Get Your Message Out: Promoting KM in Your Organization

3 Dec

PromoBy Jennifer P. Mendez, KM Firm Solutions Manager, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

As knowledge management (KM) professionals, our oft-stated goal is to identify, create, and share salient information and experience across our organizations. We want to get the “right information to the right people at the right time.” But in a setting where individuals can be protective and skeptical, we need to do more than just demonstrate KM’s value; we must actively promote it. While promoting KM can be a formidable undertaking, it is certainly worth the effort. Below are a few ways I have found especially helpful in effectively promoting KM within a legal organization.

Get Buy-in from the Top

Establishing a KM department is only half the battle; it is nearly impossible to make progress in KM without top-down support. KM often requires a change in firm culture and work practices. Therefore, firm leaders that value knowledge sharing and a culture of collaboration are essential to the promotion and adoption of KM. Firm leaders, senior managers, and key influencers must be encouraged to act as KM champions within firms. These influential groups of people should set examples for the rest of the organization by participating in knowledge sharing, collaboration, and incorporating KM tools into everyday work. Once you have buy-in from the top, let them communicate the importance of KM to the rest of the organization. Identify the individuals that embrace and see the value in KM and let them to evangelize. Having firm leaders that are willing to promote KM leads to greater adoption of KM technologies, processes, and initiatives.

Highlight and Train on Resources

While KM is more than just technology, technology remains a catalyst to KM’s practice and adoption. Unfortunately, some attorneys undoubtedly resist KM efforts simply because they are technology-based. This is a tough nut to crack, but it can be done.

First, members of your organization should know not only the technology-based resources available to them, but why they should want to use them. The best way I have found is to promote examples of “use of tool = more business,” which tend to resonate with all attorneys. This kind of promotion is especially effective when that message comes from the attorney who is the subject of the success story.

Second, technology comes easy to some but not to others, making an effective training program critical. While in-person training sessions are always the best, periodic live WebEx sessions are also effective, provided the courses are interactive and punchy. We have also found that our KM Counsel (a/k/a Practice Support Lawyers) are best suited to training other lawyers on KM tools since they can talk the talk. Of course, training sessions should present information about KM tools in ways that are clear, succinct, accurate, and foster comprehension. Any more than 15 to 20 minutes and your remote audience will be lost to multi-tasking.

Word-of-Mouth

With so much technology at our fingertips, we often forget one of the most powerful ways to internally promote our services is not through advertisements, firm-wide emails, or announcements on the firm intranet, but through good ol’ reliable word-of-mouth from fans. The best way to get people to sing KM’s praises is to do great work and help someone at every given opportunity and whenever possible.

When you have saved the day helping attorneys locate model documents, experts, or pre-existing work product, they are often happy to promote you to others who are having difficulty locating the information they need. When you have helped secretaries locate the New Business Intake or direct deposit forms, they will share your greatness with their colleagues. If you are doing your job correctly and giving folks access to the knowledge and information they need, they will happily spread the word. A referral from the right person can go a long way in promoting KM within your organization, especially when it comes as a “Reply All” to an “All Attorney” email asking for help.

Measure Value and Share Results

Metrics in KM has been discussed and brooded over for quite some time. Metrics are important and informative; they help prove that KM has an impact on the bottom-line, provides a value-added service to firm clients, and helps people work more efficiently. However, it is often difficult to measure the value KM provides in real dollars and cents. The key is to find something to measure. I am not suggesting that you make up numbers or measure insignificant statistics, but if you look close enough, you will find something meaningful.

Think about usage and adoption rates for a firm intranet to demonstrate the value of that resource. To promote enterprise search, you can look at the number of searches conducted or the decrease in firm-wide “PTI” emails. By measuring the amount of time each attorney saves for every firm-wide email eliminated by your enterprise search tool, you should be able to make a case for time-savings, efficiency, and – potentially – revenue generation.

Having KM Counsel record their time is another way to demonstrate the value provided by KM efforts. A valuable metric is to compare the time KM Counsel spent creating exemplar documents and templates (much of which would be non-billable or written off under flat-fee agreements) to the number of times the final template is actually used by an attorney. Doing so will allow you to estimate the amount of actual time KM Counsel save your firm’s attorneys – allowing them to focus on actual billable work.

When all else fails, conduct surveys and generate metrics based on the responses. The goal is to measure something – anything – to demonstrate KM’s value. If you look hard enough, you will find great numbers to support your department’s efforts.

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