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.