SharePoint as a KM Tool

8 Oct

sharepointBy Holly Hanna, KM Firm Solutions Manager at Perkins Coie

Many law firms and law departments use SharePoint, either on premise or as part of Office 365, to host their intranet. As a hosting platform, SharePoint allows firms to publish content and link to important resources.

However, legal organizations can also use out of the box functionality to quickly build prototype knowledge management solutions, gather feedback from stakeholders, and then publish to targeted practices.

Lists and Libraries

SharePoint lists and document libraries are core SharePoint features. Files are stored in document libraries, and then linked in a list that is displayed on a page and made available to end users. This simple framework provides an ideal platform for prototyping legal knowledge management solutions.

Libraries can be used as a common repository for key practice documents and workflows can be added, so that when documents are submitted, they go through a review process before being given the ‘seal of approval’ and made available to practitioners.

In addition, many practices track resources and best practices in either Excel or Word. Such resources can be easily moved to a SharePoint list, giving attorneys additional functionality and flexibility.

With either a list or a library, you can create a scoped search that returns results against the specified target, making it easy for your end users to find the one piece of information they’re looking for in that specific data repository.

All About the Metadata

With both lists and libraries, the true strength of SharePoint as a knowledge management tool lies in the ability to apply metadata columns and enforce data types and field entries – functionality that doesn’t exist with a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.

For example, if you’d like to create a searchable list of state blue sky laws and associated requirements, you can create data columns based on whether there are exceptions available, whether plan and regulation D filings are required, fee information, etc. You can set some columns to be required, and you can also give users a dropdown of options to select from, ensuring that data remains normalized; users can also attach associated documents for reference purposes. Views of your list can then be created (e.g., show only laws with an employee benefit plan exemption) and those views can be added to a SharePoint page that is available to practitioners.

SharePoint on Steroids: Office 365

To be successful, any knowledge management repository needs to be easy to contribute to, easy to update, and easy to search. On premise SharePoint solutions are both easy to update and easy to search, but adding new content can be challenging for end users. Workflows are difficult to create, and intake forms need to be created and managed using InfoPath 2010 (a deprecated Microsoft product) or a separately licensed product such as K2 or Nintex.

However, with Office 365, we can take advantage of Flow and PowerApps to easily create intake and workflow solutions. Workflow solutions can display different fields to different users depending on their level of permissions, so an approver can see a set of data prompts that a submitter cannot. The form itself is modern and intuitive. And since it’s a cloud solution, it can also be made available from a mobile device if desired.

Microsoft also has a robust artificial intelligence (AI) platform that holds promise for legal organizations looking for new and innovative ways to interact with key data resources.

Conclusion

While many legal organizations use SharePoint as an intranet platform, it is also a valuable knowledge management tool that allows you to quickly spin up prototypes and proofs of concept, validate with your stakeholders, and publish to your practice groups. Practices that are currently using Word or Excel to manage key resources will be better served by moving those solutions into SharePoint. And Office 365 provides new avenues for knowledge management solutions with a focus on the end user experience and ease of use.

One Response to “SharePoint as a KM Tool”

  1. LSC Network October 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Legal Tech Talent Network.

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