PLC Knowledge Management Forum 2013

Last year I was lucky enough to attend the PLC Knowledge Management forum for free, this year my firm was happy to pay for me to attend as there were some useful sounding sessions. I found the event last year really interesting and was looking forward to a similar event this year especially as they had retained the services of Katharine Ward of Vodafone as Chair of the event.

The day itself was divided into a series of themes with a mixture of plenary (everyone attended) and interactive sessions. Before our first themed session we had a very interesting presentation from Carol Aldridge of Burges Salmon. Carol looked at the future of Knowledge Management and what it would look like in 2020. There were 3 main takeaways from her presentation, which were:

  • We need to be enhancing how lawyers can deliver more for less
  • We to make more effective use of collaborative tools in our new technological age
  • We need to ensure that we gain buy in from senior management. This ensures that we remain relevant

After Carol's opening presentation we moved on to the first theme of the day, which was Technology. Now I was quite excited about the first presentation of this theme which was called "Managing media channels to deliver content: capture knowledge and absorb and distribute" Sadly I was going to be disappointed, although now the event is over looking at the presentation title I can see what they were trying to achieve.

The session started with an introduction to some of the formal and informal social media tools we currently use and then asked the question how do we share knowledge with clients using these types of tools. Now it would have been really interesting to have heard some ideas about how we could do this. Unfortunately we were then shown a series of what I'm going to call "portals" built using software from the search engine giant Autonomy and populated with RSS feeds and other content. Now 10 years ago this might have been groundbreaking but to me it just looked like a web page with RSS content on it supported by a very good search engine. I think I said on Twitter that social media sessions can be quite difficult to get right and sadly this one didn't quite cut it.

The next session definitely didn't disappoint and again it was on a subject I'm quite interested in, the Cloud. In the session Mark Collins "Expertise Enablement Officer" (you have to love that job title) at Zurich provided a really useful introduction to what the Cloud is, the different types of Cloud and some of the benefits of using the Cloud. I think most Law Firms are aware of what the Cloud is, but it seems that it has only been in recent years that they've become more positive about the potential uses for the cloud. Perhaps the most interesting part of Mark's presentation was around some of the issues associated with the Cloud and how these can be mitigated. These risks include Data Protection including issues with data centres being situated outside of the EU; security, specifically ISO 27001, which is an information security management systems standard and perhaps most significantly a lack of understanding around what some of the issues are. Of course there are ways to mitigate the risks with using the cloud, these include picking your cloud model and supplier carefully. Out of all the sessions delivered during the day this was certainly the most practical and Mark delivered what is quite a technical subject in a very engaging manner.

The next session was delivered by Katharine Ward and whilst it was interesting it was a bit of a rehash of the presentation she delivered at last years forum so I'm not going to write anything further about it. As you can read my notes from last years Knowledge Management Forum. Following Katharine we heard from Helen Barker (Professional Support Lawyer at BAE Systems PLC) who described some of the knowledge systems they used at BAE Systems. These systems include a virtual information system called Ivis and a lot of examples of how BAE had used webinar technologies. These were described as a key resource for lawyers, especially where they sit in different jurisdictions/time zones. Helen also described how Knowledge Sharing across BAE Systems wasn't uniform, with different initiatives happening in different offices. However what Helen did say was that no matter what the jurisdiction Knowledge Management objectives take time to achieve and this is a key consideration.

The next session was the first interactive session and was one I'd been looking forward to as it was a panel session involving Ruth Ward of Allen & Overy and Oz Benamram of White & Case. The session was called "Using portals and search to surface and share legal knowledge" and was a whistlestop tour of some of the tools we now have available to share legal knowledge. However before the "tour" Ruth and Oz outlined the challenge that we as Knowledge Managers and Information Professionals face compared to 10 years ago. So 10 years ago the biggest challenge was providing access to information. Now one of the biggest challenges we face is not providing access to information, but how we shift through the information that we have. Ruth described this as a move from access to information to attention management and cited Linex as a good example of how personalisation is useful in attention management.

We were then taken on a tour of some of the tools available to Knowledge Managers and our starting point was a subject close to my heart; social intranets/internal collaboration tools. Ruth and Oz described how intranets will continue to see lots of development, with a continued shift from traditional to more interesting and social ways of presenting information. They also described how collaboration tools would continue their move from the consumer world to behind the firewall. Behind the firewall they're continuing to be used as dynamic organic resources for sharing knowledge and collaborating with colleagues. Ruth and Oz then looked at two more concepts, which were Document and Matter Management and the role of search. I'm very interested in how search tools can be used so it was interesting to hear how Linklaters were using Autonomy as a search tool,  but with a customised interface. We also saw some examples of how White & Case were using DecisivSearch to display experience and manage matters and I have to say it looked impressive.

The final session of the day was a really interesting talk from Jane Keen of Intel Corporation. Jane, who it should be noted had literally just flown back from San Francisco, told the forum a story about how KM has and is still being implemented within the Intel Corporation. This was full of some really interesting observations on how KM can and cant work. For example she told a really interesting story about how they had rolled out a wiki tool for some of their lawyers and whilst it was well populated initially when it come to editing the wiki individuals were less positive about doing this. This was a really interesting final session and Jane delivered it with real enthusiasm and it was a very positive and fun way to end the day.

So overall another excellent day, my one comment would be that it was noticeable how few Law Librarians there were attending this year. I think that has something to do with the cost, also a significant part of the forum was aimed squarely at Professional Support Lawyers and Knowledge Managers rather then Law Librarians.