. Make navigation frustrating. Break the back button or provide a zillion ways for people to navigate to pages, that's sure to confuse them.
  6. Never update it. An obvious one here, it's always great to see Christmas photos in April to remind you that Christmas is coming around soon.
  7. Continue to use outdated tools. Why refer people to the intranet when there is a great resource, somewhere that hasn't been updated in a zillion years
  8. Excluding employees. People who don't have a PC or an email address wont need to access the intranet right...wrong - Build the intranet for ALL employees!
  9. Making it TOO social. Is it possible to be TOO social. It is if that means employees saying how much they despise colleagues*
  10. Don't tell anyone it's there. Want to really ruin your intranet, just don't acknowledge its existence by making sure all communications go out via email with no links to the intranet.

*I think this can be managed so for me it's impossible to be TOO social.

Ark Group Conference: Managing Your Law Firm Library

On the 29 of November I was delighted to attend the Managing Your Law Firm Library conference organised by the ARK Group. I'd been invited to talk on a panel with the very lovely Laura Woods and Loyita Worley and as such was able to attend the entire conference, despite not working in a Library setting anymore!

The Conference itself was organised into several themes the first of these was Resource Management and the first of the speakers was Sarah Brittan from Baker & McKenzie. Sarah talked in great detail about the review the Library & Information Services team at Baker & McKenzie had been part of and the outcome of that review. As a result of the review the structure of the service was re-organised and Information Specialists are now embedded within practice groups rather then sitting within a central library. It's interesting to see that more Library & Information Services are looking at embedding staff. When I worked in my previous firm I undertook two stints within practice groups. Both of which were immensely useful as I was there to answer any questions they had relating to resources or research. Within my current firm the Information Officers are all embedded within practice groups, which seems to work really well.

The second speaker within the Resource management section was Fiona Fodgen. Fiona provided attendees with some useful tips on how to manage a Library budget using excel and whilst I don't currently have and budget responsibility I will be keeping the tips handy in case I should do in future.

However of most interest to me during the first part of the conference was Chrissy Street's presentation on "Demonstrating value through the use of a business case". Whilst I do prepare business cases, what I was most interested in was Chrissy' use of Confluence as a tool for creating business case templates.Whilst Chrissy and her team had been creating business cases for subscriptions and renewals for some time, they had found that gathering feedback when using email was difficult and proving inefficient. So Chrissy and her team created a template within Confluence (wikis) that would let them populate the template with information about the subscription/online database and then ask fee-earners for their feedback.

I'm a big fan of wikis and especially Confluence so I can see how useful it would be to be able to send a link to a fee-earner and ask them to add their comments about the subscription/online database. One of the questions I did want to ask was whether the business cases were public, in other words could other practice groups see what was being renewed or what wasn't being renewed and potentially comment on it. Chrissy's answer to this was that it could potentially happen but hadn't so far. I think that's certainly something to consider if you're thinking about using Confluence to create business cases, as by default Confluence pages are "open" so anyone who has access to Confluence can view them. I was very impressed with what they were doing though and will certainly look to see if we can do something similar internally. If you're interested in reading more about these two sessions then Laura Woods has written an excellent summary on her blog.

The second part of the Conference included the panel session I was involved in. This went surprisingly well, although I was surprised (but perhaps shouldn't be) that so few people were using Twitter and other social media tools. There was a lot of discussion during this session including the use of Twitter, RSS, Pulse, Google+ and BYOD, we seemed to cover a lot in a short amount of time and thankfully people seemed to enjoy the chance to ask lots of different questions.

The final session of the day was the one I'd been looking forward to most as it was delivered by Nick Davies of the "Really great training company" Nick talked at length about how we can influence people more effectively through networking. Without writing too much about influencing as I'm no expert, there were several things which I thought were really useful.

So one of the first things Nick talked about was how you can "persuade" people to do stuff. That might be to invest in a new piece of technology or to give you some more money. Either way it's important to remember the acronym SPICE whenever you're trying to persuade someone to do something. SPICE is represented as follows:

  • S = Simplicity - don't over-complicate what you're trying to sell or people will switch off 
  • P = Perceived self - You need to think about why someone will want to do something. What is the value to a fee-earner or partner 
  • I = Incongruity - Not doing what people expect you to do, in other words sell your ideas in a creative way
  • C = Confidence - You need to be confident in your argument
  • E = Enthusiasm - You need to have this otherwise individuals wont believe what you're saying

Nick also talked about two essential elements when influencing other people. These were Credibility and Trust without these people wont take you seriously. Credibility generally comes from Qualifications and Experience, so if you're not currently displaying your degree certificate or other certificates you should be! Trust is more difficult and takes some time as Nick explained via a Trust triangle*

So the Trust triangle looks a bit like this:

  • Acknowledgement is at the bottom - this is that someone acknowledges you exist.
  • Understanding is next - So individuals are interested in what you do and want to find out more
  • Acceptance comes next - This is where individuals ask what other skills you might have
  • Respect follows acceptance - You've provided something and have garnered respect for it
  • Trust - You've become the go to person
  • Bond - After a year you might bond with them by sharing person details

As ever this was a really interesting session and was full of useful information. Right at the end of the session Nick had time for one question and was asked what he thought of social media for networking. Nick's answer was that social media is networking without talking, this made me giggle but I'd actually disagree with this to some extent. Whilst some social networking tools mean you don't have to talk to people ultimately social networking tools, in which I'd include Twitter can help people find common ground and interests and encourage them to meet in real life.

Overall this was a really interesting conference, which If you haven't attended before I would encourage you to do so, or maybe think about presenting!

*This could be a made up term!

Thanet 10

It was a bit chilly
Last Sunday I took part in the Thanet coastal 10, this was a 10 mile road race organised by Thanet Road Runners. The route was described as flat with PB potential (dependant on the weather). This would be my first race in a long time having concentrated on racking up miles rather the actually taking part in races. As a result I was unsure how I was going to perform but hoped to run sub 1:20 for 10 miles.

Enjoying the view
The first thing to say about the day itself was that it was glorious, as you'll see from the photos I took but very very very cold. When I got in the car to drive to Westgate-on-Sea the temperature was -1 when I parked up the near the start line it was 3 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt a lot colder. Despite that there were still runners wearing vests, shorts and no gloves! They must have had red hot blood, because everyone else was feeling the cold.

After a short walk to the start line in the freezing cold we were off and once I got going it was actually quite pleasant. The views from the route certainly helped motivate me, although smelling bacon and sausages being cooked in some of the cafes along the beach didn't.

That's not snow!
In terms of the race itself I ran a steady first mile and passed the mile marker at 8:19, which would put me over 1h20. The second mile felt a lot easier and I passed the mile marker at 15:46 which put me inside 1h20. The third mile seemed to fly by and I passed the mile marker at 22:22. Then something must have gone a bit awry as I didn't see the 4th or 5th mile marker, perhaps because I was slogging up a hill and then when we turned around I was being blown off my feet. So when I got to mile six I was at exactly 48 minutes so I knew I was going to have to pull something out in the last three miles. Thankfully the last three miles were the first three reversed and they were downhill slightly so I was able to make up some time and crossed the finish line in 1:19:36. I was delighted with this given the cold conditions, although I always like to run faster. I was even happier with my position, which was 97th out of 274 runners!

I was very happy with that!


Traditional vs Social intranets, the war is over!

The Column Two blog is a great source for guidance and tips relating to intranet management and this week saw them produce another really interesting post on Traditional vs Social intranets. In the post called "Traditional vs Social intranets: the war is over without a shot being fired" James Robertson looks at how there has been a widely held perception that these two types of intranets are at war with one another.

James starts by outlining what many consultants and expert consider the attributes of these different types of intranets.

“Traditional”

  • content heavy
  • top-down corporate communications
  • publishing, not conversations
  • documents, forms and records
  • driven by a few
  • aligned with hierarchical organisational models
  • unchanged for a decade
  • going the way of the dinosaurs

“Social   

  • collaboration and conversations
  • driven by people, not content
  • emergent, organic
  • flexible and responsive
  • flows, not stocks
  • driven by the consumerisation of technology
  • the visible face of new business models
  • the way of the future

James then asks the question, which I believe is the key point of the post. Do these views of current intranets reflect what’s happening in the real world, away from consultants and experts? James suggests perhaps not and argues that vendors of social tools, portals and intranets have been incorporating social features for some time now. You only have to look at what Microsoft have done with SharePoint and their acquisition of Yammer to understand the impact collaboration has had on what until recently would have been called a traditional intranet solution. Ultimately the developments these vendors are putting in place are to demonstrate that their tool can answer a business need.

The other perspective James look at is from an organisation, arguing that whilst a few organisations have taken significant steps to making their intranets more social many other organisations are in the very early stages of adoption. I think it's interesting that James says organisations are piloting collaborative platforms, with a view to incorporate it within a single solution. This struck a chord with me as it seems that lots of people I speak to have what I would call a "mix and match" approach. That is that they provide a "traditional" intranet alongside a collaborative tool like Yammer or Confluence.

Summing up James says that there actually wasn't a war. Intranets have evolved and will continue to do so as the expectations of users around collaboration increases.

Why is new technology not adopted?

A short but really interesting post from the Plantronics Blogcentral which lists five reasons why new technologies aren't adopted within organistions. In the introduction to the post "Why is New Technology Not Adopted?" the author starts by saying it's important to try and understand why previous implementations of technology have failed before listing his top 5 reasons why new technology implementations fail.
  1. The Technology Doesn’t Make Sense for the Work. An IT department might be excited by the possibilities of a new tool, but they don't consider how it's going to be used in practice.
  2. The Technology Takes Too Long to Learn. Any new technology needs to be intuitive and easy to use
  3. No One Explains the Possibilities. When new technology is introduced, although it offers numerous ways of re-thinking the way work is done, no one takes the time to do so, and so the team merely adopts the new technology but treats it the same as the old. 
  4. Equally Valid Alternatives. When a new way of working is introduced alongside the old way, and both approaches are treated as equally valid ways of getting work done, most people will take the path of least resistance and go with the approach they’re familiar with.
  5. A Whole Raft of Technology Issues. There’s a whole raft of related technology issues and concerns that can derail the adoption of new technology—such as which specific devices are supported - this is especially true in our increasingly mobile workplace.
The author finishes by asking whether anyone has suffered these issues. I think the answer to that is a resounding yes!








Intranet task based testing (TBT) - Thoughtfarmer webinar

Where would you find the toilets?
Earlier this month I listened in on a very interesting webinar hosted by ThoughtFarmer on Intranet task based testing. This was the second in a series of webinars, following on from their previous session on card sorting. Unfortunately I hadn't attend the card sort webinar but it didn't matter as the speaker provided a quick review of card sorting and how task testing can work alongside card sorting when designing a new intranet or looking at updating an existing intranet.

The first thing the presenter looked at was what TBT could be used for, this includes:

  • Improving the organisation of your intranet
  • Improving top down navigation
  • Improving your structure terminology
  • Isolating a part of the intranet structure
  • Focusing on content design, not visual design
  • Getting user data early
  • A cheap and quick way to try out ideas (online only)

However TBT isn't good at everything so it shouldn't be used for:

  • Checking other navigation routes e.g. Search, contextual links or embedded links
  • Testing search
  • Testing page layouts
  • Testing visual design
  • TBT is not a substitute for site users testing usability
  • TBT is not a replacement for card sorting

Once you've decided that you're going to use TBT you need to think about what tasks you're going to select.

Selecting a task

When selecting a task it's vital to think about the following:
  • How critical are these tasks for peoples day to day work
  • How do the tasks align with your intranet strategy
  • What are some of the things people are currently having problems finding
  • Keep the task to a maximum of 10
  • Keep the time spent to a minimum and no more then 10 minutes

Writing the tasks

This is where it starts to get really interesting, when writing tasks you should ensure you think about the following:

  • Use real scenarios to make it believable
  • Don't use the name of the location of the information in the task
  • Keep it simple and to the point - don't embellish with a whole story
  • Read the task out loud

Once you've selected and written your task the final task is to choose your participants. The most important thing here is to choose participants from across the organisation and to choose a large number of participants. According to the speaker, you can never have too many participants, the feedback you receive will just add to the results. Once the tasks have been undertaken the only "task" left is to review the results, when doing this, the following are important:

  • There should be a success rate of 75-80%
  • How long does it take to complete the task
  • How direct was the route to find the information
  • Where did people go first was there a patter in the click paths

If it's obvious that people are struggling to complete certain tasks then an intranet manager should think about updating the information architecture to make the click path to the content easier.

Rethinking the intranets!

When is good enough...good enough?
Anyone that knows me, will know that I haven't always been an Knowledge Manager. In a previous life/role I was an Information Officer in a Law Firm. This was a much more traditional role when I joined the firm and it morphed into a much more technical role as I was seconded on to various projects at various stages in my career. The point I'm trying to make (badly) is that individuals can change and can learn over time and that according to this article on CMS wire is precisely what intranets need to do.

In "Rethinking the intranets: Teaching an old tool new tricks" The author starts with a story about how they used to visit a Library as a child "I remember my time in the library as a kid in Moscow. As the snow rustled under my feet, my mittens clutching my library card, I looked forward to being transported to faraway worlds. But first, I had to wander the halls of the dimly lit library, choose a book that wasn’t already checked out, wait for the homely librarian to scribble something on my library card, and do it all over for the next book. I had all the time in the world to repeat this process every time I wanted a new book, and books didn’t change that much"

The author then fast forwards a few years and describers their current situation "I don’t have time to check out a book, I can’t depend on obsolete information, and I can’t sit by the phone and wait for someone to call me with an answer" I think many Librarians and especially those working within Law Libraries would argue that Law Libraries are just as valuable now as they were 5, 10 or even 15 years ago. The resources might have changed and the way that information is collected, managed and distributed might be different but the concept of the Library being a Library is still essentially the same.

However Libraries aren't the real subject of the post, the real subject is that intranets like libraries have to move on to ensure they survive and retain their value. The author describes what I believe is widely regarded as the current state of affairs with corporate intranets, namely that "“use is still fairly limited to early-stage activities around information retrieval and employee self-service.” In short, people use it for compliance tools like HR paperwork, time and expense, which employees have to use in order to get paid" Whilst this makes an intranet essential to some degree organisations have moved from content-centric models to people-centric models and it would appear that for the most part intranets have failed to keep up.

The author goes on to say that the focus of intranets should be about engaging us and what better way to engage employees then through the use of social media. "Social media in its purest form is the engine that helps us access the people, resources and information, to turn knowledge into insights and actions, make better decisions faster and move at the speed of business today."

The best way to do this according to the author is by "merging the reach and authoritativeness of the intranet with dynamic and collaborative qualities of an enterprise social network – thus creating a social work hub." The author finishes article with some "tips for success", these are as follows:

  • Be people-centric: Social is a lot different — you can make people fill out timesheets, but you can’t make them share what they know.
  • Consumerize it!
  • Make it available anywhere: This is very important in an increasingly mobile society. 
  • Deploy with ease: Because the social intranet must remain easily adaptable, the platform has to be flexible and combined with other apps.
  • Integrate: An enterprise social network must surface and deliver information from vertical apps to the right people at the right time.
  • Mix official and unofficial content
  • Make content social: Your social work hub not only connects people to each other, it also must connect people to content. By alerting people to existence and changes in relevant content, the social work hub finally delivers on the original promise of the intranet
  • Focus on community: While your goal is to foster business conversations, it’s the non-business ones that build trust, which makes close collaboration possible. In my mind anything that encourages communication and collaboration is a good thing!
  • Redefine roles: To support a shift towards consumerization
  • Plan with right resources: While enterprise social is easier to maintain, is more flexible and affordable, success does take investment in community management, strategic planning, process and tool integration, and coaching

This is a really interesting article, supported by a number of links which if you're thinking about improving your intranet is well worth a read.

[Photo credit - Rethink productions from Flickr]

5x50 summary!

For the last 50 days I've been undertaking a rather interesting challenge. Called 5x50 the challenge asks participants to undertake a least 5km of exercise everyday for 50 days. There is a £5 entry fee with all money raised via the entry fee and any sponsorship going to Sport Relief.

This was a great challenge to participate in and whilst there were a couple of days where I felt like I wouldn't do my run (mostly the cold dark mornings) I'm pleased to say I got out there are did 50 days worth of exercise. These are my totals for the 50 days:

Total number of Kilometres - 324 or 201 miles
Number of runs - 48
Number of walks - 2
Average distance per run - 6.54 km or 4.06 miles
Number of injuries - none
Number of times lost - once
Number of times face to face with two bored looking horses - once
Number of trips - none :-)

For someone who wants to form an exercise habit 5x50 is an excellent way of doing so, if you don't fancy exercising 50 days in a row 5x50 are planning a mini event in November and the 2013 event will take place in March.

You can view my 5x50 activity log by clicking on this link alternatively all my runs (and walks) are logged on Runkeeper.

Making the case for collaboration: Content and Code seminar

Earlier today I attended a Content and Code event at the Microsoft UK Customer Service centre called "Making the case for collaboration". The morning seminar was designed to help attendees understand the value of collaboration within an organisation and how SharePoint can help individuals collaborate with each other. The day started with an introduction to some of the challenges currently facing organisations, these include the following;

  • Information silos - these make information hard to find and share
  • Changing workplaces - today's workforces expect more and more individuals want to work remotely
  • Mergers & Acquisitions - companies are being bought and sold and internal teams are merging
  • Globalisation - organisations need to communicate globally, connect distributed teams and search across global content
  • Security issues - more people want to work from home and use different devices, these all mean more issues relating to security
  • Keeping up to date - organisations need to know what their employees are doing, with may organisations this can be difficult given the amount of information
  • Budgets - these are either being cut or remain stagnant

Another point that was made, which I thought was very interesting was that 80% of IT budgets are spent on keeping the lights on e.g. paying for licences, hardware etc. As a result there is very little to spend on improvements. So the question is how can collaboration/collaborative tools help. Content & Code listed 6 reasons where collaboration can help with these issues, they are:

  • More effective sharing of knowledge
  • More effective search tools
  • Better communication channels
  • Process consistency
  • Systems consolidation
  • Potential cost reductions

Content and Code then looked at how an organisations information landscape looks (lots of little silos) and how it could look (a great big mountain range). Whilst it's nice to think that every organisation could have a mountain range, it's important to recognise what it takes to get there and why you want to get there. This was the subject of the next session where the speaker look at at collaboration tools role to inspire, to inform and to evolved.

If it wasn't clear already it was reiterated that it was important to understand your business before you even think about implementing a collaborative tool. This means knowing the following:

  • Your organisations strategic goal and ensuring your tool is aligned with it
  • What other systems, tools and processes exist
  • What customers and suppliers your organisation is working with
  • What the expectations of your staff are

If you have an good understanding of these, then you're well on the way to delivering the foundations of a collaborative platform. 

Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013

The final session of the day was a very quick look at some of the new functionality in Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013. The release to manufacturing version of SharePoint was released the day before this seminar so we also got to see some of the new features live. They include the following:

SharePoint search

  • One search rather then a search for the free product and a search for the enterprise product
  • An improved UI
  • Consolidation of content
  • Better query rules
  • Better result sources
  • Content organised by search

SharePoint communities (Discussion forums)

  • An improved UI
  • Badges feature
  • More like forums then previously
  • A reputation builder so if you don't post something for 6 months your reputation decreases

SharePoint social

  • Improved MySites
  • Your newsfeed
  • Site newsfeed
  • Rich content
  • Likes and hashtags
  • Unlike SharePoint 2010 you have to turn on MySites in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Apps

  • A new development model for SharePoint 2013
  • Apps now leveraged in the cloud
  • Sell your Apps now an option
  • Option to add apps to your SharePoint platform
  • Significantly everything is an App!

Overall this was a really interesting if intense morning. For anyone already using SharePoint the 2013 version looks to be even bigger and better.

Become a change agent or be miserable!

Scary...sort of :-)
This is an interesting article which I recommend you read, it's not long so you wont have wasted too much time reading it, if you don't  like it. Anyway at first glance you might think this article is targeted at fee-earners, the title is a bit confusing as I think it should say "Knowledge Lawyers" or "Professional support lawyers" rather then just lawyers.

When you read it you'll see how actually it could apply to any Knowledge & Information role, not just the Senior Knowledge Lawyers Sam mentions later in the article. The article itself is an interview with Sam Dimond who recently moved from Clifford Chance to Norton Rose to become Global Director of Knowledge.

In the article Sam describes how the process of "going global" will mean and has meant massive changes for Knowledge Staff and that right now, things are pretty scary for Knowledge Staff. If that's not enough Sam's next quote is that if Knowledge Staff resist these changes then they're going to be "miserable"

So what can Knowledge Staff do to avoid being miserable. Well Sam suggests that "resistance is futile" I'm not sure if the reference to Star Trek and the Borg is deliberate, anyway the point Sam is making is that Knowledge Staff shouldn't be resisting change, they should be embracing it and working to enable it. Essentially this means become a "change agent" rather then someone who blocks change. Now I'm sure most Knowledge Staff would always want to be perceived as change agents rather then blockers, but it would seem that this is even more important in the age of global law firms. Sam also suggests that Knowledge Staff should look even closer at the value they add to an organisation and their relevance in our increasingly large organisations.

Sam also briefly talks about how different attitudes to sharing information in law firms affect the role of Knowledge Sharing staff. Sam puts this in the content of a merger, where unsurprisingly knowledge workers tend to feel very vulnerable. This isn't surprising given that most support services include Knowledge & Information Services will be scrutinised closely as part of any merger with the potential for redundancies or outsourcing of existing roles.

So is there anything positive to take from this article? Yes I think there is and that is the Knowledge & Information staff can be and are change agents and that we have a crucial role to play in law firms, especially where we're adding value by providing knowledge services to clients.
 




Building your own technology (intranet) platform

Build it  yourself, if you dare!
So I spotted this article on the Law Society Gazette website and felt compelled to write about it as it discusses one of my favourite subjects Intranets.

First some context; in the article the author who is Managing Partner at Keystone Law talks about how as a business grows and more staff are employed there is a tendency for information to become buried and as a result for the effectiveness of individuals and their productivity to suffer. The solution, you guessed it "...an intuitive web-based intranet on which your personnel can find and do just about everything. An environment where even the most old-school solicitors can reach their desired destination with a few clicks of the mouse, whether they are in the office or at home. A tool that makes collaboration and the proactive sharing of information not just easy, but enjoyable"

So how you should you go about delivering such a tool. Well Keystone Law decided to build their own. Now this is where the article starts to trouble me. Whilst building your own intranet might sound like a good idea. It usually means that one person is responsible for coding and building it, if they leave then you're up a particular creek without a useful paddle. That's not to say there aren't some good examples of intranets that have been built in-house. For example Shepherd and Wedderburn won a Gold Award in the 2010 Intranet innovation awards for their MyShepwedd intranet site.

But I have to ask how do you build scalability and longevity into a home grown tool? If the firm decides to merger and there are an extra 100, 500, 1000 staff will the intranet be able to cope? Whilst I'm sure a piece of bespoke technology will offer lots of functionality it's not going to be able to do everything a commercial product does. As the author says "whenever a piece of non-essential functionality proved too complex or time-consuming, it was put on the back burner to be dealt with post-launch" It's good that Keystone have identified nice to haves from essential but it would have been more interesting to know what this "non-essential" functionality was.

The author does have some good advice about naming your intranet "You have a tremendous opportunity to boost morale, to reflect your firm’s personality and help create the culture you want. So for starters, give your intranet a good name, something that relates to your firm in some tangible way. The name doesn’t have to be brilliant but don’t miss a free opportunity by allowing your IT platform to be known as ‘the intranet’" This is a must if you're rolling out a new intranet, whatever you do, don't call your intranet, intranet, this is like calling a pet dog, dog!

The author also suggests that to ensure your intranet is adopted you make it essential (James Robertson would be very proud). Keystone Law have done this by making the intranet the only place to open a new client record. According to the author this means that "Luddites have no choice but to log in daily, and in so doing they discover a whole world of usefulness which is accessible in seconds. Before long they are regularly updating their profiles, submitting suppliers for approval and suggesting upgrades. Sometimes people only know what they need once you give it to them."

Unfortunately the author had to go and spoil all that hard work by revealing that Keystone law have a photo carousel with the latest pictures uploaded to it. The Intranetizen team will not be happy!

[Photo credit - Build it yourself from Flickr]

Interaction #intranet conference 2012

At the beginning of October I was lucky enough to attend Interaction 2012. This is an annual conference organised by Interact with the focus firmly on how intranets are being used and developed. This year once again the conference featured a number of very high profile speakers including James Robertson, Martin White, Janus Boye, Michael Sampson, Lee Bryant and the guys and gals from the brilliant Intranetizen.

Now I could easily sit her and write a review of the excellent session that took place at the Conference, instead I'm going to point you toward the many excellent reviews that have already been published, they include the following:


If you missed the Conference then don't fear you can receive the slides of all the presentations by contacting Interact and asking for them!

So that brings me nicely to the question of what did I get out of the day. Well the first thing to say is it's really nice to meet people from Twitter in real life (IRL) and catch up from the last Interaction conference. I especially enjoyed talked to the guys and gals from Intranetizen who in no particular order I talked to about; cheek kissing etiquette, ties and PowerPoint presentations, Tweeting whilst running and the Coca-Cola secret recipe*

For me their session was the highlight of the conference and was timed just right so that it woke people up (if they were feeling sleepy) whilst presenting them with some really useful information to take back to their organisation. I'd love to see more conference organisers adopt the Ignite 5 minute presentation style so that presenters ensure they are actually providing some useful information in the time they have rather then just clicking through 50 PowerPoint slides.

I also met someone from an organisation that uses the same Web CMS as us but is moving to SharePoint 2010. I'll definitely be keeping in touch with them to find out how that project goes.

I do have two very small complaints though, whilst the venue was excellent, especially as it was only 2 minutes from my office it was quite hard to see some of the slides in individuals presentations as the screens used were quite low down. Also whilst there was an opportunity to ask questions at a "Town Hall" style session at the end of the day I thought it would have been nice to have had a least 5 minutes to ask presenters questions. If I recall the only session where there was time to do this was after the Intranetizen presentation and nobody had any questions, we were obviously all in awe :-)

*This may have happened after the event.


Reflecting on stuff

I don't write too many personal posts, but I've felt compelled to do so given the events that have taken place in the last two weeks, which for me have been quite tough.

For those of you that don't know me well I'm the President of the British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL). During my time with BIALL I've worked with a large number of people as a Committee Member, Committee Chair, Council Member, President Elect and now President. I've made long term friends and met some people who have really inspired me.

Of those Sarah Spells definitely falls into the latter "category". I first met Sarah at the BIALL Conference in Edinburgh in 2004 walking up the stairs from I believe a dinosaur exhibition, I could well be wrong as things are a bit hazy from 8 years ago. My immediate impression when I sat down next to her for dinner was that she had a lovely smile and she was very enthusiastic about her job. I enjoyed talking to her about her work and what she was looking forward to at the Conference. I don't recall exactly when I next met Sarah but it was probably at the conference the following year. However it was whilst I was the Web Committee chair and later Council Member that I had most contact with Sarah at Council meetings where she always had a useful point to make or was ribbing me about not ordering water and soft drinks. I'll never forget to order Tea, Coffee AND water ever again that's for sure.

It was a joy to talk to Sarah and she would always share a joke or a laugh and tell us what she was working on, at the most recent Council meeting Sarah had taken great joy in showing everyone present her engagement ring and telling us all about her wedding plans. She was just entering the next stage of her life, so it's tragic that her life ended at the beginning of September.

Whilst listening to the wonderful tributes at her funeral, how busy she was, how much she was giving back to BIALL and the international associations she worked for I began to reflect on my own life as I imagine a lot of people do when attending funerals. Am I'm I living and loving life as much as I should be, is there more I could be doing? I think the answer is yes, but when someone you know passes away it really does make you see things in a different light. This isn't groundbreaking stuff I'm writing here I know, but I felt like I needed to write this to express how much BIALL are going to miss Sarah and the valuable contributions she made and how her death has affected me on a personal level. It was an honour to attend Sarahs funeral as both a friend and BIALL President and I hope in some small way my attendance helped her family see how very highly respected Sarah was.

This is real law: The impact of technology on Law Librarians

I've been talking about technology within Law firms and specifically Law Libraries for longer then I care to remember. So this video from the American Association of Law Librarians recent meeting in Boston filled my heart with joy.

In it a number of Law Librarians talk about the impact technology has had an will continue to have on Law Librarians.

Some key quotes from the video:

  • "The Library has to be from everywhere" 
  • "You need to stay current as a Law Librarian" 
  • "We've moved from the book to the big computer to the iPad" 
  • "If you don't embrace the technology, you'll be left behind"
  •  "We need to be forward thinking and that the technology is ours to own" 

These are just some of the excellent quotes from this video, the message I took from this video is that we need to commit to future technology developments and be brave enough to use them, both for our own use and the benefit of our users.

I also love the quote about us being time travellers...I'd love to be able to do this for real!
 

The two P's and a T of social intranets

This was as close I could get to 3 P's on Flickr.
Catchy title eh? I was hoping I'd be able to write the 3P's of social intranets but sadly it wasn't meant to be. So what you may ask am I banging on about.

What I'm so eloquently referring to is this excellent post on the Intranet Connections blog which looks at the two P's and the T of social intranet strategy. From the introduction to the blog post:

"A social intranet is only one part technology, and two parts people and process. In fact, technology is only an enabler, and may only be worth 20% of the total value of an intranet"

I feel like I've banged on about this for years now, as good as technology is sticking a new piece of technology in front of someone and expect them to use it and love it straight away is borderline delusional. Yes there might be the odd person or two who immediately sees the benefit of using a particular technology. But when it comes to intranets and especially social intranets people will either love it or hate it. So making People a priority when developing a social intranet should be your top priority.

This will mean ensuring your social intranet is accessible and open to all users and crucially that it has active support from senior executives (management). From the blog post:

"...the most successful intranets have one common ingredient: active executive support and sponsorship. Without active executive support, a social intranet will fall short of its potential"

Get this part of the social intranet journey right and you're heading in the right direction. The next P discussed in the blogpost is Process. Process is about ensuring there are adequate polices, procedure and governance in place so that users know what they can and cant do. As someone once said to me, governance is about controlled freedom. That is you allow users a certain amount of freedom in the knowledge that there are controls in place to manage what they're doing. Process also means that everyone is aware of their role in managing the intranet and what their responsibilities are.

The final element of a social intranet strategy is about Technology. This is about identifying the technology that best matches what you're looking for. That might be that it solves a particular issue or it provides something that your current intranet doesn't. If you're building a social intranet then it's likely that the technology will facilitate blogging, the creation of wikis, activity streams and status updates.

Put these three elements in place and you're well on the road to a social intranet. I also feel that these elements could be used when deploying any intranet tool. The issues are just the same irrespective of whether the intranet contains social elements or not.

[Photo credit - 3P's from Flickr]

Intranet litter...

Litter globe actually lots of bottles
A small insight into my life here, I have two cats so reading Mark Morrell's latest blog post on Intranet litter made me chuckle. I've got plenty of litter at home, so I'm not sure I need any more on my intranet.

You might not chuckle as much as me, but you might be interested in reading Mark's post and thinking about whether your intranet is strewn with litter. So what does Mark mean by Intranet litter? What Mark is referring to is poorly presented information that confuses the user, specifically:

  • Links to documents instead of content on an intranet page
  • Poorly worded content that doesn’t make sense
  • Poorly constructed content that is hard to follow
  • Poorly presented content with the wrong balance of images, text, and video

Mark then goes on to outline some of the things you should consider implementing if your intranet does contain some litter. Rather then litter this post with those (they're actually very useful) I'll let you read Mark's post.

[Photo credit - Litter globe from Flickr]

Using Linkedin as your intranet

Could you use Linkedin as your intranet platform in preference to a traditional content management tool? That's the question asked by Samuel Dreissen in his blog post "Linkedin as your intranet"

As Samuel explains in his post, the context behind users asking whether Linkedin could be used as an intranet is that more and more users are using free intranet tools to get things done. This is usually referred to as "Stealth IT" and causing headaches for IT as they're expected to manage more and more tools, which they may have no experience of.

So in light of this and LinkedIn announcing that it was positioning itself as an intranet, could Linkedin be used as an intranet. Linkedin definitely ticks a number of boxes including the following;

  • Detailed profiles and connections between profiles (social network)
  • Groups and subgroups to ask questions, share knowledge and publish news
  • Share documents with 3rd party apps
  • Available everywhere
  • Mobile access

Linkedin also has several advantages over traditional intranets including;

  • (Most) employees are already there; they have a profile, even a very basic profile
  • Employees understand how the tool works (it has a reasonably intuitive UI)
  • Linkedin often roll out new functionality
  • It's free
  • Organisations customers are there as well (so collaboration and co-creation via the intranet is easy to set up)

In light of this you might think using Linkedin as an intranet was a shoe-in. However there would be a number of issues that would need to be addressed before an organisation could even consider using Linkedin as their intranet, these include;

  • Information security
  • Information ownership
  • Publishing other content
  • Integration with Active Directory or other security tools
  • Search would need to be improved

I think Linkedin would either have to substantially improve their existing product or release an enterprise version of Linkedin, which had all the functionality of the free version but allowed intranet managers to create content and integrate other tools with the enterprise version of Linkedin. If a tool like this was available then I'm sure a lot of organisations would give it some serious consideration.

In the meantime there are some good examples of organisations that have embedded elements of Linkedin with their intranet. The Chess Plains media blog has also written about how Linkedin could be used as an intranet...of sorts.

[Photo credit - Linkedin Pen from Flickr]

When Intranet Content Becomes Obsolete



Is this what happens to your content?
One of the perennial problems of managing an intranet is keeping the content useful and relevant without ending up with a huge number of pages that aren't being looked at. A strategy that is often used by intranet managers is to delete obsolete content on an annual basis and then repeat the process the following year.

This is fine in the short term as users will see a noticeable difference but over time the number of pages will start to increase and the intranet will be back to where it was previously. A better idea as suggested by Patrick Walsh is to have a lean and sustainable intranet. This avoids the all too frequent intranet redesigns which work well for a while then crash and burn and the almost inevitable increase in the amount of content to the point where intranet users aren't able to find the content they're looking for anymore.

With the lean and sustainable intranet, the most important (the visible content) is kept to a minimum, this should go someway to ensuring that it remains relevant and that it's used. 

But to get to this point you need to undertake a process where you make the intranet lean, so how do you strart this process? This is the question asked in the post "When intranet content becomes obsolete" on the Noodle blog.

The authors outline a process for identifying obsolete content using two criteria Age and Usefullness. Age is a good criteria to use as it's obvious if a page hasn't been updated in a while that it should be deleted. However as the authors explain some documents/pages wont be updated regularly (policies, forms. procedures, mission statements etc) these need to be retained. So this is why usefullness is oftent used as an additional criteria. The usefullness of a page is usually identified by looking at how often it's read (via intranet statistics). Likes and dislikes can also be another way to identify how often a page is used as well as looking at how often it's searched for, or returned in search results.

Whatever process you put in place you need to ensure it takes account of the needs of your organisaion and your intranet editors.

Daring to share...the appeal of enterprise social networks

What is Enterprise social networking and what are some of the tools that are available for organisations to use as part of an enterprise social networking strategy? This is the question answered by Rachel Miller in her excellent blog post "Daring to share - Enterprise Social Networking"

The post goes into some detail about Yammer and how it can be used to facilitate communication within an organisation by taking advantage of the changes in how we're all communicating. As Rachel explains in her post:

"Doing so in a way where others can participate and understand how it works across the business, using their skills and abilities to make the most of it is ideal. This is what enterprise social networking is trying to achieve"

Rachel also outlines some of the benefits of using an enterprise social networking tool like Yammer, these aren't just about providing a better more intiutive way for individuals to communicate and collaborate with each other there are a number of other very tangible benefits including:

  • Gaining visibility across the organisation
  • Giving employees tools that increase collaboration, visibility and support company culture
  • Driving financial results through employee engagement and better customer service
  • Attracting and retaining top talent by meeting the needs of your people

For an introduction to how Yammer is being used successfully look not further then another post by Rachel called "It adds up: How accountants use Yammer"

Using your intranet as a communication tool

Two interesting (albeit slightly old) blog posts on using intranets as communication platforms to talk about here. The first by Mark Morrell lists "8 ways in which SharePoint 2010 can help internal communications" Mark makes a very good point before his list of suggestions, which is that he doesn't believe SharePoint 2010 is the only way to improve internal communications with an organisation. But that SharePoint is one of a number of tools that could be used for internal communications. This is an important point to reflect on as there are indeed a number of ways in which we can communicate with our users, emails, intranet homepages etc etc.

When it comes to SharePoint 2010 Mark believes there are 8 ways it can make a difference, Mark describes these as "agile" and "tailored" solutions and are as follows;

  1. Polls: these can be used to ask for feedback on anything.
  2. News: SharePoint allows you to tailor a section of a page to display stories
  3. News stories: users can read these and rate or like them
  4. Sharing news stories: users can share stories
  5. Tag new stories: users can tag a story or a word with phrases which allowed it to be retrieved in future
  6. Discussion forums allow people to provide feedback on a news story
  7. Blogs allow users to provide a personal view on a news story
  8. Podcasts can show and tell users how to do something in an informal relaxed style
The second blog post from James Robertson called "Comms & Technology facing the future together" is a wider look at how intranets and the technology changes we've seen in recent years are impacting on how internal communications are published. 


The post includes a presentation James delivered at the Melcrum Digital Communications Summit in Melbourne. This is a really interesting presentation which looks at how the developments to intranets are providing much richer and more interactive ways to communicate with users. Ultimately this means it's an exciting time to work in communications, especially if an intranet is your responsibility.

However it's not all plain sailing as historically communication teams and IT teams have clashed because there is a perception that technology teams talk geek and communication teams just talk news. Moving past these stereotypes will make for a more successful intranet and newer and more exciting ways to communicate with users. It's the how to do this that James talks about in a bit more detail in his blog post.


5 ways to make your intranet homepage more attractive

The Business 2 Community website has highlighted the importance of intranet homepages in its recent post "5 ways to make your intranet homepage more attractive and useful" If you're wondering if you can make your intranet homepage more attractive AND more useful, well yes you can!

So what are there suggestions for how you can improve in both these areas;

  1. Publish new content regularly. This seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me as intranets should be as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Of course, this always means the content needs to be accurate, there's no point publishing content that is inaccurate or that doesn't justify its inclusion on the intranet. The article does suggest ways in which you can find "fresh" content, including listening to what people are saying, attending meetings and re-publishing content from internal blogs.
  2. The next is an interesting suggestion to link to regularly used content after identifying it by looking at statistics and perhaps even what pages people are looking for. This suggestion will only work if you're able to generate statistics. It does sound like a good idea to link to content people are using regularly so that they can access even quicker.
  3. The third suggestion is two things, firstly to ensure your intranet is branded, this includes giving your intranet a name. The second suggestion is keep the design simple, friendly on the eye and uncluttered.
  4. The next suggestion is something that applies not just to your intranet homepage but your entire intranet and that is to emphasise and encourage good navigation. This means putting menus where users would expect to see them and to use titles that make sense to users.
  5. The final suggestion is to mix serious content with fun and engaging content. In reality this means striking a balance between official very corporate news and news that is more personal to individuals.

There are some good suggestions here as to how you could improve your intranet homepage. Ultimately of lot of what you're able to do will depend on the organisation you work for and the technology that supports your intranet.

[Picture credit -there is nothing more attractive than confidence from Flickr]

Social intranets evolution or revolution

The Techbubble blog has published an interesting blog post on Social intranets, which for anyone considering implementing a social intranet is well worth a read.

In the post called "Social intranets evolution or revolution" the author looks at some of the reasons why social intranets are becoming the norm in terms of intranets. The author then goes on to outline some of the challenges faced by organisations when implementing social intranets. 

According to the blog post there are 6 main benefits to implementing a social intranet, they are:

  1. Employee engagement - social intranets allow ALL employees to participate, not just those who have rights to edit the intranet or the intranet team
  2. Communications - social intranets have the potential to significantly improve the way an organisation communicates with its employees and the methods by which employees can communicate with management
  3. Knowledge capture - this is quite interesting, but unfortunately the author doesn't go into a lot of detail about how exactly social intranets can help capture knowledge. My perspective on this is that with social intranets comes much more personalisation and interaction, this usually takes the form of rich profiles, activity streams and group functionality. This functionality allows individuals to create more personalised workspaces where they can share knowledge more effectively.
  4. Collaboration - tools like wikis, blogs and activity streams help highlight work that other individuals are doing and help build on a collaborative culture
  5. Collective learning and training - This is the idea that a social intranet can "showcase" training and more value can be added by creating wikis and "topic forums" to support learning
  6. Innovation - From polls to toolboxes and widgets, social intranets can be truly innovative

There are of course a number of challenges that organisations will face when implementing social intranets including;

  • Technical issues
  • Knowledge management issues
  • Cultural issues
  • The social tool selection
  • Training
  • Governance and good practice

This is a useful article if you're interested in reading about some of the benefits and challenges associated with social intranets.

Can you make tacit knowledge...explicit?

Two excellent posts here which discuss whether you can make tacit knowledge (the stuff that is stored away in our minds or hidden somewhere else) explicit.

The first called "The great debate – tacit knowledge and collaborative technologies" is from the Brad Hinton Plain Speaking blog. The post looks at some of the challenges associated with trying to make tacit knowledge explicit. The post also looks at whether social media tools like blogs, wikis, forums and listservs can assist in the process of moving tacit knowledge to an explicit form. I wont ruin the post by saying too much more about it, but it has generated some interesting comments.

The second post called "Can tacit be made explicit" is from the Knowledge Jolt with Jack blog. Jack's post say both yes and no to the question of whether you can make tacit knowledge explicit. I agree with both answers and I imagine most people will to, but I'll leave it up to you to decide.


[Photo credit - trying to make tacit knowledge explicit from Flickr]

PLC Knowledge Management Forum

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the PLC Knowledge Management Forum. This was a one day event held at Haberdashers Hall aimed at Knowledge Managers, Professional Support Lawyers and Information Professionals. The format of the day was a mixture of panel sesions and individual presentations, with perspectives from Knowledge Managers and significantly clients.

The first session of the day What do your clients want from knowledge management was a panel session involving Katharine Ward from Vodafone, Matthew Whalley from Berwin Leighton Paisner and Tim Bratton, General Counsel at the Financial Times. The panel started by explaining what they did and what their expectations were in terms of Knowledge Management and clients.

Katharine explained how they received a lot of training/updates from their panel firms. They'd also participated in both secondments and reverse secondees, which they found useful. Vodafone also found having a Knowledge/Learning/Traning person at the pitch was useful in understanding what services the firm could provide them. Matthew then described his new role (Client Knowledge Manager) at Berwin Leighton Paisner. This is a centralised role with no ties to any practice groups. The role is to act as a liaison between teams and clients to understand what it is they can offer a client. Having previously worked at HSBC, Matthew is in an ideal position to understand what clients value and how a firm and knowledge management teams can deliver. The last panelist was Tim Bratton from the Financial Times. Tim listed three areas where he thought law firms and knowledge management teams could add value. They were as follows:

  • Mobile as a delivery platform - 50% of consumers are consuming information via mobiles or tablets. As a result we should be designing websites for mobile users not for desktop users. The future for want of a better word is "appified" and services which are only designed for use on desktops will flounder.
  • The next issue Tim talked about was the commodisation of legal services. This has been under discussion for a while now, but is especially pertinent when you think about the improvements in technology over the last five years. As a result law firms have almost become content providers, in that they're pushing out more and more content. Very much like the PLC model, which Tim suggested law firms should adopt.
  • The final issue Tim talked about was the growing importance of social media and how law firms need to give more consideration about how they provide services using social media tools. The best example of how a social media tool was being used successfully was Twitter and the Tweetups that have been organised by many groups across Twitter. This is an excellent example of how Twitter can create a powerful network and a sense of community.

  • The next session was a presentation from Katharine about how Vodafone has created a world class legal function (400 legal staff across 23 countries). This was a really interesting session, which looked at the knowledge management vision, including the teams use of technology (SharePoint 2007 and other collaborative tools) and how the team builds relationship, trust and confidence through face to face events (conferences and other meetings) and their use to technology; video conferencing and other more traditional communication tools. It was certainly interesting to hear how Vodafone were using different technologies to develop and build relationships, although it was interesting they weren't currently using Yammer. Katharine also discussed the Vodafone Legal Portal (built on SharePoint) which incorporated a number of features, including a Who's Who, a global map contains team information, know how, news on services and some collaboration tools (team sites in SharePoint).

    Katharine also talked about she and her team used a number of tools to commnicate with each other, these include blogs, Knowledge Maps and Knowledge Cafes. Katharine then looked at some of the ways in which external law firms can help with the development of their legal function ideas included; tailored seminars, global training, access to experts, secondments and KM forums. In her roundup Katharine looked at the work that they still need to do, this includes potentially setting targets for creating knowledge and improving both their collaboration tools and their document management system.

    The next two sessions although interesting were of "less" interest to me although I thought the points Matthew Whalley made in his presentation "Delivering successful client KM" were very interesting, especially his takeaway points, which were to:

    • Define your business goal - and be sure it is aligned with your firm's strategy
    • Align your strategy with an external, relationship based epistemology
    • Make sure you have in place elements that are key for delivering; board level support, clear goals, strategic alignment and perhaps most importantly a budget!
    • Pick your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), set a baseline and track them over time

    The last two sessions of the day were the ones that I was most interested in. The first of these was a presentation delivered by Loyita Worley on how Reed Smith is integrating Know How. This integration is centred around their use of DecisivSearch 7.1. In the first part of this session Loyita described some of the issues facing fee-earners at Reed Smith when it came to finding Know How, namely that there were too many databases and that fee-earners were looking for one place to find everything.

    Loyita then described how they were running DecisivSearch across SharePoint (where the know how was maintained) and allowed them to search and filter using various options. These options were defined by a focus group and include the document source, practice group and creation date. There are also options to allow filtering by Document Type, Application and Author.
     
    The final session was called "Becoming strategic in the use of social media for knowledge management" and was a quick fire look at some of the trends in content delivery and social media. This was supposed to be a panel session so Livio Hughes from the Dachis Group did well on his own to present on this very topical subject. The presentation started with a very detailed slide, which outlined some of the tools currently used and the idea of social business. Livio then described five key trends, which are affecting how businesses operate, they are:

    • Mobile - this reiterated what Tim had said earlier today and that table usage was overaking PC usage
    • Cloud computing - This is definitely appealing to law firms (look at our own virtualisation project) however theree are still some issues around ownership, security and reliability
    • The consumerisation of IT, including the opening up of data feeds from IT teams.
    • Big data, this is a growing challenge for many firms including law firms, around how they manage the amount of data that is being created. There is certainly an opportunity here around how Law Librarians/Knowledge Managers present data (on the intranet, within other tools)
    • The concept of social business or how social business can improve business performance through communication and/or engagement. I thought it was great that Livio described social business as encompassing connections, content, collaboration and culture. These are key elements of any social media project delivery.

    Livio's was certainly an interesting presentation, I'm not sure it contained anything groundbreaking though. Overall the forum was very interesting and it was good to see that a law of firms were using Yammer or looking at how they could use Yammer. 

    Tablets, tablets everywhere...

    Not that sort of tablet silly!
    Lets face it the use of tablets has become ubiquitous, with increasing number of fee-earners expecting their firm to support their usage. But with the benefits that come with a new technology come some unique challenges.

    It's these challenges which are the focus of the blog post "Tablets, tablets everywhere" on the SLAW blog.

    As interesting as the blog post are the comments that have been posted in response to it, I'd encourage you to read these.

    Legal week has also just posted an article on its site called "Business tool or just really cool - the rise of the iPad" which discusses how the iPad has moved from being a consumer tool to a valuable business tool within law firms.