I recently attended an event on knowledge management and web 2.0 held at a major Boston law firm for people who work in knowledge management at legal firms. I served on a panel, Blogging as Knowledge Management. Jack Vinson, who also served on the panel covered our session in his post, NY-Toronto Law Firm KM Summit 2008 in Boston, so I defer to him. I tend to get caught up in the conversation and find it hard to blog a session that I am involved with.
However, I did take notes on the excellent following session about wikis use in law firms, primarily for knowledge management. It was led by two experienced knowledge management professionals with major firms. They shared their experiences within their firms. The two examples make for interesting contrasting examples. A third of the audience also said they use wikis in their law firms.
The first example was a Canadian law firm with 100 lawyers and 100 support staff. Prior to the wiki, documents were stored individually in folders on a shared drive with no consistency. People did not attempt to find them there but sent emails to colleagues to find stuff. I have talked with a number of firms where this occurs, There was also no search engine on the old intranet. IT was under staffed with too many projects to fix this issue. So the knowledge management people looked at wikis. They were already using Domino so they choose the Domino wiki for their initial effort. The IT people were happy because it was inside firewall.
IT set up a shell structure for the wikis and then KM took over. There were wikis for different practice groups and they were searchable. There was one for content management with tags to narrow the browsing. Another group set up a wiki for contact information with the courts and other places. A third group set up a wiki for employment contracts with links to leading cases. There was also a wiki for students for educational materials
Their early success created a big demand. Every group wanted wikis. Updating was given to assistants, clerks & associates. However the technology was not perfect. You had to sign on separately for each wiki and they were creating silos of information. To solve this issue they looked at a number of enterprise tools and found most too feature rich and complex for lawyers to use them.
They went with Thought Farmer for its simplicity and ease of interface. (see my review - ThoughtFarmer – Intranet 2.0). It has Web 2.0 features – staff profile, tagging, RSS, social networking, email publishing, - also search with relevancy ranking. They started with a pilot of 20 people for 2 months. Then after initial success they moved all data over to Thought Farmer for a May 12 launch.
The wiki was now the only intranet and document management system. It tracks recent changes and who did it and you can see their picture. KM allows others to add tags and supplements existing tags. Since May 12: 416 pages created, 776 documents added, 299 links crated 18 comments added.
The benefits from the wiki include enabling personal knowledge management within each person’s individual profile page. People added to their profiles: their commonly referred documents, their articles & presentations, It has also spread updating to others, improved collaboration, and made it easier to find information
The presenter’s thoughts on lessons learned include: select an easy to use tool, do not force participation, transfer the process of updating to groups and develop a process for each group. You should also offer training and share success stories. They held individual training in 10 to 15 minute sessions.
They have found that not all users will be active contributors and the ROI is hard to measure. The tool should also be more Blackberry friendly. However, overall it seems to be a great success. They are going to upgrade to the new version of Thought Farmer that will have blogs, forums, and calendar. This is enough for one day. Tomorrow I will cover a Sharepoint wiki example and also briefly mention the session which preceded ours.