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How to Survive Complex Projects, Part 2: Commitment to the User Experience

7 Mar

By Andrea Alliston, Partner, Knowledge Management, and Nicola Shaver, Director of Knowledge Management, Stikeman Elliott LLP

In part 1 of this series, the authors discussed how to decide whether to pursue a major project and convince leadership of its value. Ed.

With decision making and project approval behind you, the next step is to start work on the design and detailed requirements.   In our enterprise search project, the research from the decision-making stage made it clear that we had much work to do to improve our user experience.  As a result, the theme we wanted to capture in our design and requirements was a relentless commitment to user experience.   The underlying theme for your projects may be different.  The point is to understand your theme and focus on it throughout the project.

Design for Success

The design phase of a software development project can be defined in many ways. In KM projects, design usually is about matching your users’ needs with the applicable technology’s functionality (and constraints).  Our strategy of putting the user experience first required us to engage a UX expert to help us to create user journeys, identify desired outcomes within the limits of our technology platform, and make tough decisions about our KM content and its management.  Do not underestimate the value of specialized expertise at this point in a project.

In addition to seeking expert advice, now is the time to engage your users and have them get their hands dirty. We used two techniques with our users.

  • We held card sorting workshops for lawyers to determine the system’s structure from a content perspective.
  • We convened focus groups to gather feedback on our wireframes and proposed functionality.

A set of design principles that set the tone of the project should come from the design exercise, along with the details needed to prepare the requirements. As one designer notes, “Design principles articulate the fundamental goals that all decisions can be measured against and thereby keep the pieces of a project moving toward an integrated whole.”  Your design principles should reflect your particular project; ours were the following.

  1. Keep the interface simple and intuitive
  2. Restrict filters to a maximum of 7, plus or minus 2, per page
  3. Avoid customization where possible
  4. Allow for flexibility in accessing content
  5. Provide a bilingual interface
  6. Include all filters as part of the search snippet

Business and Functional Requirements

Projects are more successful when a clear set of business and functional requirements are documented; they ensure that the business stakeholders, the internal technology team and the vendor are on the same page. Where do you start?

Some of you will be fortunate enough to have a business analyst in your firm. Indeed, engaging business analysts in law firms either on a contract or permanent basis seems to be on the rise.  But, what if you are not so lucky? Not having a business analyst role, we used the KM/UX consultant we were working with and our internal KM resources to create the needed documentation.

Our business requirements were comprised of annotated wireframes, descriptive narrative, and spreadsheets (see screen shot from one of the pages).   However, depending on your project, you will also need detailed functional technology requirements for the developers.  Once a draft is ready, the requirements should be circulated and reviewed in detail with both your technology team and vendor.

Lessons Learned

Stick to the design principles: We needed to simplify various aspects of our search implementation to be responsive to user feedback.   Our mantra became “less is more.”  While it sounds easy, it was very difficult to give up certain content management practices we had used for years.  We constantly second guessed ourselves and worried about making a mistake, getting it wrong, and losing what we once had.  We needed to be quite disciplined with this part of the project and, so far so good.  No one misses anything we took away and the benefits of sticking with our design principles are paying off.    

Discuss with the vendor: Once we had a sense of our desired design, we had early discussions with the vendor to explore options for some key functionality and get the vendor’s input on design elements we were considering.  The goal was to tap into the vendor’s expertise and address any potential issues early on in the project.

Get into the details:  Our business and functional requirements were developed when we had time to be thoughtful about what we were trying to achieve.  Being able to go back to those requirements when we were later under pressure gave us confidence about our decisions and the right path forward.

Coming up in part 3: In our next post, we look at project planning as a critical step in putting your design and requirements into action.

The Evolution of IT Geeks into KM Geeks

10 Feb

evolutionBy Kathryne Valentine, Knowledge Management Solutions Manager, Dentons US LLP

As a Knowledge Management (KM) Solutions Manager, I am often asked what I do and how I arrived where I am today. Like many of my generation, I fell into information technology (IT) accidentally.  Particularly on the IT support-side, people suddenly found themselves in this new role simply because nothing came before.  It wasn’t until people with no background in technology were told to use computers to do their customary work and were expected to somehow know how to do so that new support roles began to emerge, roles for trainers, documentation writers, service desk analysts, interface designers, and all around IT geeks.  Remember, this was in a time long before Google and YouTube videos were around to help interested people quickly learn how to perform discrete tasks.

I believe IT people fall into two groups. The first group is the IT machine-people; these are the engineers, programmers, network geeks, and many others who relish the mechanics and general geekiness found in machines.  We really need these people, but often they are reserved and prefer talking to other people – especially end-users – only if and when necessary.  If they could or would articulate it, they might say something like this, “Please don’t make me explain this to a user; we don’t even speak the same language.”

And, this is where the second group of IT people comes into play. The second group, which includes me, is the IT people-people.  We are those who now fill the new roles that sprang up in the late 1990s and early 2000s as people in all work environments were permitted and then encouraged to interact directly with computers to do their job.

I remember seeing the first IBM PC on the floor of the large insurance company where I worked, standing out there all alone, and wondering, “What would you do with that thing?” No one knew.  We had to figure it out.  At about the same time that machine rolled in, I happened to be looking for a change from the training I had been doing on the sales side of the business and the company sought someone who knew that side of the business but could learn about computers.  So, for the next three years, I travelled around the country talking to the salespeople about how they could use computers to help automate much of their manual work and become more efficient.  Of course, the salespeople were receptive because greater efficiency means more productive, which means more money in their world.

After this program was introduced, the company next needed a system for tracking and managing support calls from the field and – voila – the first help desk was born. In those days, most of the calls had nothing to with things not working; rather, the calls came from people looking for ideas on how to better manage and use the information they were generating.

I next became an entrepreneur and entered the completely different real estate development and construction project management industry. We too bought a computer and printer, as well as a new miracle technology – the facsimile, or fax, machine.  Again, we had to figure out how to incorporate all of these new gadgets into doing business.  In this interlude, I needed to teach myself how to use the programs we bought to run our business, including the likes of WordPerfect, Lotus 1.2.3 and Quicken.   We weren’t learning the programs to become proficient in the programs. Instead we were trying to learn how to use them to solve real business problems and manage our growing business.  This taught me the most valuable lesson that I have carried throughout my IT career: IT people in support roles need to focus on how people work and the specific tasks they need to accomplish.  I also learned to quickly identify the most tedious tasks in people’s work and ask, “Is there a better way to do that?”

Fast forward several years and I found myself developing classroom training for federal government agencies in Washington, DC, which led to working with law firms in training, help desk support, and overall problem-solving for impatient and frustrated lawyers whose primary complaint was, “I just want to practice law; I don’t want to have to become a rocket scientist to use this computer.” There, I learned a very simple lesson that I have applied ever since: find out what the person wants to accomplish, ask questions, and listen.

By asking questions and listening closely to the answers, you learn the business that you support. You simply cannot be effective in technology support if you do not understand the business the people you support are immersed in every day.  Fortunately, this is precisely where IT people-people shine. We like communicating with our end-users, we like solving real business problems, and we like discovering new ways to perform tasks.  And in the practice of law, the observation made earlier about working in sales rings equally true:  more efficient means more productive, which means more money.

So 1000 or so words into this post, you may have noticed that KM hasn’t reappeared since the first paragraph. Where and how does KM come back into the story?  Many years of approaching IT support from the perspective of analyzing and understanding how people work to help them solve real business problems made for a natural and seamless transition into KM.  When the large firm I was working in combined with another large firm, team and role realignment opened the opportunity for me to move from IT into KM – another field that hadn’t existed and sprang into prominence at some point while I was out there in the working world minding my own and other people’s business.

In KM, the same rules apply. Doing your job well requires focusing on and getting to really know the business, what it does, how it makes money, and what its goals and visions for growth and sustainability are.  You need to know how all of this translates into the needs of the people doing the actual work. And, you need to remember that these people generally have no background in either IT or KM and likely have no interest in necessarily learning much about either.  They simply want to get their work done well.  Once you know and understand this and find out what their current problem or need is, you can identify better ways to accomplish the task at hand and explain the benefits of doing the task differently.  When approached this way, IT support and KM make their end-users happy and productive. And, they will return to us again and again with more tasks that need to be done in a better way.

Four Lessons Lawyers Can Learn from Software Developers

31 Oct

yingand-yangBy Dan Hauck, CEO, ThreadKM

While many may not realize it, lawyers could learn a great deal by examining how software developers work and solve problems. A few years ago, I spent every day with outstanding lawyers while practicing at a large firm. It was a great experience that eventually led me to the world of legal technology. Now I work every day with incredibly talented software developers. Reflecting on this transition, I have come to realize that for all the differences between lawyers and developers, profound similarities exist.

But let’s start by stating the obvious: lawyers and software developers often fall on opposite ends of the technology spectrum. Some lawyers openly profess to not understanding technology, despite the fact that the American Bar Association and numerous states enacted a duty of competency surrounding the use of technology in the practice of law. By contrast, most developers love exploring new tech, eager to try out the latest apps and devices. And while lawyers typically excel in the soft skills of argument, persuasion and compromise, software developers are proficient in math and computer science – precision-based disciplines needed to build great code.

Fascinating, however, is that lawyers and software developers alike are considered knowledge workers. Both often are engaged in “non-routine problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking.”  In short, they are paid to devise solutions, not just follow instructions.

Neither lawyers nor developers produce work in a vacuum. Rather, they focus on solving particular problems for their clients. A developer’s client could be an external paying customer or the developer’s own company. Either way, solving the problem generally involves a combination of education, experience, original research, and effort. And, that is knowledge work in a nutshell.

Watching how developers approach their clients’ problems has taught me some valuable lessons that lawyers would be wise to adopt in their own practice.

Lesson One: Plan, Then Execute

Although this may seem obvious, for many lawyers opening a new matter triggers an urgent rush to act. Whether jumping in with research assignments or document drafting, doing something feels productive. But, is that the best approach?

When starting a new software development project, writing code is among the last steps a developer completes. Before starting, good developers spend significant time planning the project, asking the client questions like:

  • What is your goal? Often, the client’s goal can be accomplished in a better way that differs from what the client initially had in mind. Understanding the goal helps formulate the best course of action.
  • What seems to be the best way to reach your goal and what risks might require us to change our plan? Developers look well down the road to envision the completed project to visualize both the end point and every step needed to get there. Developers frequently use kanban boards to visualize the process, a method becoming increasingly popular with lawyers, as well.
  • What tools and people are needed to best execute our plan and will those resources be available? Rarely can a project be handled by one person. Ensuring the right resources are in place – people with the appropriate knowledge and skills – when needed is critical to understanding how and when a project can be delivered.

Lawyers should ask similar questions before beginning work on their next matter. The planning process doesn’t take too much time and is essential for building a path toward client success. And, in most cases it may even be billable. Clients appreciate your taking time at the outset to plan their work because doing so can help prevent costly mistakes.

Lesson Two: Automate, Don’t Repeat Common Tasks

As observed above, a key component of knowledge work is original effort. If the same task has been repeated hundreds or thousands of times with little or no variation, it no longer remains a problem that a knowledge worker need solve. The task is ripe for automation.

tasks

The image to the left illustrates the lifecycle of a task that can be automated. The first several times require significant planning, research, and effort. But over time, the task becomes more familiar, risks diminish, and the process takes less time to complete. As a process matures, the task can be automated.

Automation brings many benefits. First, it reduces the likelihood of error when completing the task. Second, it increases both quality and consistency. And third, it increases the volume of work that can be completed in the same amount of time.

Software developers are experts at identifying and building solutions that automate repetitive tasks. Once developers have done a task several times, they begin looking for ways to automate that task going forward.

Somewhat slowly, automation is taking root in legal work. Tools like document assembly, automated contract review, and technology-assisted e-discovery all are examples of how automation is making traditional, repetitive tasks faster and more reliable. Yet many lawyers still refuse to incorporate them into everyday practice, even though the firms that are leveraging these tools have a distinct advantage in attracting new clients.

Lesson Three: Ditch Blame, Embrace Process Improvement

Like many of us, lawyers want their work to be perfect. But, too many lawyers assume that if no problems cropped up, their work was in fact perfect. In reality, this rarely is the case as numerous important documents that top law firms have drafted have been rife with errors. (Read here, for example.) To lawyers, an error means that something has gone wrong, which in turn means someone’s work was not perfect. Mistakes are always blamed on people instead of on processes; and, the tendency to place blame on someone generally outstrips even the desire to solve the problem.

In the engineering world, big mistakes also happen – mistakes like, for instance, causing $135M worth of damage to a satellite…by dropping it on the floor.  Or, like accidentally erasing all of the animation files for Toy Story 2 during the film’s production.  While both instances involved individual mistakes, they stemmed from process failures. In the latter, a single computer command deleted Pixar’s next big film release. But, rather than lead a witchhunt for the guilty finger that pushed the button, management chose to empower the engineers to recover the film and put new processes in place to make sure this kind of accident would never happen again.

In law firms, the instinct to assign blame for errors can be powerful. And, it’s not always useful. Lawyers faced with grave errors in delivery of their services should first ask themselves what they can do to immediately fix the problem for the client and, as soon as the fire is squelched, examine the causes – causes that go well beyond who made the mistake. Was sufficient time allocated to review and check work-product before submission? Was something missed because research tools were inadequate or users were improperly trained? Were responsibilities miscommunicated? All of these questions can help formulate processes that prevent mistakes in the future.

Lesson Four: Hourly Billing Is Okay – If You Are Efficient

The debate over the billable hour is unending. Yes, it can reward inefficiency and create cost uncertainty. But here is an interesting fact: most software developers also charge for their time, in one-hour increments or by the day or week. If developers are so smart, why can’t they figure out a better way to price?

The answer goes back to the core idea of knowledge work as solving non-routine problems. When the problem and solution are familiar, the appropriate cost also is familiar. Certain types of legal work – for instance, creating an entity or filing immigration applications – can be easily packaged into a simple fee, and more and more lawyers are taking this approach for these types of matters. These tasks are also well-suited for automation, meaning the lawyer can focus on generating higher volume.

On the other hand, if you face a non-routine problem, the issues that arise are difficult to anticipate in advance. The time it takes to address those issues is likewise difficult to calculate. For a software developer, the only hedge against a problem is the charge for his or her time. On the flip side, the client’s protection is that the software developer excels at planning and has access to the best tools and people to complete the task efficiently.

The same is true for lawyers. While some tasks can be automated, many still require original effort to develop a solution for the client. Any number of things can arise to complicate that process. Charging for time makes sense. But that also means assuring your client that you have the best tools, people and processes to complete the work.

Lawyers and software developers certainly could exchange many more lessons. The key is recognizing that despite the differences between the two professions, the end goal of client satisfaction is exactly the same.

Getting Lawyers into Tech Training

28 Jan

Training1By Susan G. Manch, Partner, SJLShannon LLC

I recently attended a program at the Professional Development Consortium led by Casey Flaherty, General Counsel of Kia Motors. He did not talk about cars; rather, he continued spreading his message that clients expect their outside counsel to be technically capable. For anyone who has not seen the video that introduces Flaherty’s joint venture with Suffolk University, the Suffolk-Flaherty Tech Audit, you should watch it (and squirm) now at http://www.legaltechaudit.com/#video.

The video really says it all: most associates and partners have woefully inadequate technical skills and outdated understanding of the programs available to make their processes more efficient and their work more accurate with fewer billable hours. Flaherty notes one simple editing task from his audit that anyone with average technical skill could do in an hour, but took typical associates five hours to complete. These were not sophisticated tasks or arcane software uses; they were commonplace tasks like using Styles and Cross Referencing in Word and Sort and Filter in Excel. As a buyer of services billed by the hour, Flaherty takes this personally and describes it as, “Outrageous sums for unnecessary busywork”.

When I was in-house leading the Learning & Development group at Bingham McCutchen (yes they are gone, but many of their innovations will not be forgotten), our resident tech training guru, Norman Aguon, brought the original Kia Motors audit to my attention in January 2013. At that time, had you reviewed our tech training across Bingham on all the usual software programs, you would have likely thought it broad and robust. The problem was that no one attended the training. With a large stable of tech clients, the firm recognized a need to be prepared for a possible tech audit request. So, the Learning & Development and IT Training teams collaborated to create a new approach that would appeal to busy lawyers (and paralegals and assistants) who desperately needed it. Three things were certain; the program had to be:

  • short,
  • focused on one or two related functions, and
  • hands-on and interactive.

In other words, no more hour-long webinars alone at your desk staring at a screen while catching up on Facebook on your iPhone.

Dubbed “Tech Tuesdays,” the program presented 15 to 20 minutes of intensely focused, informal and interactive training. Granted, the real attraction may have the snacks or happy hour that followed each of these quick bursts of pithy, hands-on training.

Delivered monthly, session topics were based on ideas solicited from associates, representing their biggest challenges with Office, Adobe, SharePoint, and other programs. The IT Training and Learning & Development teams met weekly to discuss program feedback, ideas for new sessions, and how to best market the program.

Maybe it was the beer, but lawyers kept coming back. And, they told us they learned. Not only did we see lawyers’ technical confidence increase, we also saw our IT trainers’ understanding of our lawyers’ software needs expand. Our Learning & Development and IT Training teams’ effective collaboration yielded a productive outcome and pushed us all to be more creative in designing tech training that our lawyers would actually attend.

KM as Agents of Adoption

31 Oct

agentBy Gwyneth McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie

Like many of you, I often start my day scanning the Pinhawk Law Technology Daily Digest while waiting for the coffee to kick in. The three-part series called “Why Do Law Firms Struggle With Strategic IT” (see part I, part II and part III), by David Houlihan, Esq. of BlueHill Research, caught my eye. It dissects why law firms are not doing more in response to calls for innovation and disruption, possible obstacles preventing the shift to more strategic IT, and thoughts on how to overcome those obstacles. Blame it on a lack of caffeine, but I immediately interpreted the series through the lens of my current problem: adoption of Knowledge Management resources and productivity tools. Like the IT departments discussed in the series, KM programs often roll out new tools and resources with hopes for high adoption only to have those hopes fall short in reality. Low adoption makes it difficult to show return on investment and get budget for the next projects, even those that promise innovation and disruption. If adoption is essential to continuing investment, how can we improve it?

The Adoption Challenge

Because attorneys are timekeepers, the time they spend on nonbillable activities – such as sharing feedback, participating in pilots, reading rollout communications, training, and changing their behavior – roughly equates to time spent on the couch. This causes resistance to change, lack of engagement with technology, and no time for learning about possible solutions to their business problems. So our efforts to teach attorneys how new innovations can help their practice often fall on deaf ears. With the pressure they are under, who could blame them? Can a robust adoption program conquer such obstacles?

Objectives of an Adoption Program

Strategies that tie our solutions more closely to attorneys’ problems could be the answer. The goal is to insinuate solutions into workflows to shift the burden from the attorneys back to ourselves. Ask yourself whether you are addressing the following objectives across the board and building on what works in your firm.

  • Focus on Ongoing Education, Not Rollout. The rollout fanfare is somewhat self-serving on our part. We want our project to be over and so we inundate users with rollout communications and training when it is most convenient for us – the end of our project. What happens next tends to be fairly ad hoc. Since no one remembers anything during a rollout, reduce the commitment to rollout and redirect that time and effort to ongoing adoption activities.
  • Go to the Attorneys. Stop assuming that attorneys read and digest our emails. We need to visit the attorneys where they are, in real-time. That means walking the halls and popping into offices, making time to attend and participate in regularly scheduled practice group and office meetings, and coordinating with Attorney Development to be part of their CLE-accredited programming. Though a huge time commitment, this direct touch can pay off. Live conversation often brings unexpected issues to light and you can shift your focus accordingly to make the time invested even more valuable and relevant.
  • Target the Audience. Preparing one set of materials for training and ongoing communications about our resources and tools is easy. But, different practice areas really are…well, different. Examples relevant to one group may not resonate with another. Our communications (whether written, live, or recorded) must be tailored with examples and situations for each practice group so that, for instance, litigators can see how your great new solution will help them litigate without the noise of the solution’s transactional application.
  • Marketing and Promotion. Take a marketing approach to adoption. While trying to convince someone to use your widget, you are actually educating them about it.  Maybe some enticing brochures that quickly and effectively convey the what, why and how of your resources or a trade-show booth at attorney retreats to show off the latest and greatest would serve your cause. We do a booth at our Partner Planning Conference to showcase a variety of services (with giveaways for visitors, of course!) and, after some growing pains, we are seeing some success in getting the word out about new resources.
  • Tie to the Larger Business Environment. We are often more current on changes in the legal industry that affect the business of law than our attorneys are. Think of how, for example, AFAs, the legal tech audit, and legal project management (LPM) have changed the conversation in recent years. When promoting our resources and tools, we need to include the context of the larger business environment so our attorneys understand the importance of evolving their practice. When working with practice groups on developing their forms and precedents libraries, consider conveying the strong client demand for LPM and the vital contribution KM resources paly in LPM’s success. It is not just about individual legal skills anymore, my friend!
  • Be the Concierge. Our attorneys do not care which department sponsors which resources. We should ensure KM knows about the full panoply of offerings across the firm and acts as a concierge. When attorneys have problems, do not make them forum shop; rather, help them with the solution. In this way, KM acts as an advisor and problem-solver.  When we match solutions to problems, adoption follows.   And, this leads to my final point…

Be an Agent of Adoption

I have been a little vague in talking about “resources and tools” to allow you to assume I have been talking only about what is in your world. Actually, I think KM professionals are ideally suited to take on broader adoption activities. While we need to learn about and tackle adoption challenges for our own KM resources and tools, are we not equally well-positioned to bring value to attorneys by matching their business needs with other technology tools and firm resources that enhance their productivity? Assuming many KM programs have an ultimate goal of increasing attorney productivity, does it matter whether what makes an attorney more productive comes from KM, IT, or Finance? To become an agent of adoption, consider developing a program that targets not just your own department’s efforts, but also anything that enhances attorney productivity. Being an attorney-adoption clearinghouse puts us right in the middle of bringing meaningful solutions to attorneys.

What adoption challenges do you face? How have you successfully overcome these challenges? Are you an agent of adoption in your firm? Please contribute your experience and ideas in the comments below!

Directing Traffic: Delivering Content through Roadblocks and Highways

1 Oct

Picture1By Jessica M. Hackett, Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C.

The project started simply enough. I got a call from the Advocacy Department Chair inquiring whether we could create an intranet site to combine the resources of the department’s more-than-ten practice groups and subgroups. We needed an area to house the department’s meeting minutes and a list of helpful links to commonly used resources, among them library, marketing, client relationship policies, and, of course, KM. Out of habit, I asked, “Is there anything else KM can do to help?” He responded, “Well, I know you all do these great forms and practice guides, but I can never find them.” Ouch.

These legal-knowledge resources, known as precedent in some circles, are housed on the various practice groups’ intranet sites. Our firm is not alone in housing precedent on practice group sites. Indeed, I conducted an unscientific poll of legal KMers and found that this is the norm; precedent is kept by the group who creates it.

But, Can They Find It?

This begs the question: how hard could it be to find an automated form? Just go to the practice group site, look under forms, and there, you will find it! Surely you will find it there. Right? For our firm, the answer is yes – so long as someone has placed the content on the correct page of the correct site and your practice group actively participates in posting content. Also, I am sure you can even find some, if not most, of these items by using our not-so-brand-new enterprise search.

During my meeting with the Advocacy Department Chair, we devised a plan. We would put links to all of the practice groups’ precedent (for instance, forms, practice guides, and exemplar documents) in one location. We would let the groups that own the content keep their materials; we would simply have a global links list of every resource for every group and subgroup. Each link would have metadata regarding the source practice group, jurisdiction, legal topic, and format – indicating form, practice guide, or other resource. The goal was to direct all groups to one source that allows them to see everything that is available. We would remove the barrier of not knowing whether you are searching for a form, an exemplar document, or practice guide. One group would no longer hoard its stellar brief on recent developments in personal jurisdiction for federal courts. Knowledge would be exposed. It would be shared by all.

Which Came First?

Tackling one practice group site at a time, a large endeavor for a firm that has been open for more than 125 years and has had a formal KM department for more than a decade, one thing became clear: some groups have been more active than others in using their practice group sites. Then I made another discovery: the more active the group, the more content on the site. This makes sense, but I wondered whether the lack of content caused the lack of traffic or the lack of traffic caused the lack of content. It became an exercise in the classic question of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”

I set out in search of answers. In her article “Another Look at Precedent Management” published in the July 2013 Digital White Paper “Knowledge Management: Intelligent Business at Its Best,” Marybeth Corbett observed that “[t]he demand on billable attorney time is the biggest barrier to robust precedent collections.” Baker Donelson attorneys do get billable and hourly credit for contributing to the production of precedent. This program is available to each practice group without preference. With this consideration off the table, I could not help but wonder what other barriers cause a lack of participation and content. How can I encourage more participation causing or caused by (the jury is still out) more content?

We will soon debut the global list on the brand new Advocacy Department site. I suspect that seeing side-by-side where each practice group stacks up against the others will drive participation and content. This will also give KM the opportunity to formally reeducate every attorney in the department on the topics of practice group sites and precedent management.

To disrupt the status quo, our KM department will purchase gift cards to be used as raffle-type prizes for some of our less active practice groups. The cost of entry will be one item of content. An attorney increases the chances of winning for each item submitted. Of course, in true KM fashion, content will be vetted before the attorney gets credit.

What Do You Think?

ILTA KMers would love to hear from you. Can you solve the riddle of which came first: content or traffic? What is your firm doing to encourage the creation of content? How is your firm directing traffic to content? Do you have any innovative ideas for encouraging traffic and content?

Are You Game?

23 Jul

gameBy Milena Higgins, Director, Litigation Knowledge Management, Fish & Richardson P.C.

Warning: This is a pitch.

This post is designed to intrigue you into considering a novel learning experience. Be warned: you have entered the cone of persuasion.

When I first began hearing about gamification, frankly, I thought translating the features that motivate players in video games into non-game settings (e.g., the practice of law) was a bit silly. Images of Candy Crush, Farmville, and my teenagers’ Portal and Assassin’s Creed games flashed through my mind. Then I remembered Tetris and got nostalgic; but, I digress. Naively I thought gamification was all about playing games.

Like law, gamification appeared to be based on competitive principles, but seemed to be all about awarding points and badges. My reaction was dismissive: surely no lawyer is going to be seriously motivated by earning points and badges, right?

Familiarity Breeds Respect

That’s what I thought until I actually decided to experience gamification in action. In the process of implementing gamification for one of our Knowledge Management (KM) applications at my firm, Fish & Richardson, and later through working with gamification experts while planning the upcoming ILTA Imagine Gaming the Lawyers session (This is a non-subliminal prompt: KM track, Tuesday 8/19/2014 at 11:00, #ILTA14, #KMPG5), I learned that gamification not only is a lot more nuanced and complex, but also can be a powerful tool for motivating change.

Let’s Just Go with the Status Quo

Most people are at best uncomfortable with any kind of change – personal, social, operational, or vocational. Many deeply fear or actively hate it. As creatures of habit, we value stability and security more than novelty and innovation. We prefer the devil we know to the one we don’t. Accordingly, the changes sweeping through the legal profession have left many lawyers ashen-faced, defensive, and very resistant to novel approaches and technologies, let alone major paradigm shifts. Is there a way to loosen this rigidity?

Fun? Seriously?

Imagine if, instead of dreading and resisting any new approach, people could be motivated to try it. What if they could be the leader in their community, the first to change, the one who contributes most, the one recognized for their knowledge that others look up to and admire?

This is what gamification can bring to the table, even a table surrounded by lawyers. By learning about and implementing game mechanics concepts, you really can motivate people to try that new application you just spent months building or installing. As a bonus, they might even become more engaged in their work and actually have fun while trying the new application.

Gamification 101

To gamify any activity, you first need to decide on the object of the “game.” Is your goal to get people to switch from using system A to system B? Is it to get users to contribute content? Or, is it to get people to consistently enter their time daily?

Whatever your goal, once you know the desired outcome you can start thinking about the behaviors you want to reward. Yes, you can reward the desired behaviors with points. And, yes, maybe a certain number of points earns a badge. But, the key is in the social component – others seeing the badge just earned.

If you think these competitive incentives sound trivial, just watch them in action. Maybe the person sitting next door to you noticed that you just earned the “Awesome” badge, and is now trying to do whatever you did because they want to prove that they are more awesome than you. Before you know it, you might have a whole group of people competing to be the most awesome. Imagine the change you could generate – the resistance you could beat — if you could make this happen. You might just end up the most awesome person in your organization.

Advanced Gamification

Let’s be clear: gamification is much more than points and badges. It focuses on engaging people on an emotional level to motivate them. This is quite different from merely playing games, which is primarily for entertainment. It also goes beyond rewards programs (all those points and badges) that engage people on a transactional level primarily to compensate them (remember the old coffee shop punch cards?). For more on this, see Why Gamification’s Not a Game.

Gamification is already used in education to engage and motivate students to learn (see Fantasy Geopolitics) and by corporations to engage their employees or customers. For example, after building a gamified experience for their customers, New Belgium Brews saw an 8x increase in new user registrations in just one day and a 5x growth in daily logins. Imagine if KM could show these types of metrics.

The bottom line: If our job as Knowledge Managers is to engage people to participate in our programs and help them to adjust to change, gamification can be a powerful tool indeed.

Here’s the Pitch, Folks

Want to learn some practical techniques for becoming awesome? Want to get a handle on the ABCs of Gamification? Come to our ILTA Imagine Conference session on Tuesday after the keynote, Gaming the Lawyers: Driving Adoption, Contribution, and Change. You will learn a lot more about gamification from our panel of experts:

Scott Reid, Director of KM Innovation at Littler Mendelson and former CKO at the US Army JAG Corps. Scott will share his experience motivating JAG lawyers to participate in their enterprise social network through gamification.

Pam Woldow, Partner and General Counsel of global legal consulting firm Edge International. Pam has worked with law firm and law department clients who use gamification in their business and has written compelling posts on the benefits of gamification in the legal industry.

Raul Taveras, Manager of IT Application Projects at Fish & Richardson. Raul is an avid Foursquare gamer and self-professed hashtag king. He will share his experience in gamifying KM and training efforts at Fish.

Rubsun Ho, partner and co-founder of Cognition LLP. Rubsun will explain how Cognition motivates lawyers to provide outstanding client value and service with a gamification process that earns them redeemable points.

2013 KM White Paper Released

19 Jul

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Post by David Hobbie, Goodwin Procter and Blogmaster, ILTA KM Blog

The 2013 KM White Paper “Knowledge Management:  Intelligent Business At Its Best” has been released! Organized by Mary Panetta of ILTA’s KM Peer Group Steering Committee, this annual publication has an in-depth look at a wide variety of traditional and cutting-edge knowledge management topics.

I was particularly impressed by the scope of topics in this issue. The articles collectively demonstrate KM’s centrality in addressing new legal business issues such as pricing, legal project management, and big data, as well as the vitality of new approaches to traditional knowledge management concerns such as precedents management, document automation, and portals.

In “KM Professionals: A Natural Fit for LPM,” Lisa Gianakos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pitman LLP, shares the results of some surveys of Legal Project Management initiatives and knowledge management professional in (mostly large) law firms. She found that the majority of the firms who responded to the survey (75%) had either formal or informal LPM programs, about the same amount as had KM programs. Where respondents had LPM and KM programs, KM was involved in LPM 59% of the time. Along with other analysis of LPM in law firms, she also shares many (anonymized) comments about how LPM programs got started and how KM interfaces with, supports, and sometimes manages LPM programs.

In “The Pricing Professional’s KM Toolkit,” Chris Emerson and Amy Wu of Bryan Cave LLP argue that professionals who are responsible for pricing and budgeting must understand a firm’s KM assets in order to excel at their work. (I have been making the same argument from the other side, that KM professionals have a tremendous amount to contribute to pricing and budgeting efforts.) The authors cover key KM resources, most notably matter experience databases, and how they can be leveraged specifically for pricing work. They also reveal another impressive Bryan Cave innovation, custom software which essentially uses a trainable probability-based software engine to greatly speed up the time required to analyze historical time entries and how they might fit into a phase-task coding framework, in similar fashion to predictive-coding eDiscovery software.

In “Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Social Consumerization: Big Hype or Big Opportunity,” KM Distinguished Peer Eric Hunter of Bradford & Barthel and Spherical Models argues that the legal industry needs to take a lesson from the social consumer companies’ use of predictive data analytics. He sees opportunities for improvements in data management, staffing, pricing, and client service. For instance, his firm uses data analytics to assess attorney performance for specific personal injury defense clients, taking into account factors such as the level of injury, doctor involved, and the like. They hope to move towards outcome prediction, both in terms of settlement payouts and litigation costs.

In “Another Look at Precedent Management“, Boston-area colleague Marybeth Corbett looks at precedent systems and Wilmer Hale’s efforts to incorporate some cutting-edge document drafting and assembly tools into its practice. I agree with you Marybeth that effective precedent systems are nothing to be ashamed of these days! She includes a useful set of key questions to ask about a precedent management blueprint.

In “Document Factories: Building Document Automation Tools,” Anthony Kikuta of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati LLP lays out criteria for selecting document assembly or automation in great detail. He addresses the range of features available in packages such as Contract Express, and spells out how to get the most out of your document assembly tools.

In “KM Standards In Practice,” KM PG Steering Committee member Andrew Baker and Dustin Robinson, of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, relay their experience with the document analytics tool “KM Standards,” summarizing it as a powerful but imperfect tool, the “Swiss Army Knife With A Slippery Handle” of precedent work. (Another firm’s experience with this technology was recently addressed in an ILTA webinar covered here.)  They see a very broad range of potential uses, but have focused on three; creating clause/precedent collections, client-specific content management, and benchmarking. They share valuable lessons about how to work with this tool to increase client value.

In “Using Design To Improve KM,” KM practitioners Andrea Alliston and April Brousseau of Stikeman Elliott and Tangledom consultant (and known design expert) Kate Simpson tell about out a “lawyer-centric design process” that in their “CLE Manager” case study significantly improved software development. They argue that the goal of the design process should be to convey to the IT designers a rich understanding of end user needs and tasks so that “at last we [speak] the same language.” KM practitioners are uniquely situated to be able to convey that understanding. Helpful charts contrast traditional software development with a design-centric approach.

In “Experience Matters at Dechert,” Kelly Breslin and Julie Ketover cover their firm’s development and incipient rollout of “DechertEXP,” an experience management system. They’ve effectively laid out the importance of tying together the many sources of information, collected at different points in the matter life-cycle, for complete experience coverage. A sidebar with “Top 10 Takeaways” has some succinct and doubtless hard-earned lessons.

Lastly, in “Creating an International Client-Facing Knowledge Website,” Jellienke Stamhuis of Ius Laboris and Richard Lister of Lewis Silkin LLP in England cover their successful efforts to launch Ius Laboris’ international client-facing KM portal addressing human resources (HR) issues. I was especially impressed with how far they advanced from where they started and by the personalization feature whereby counsel can select an HR issue and choose several countries, and receive a comparison of the laws on that issue in those countries.

The Evolving Outward-Facing Role of Knowledge Management (Part 2 of 2)

24 Jun

Guest Post by Corinn Jackson and Karen Sundermier, Littler Mendelson

In our previous post, we discussed how we see the KM role evolving from inward-facing support of practicing attorneys, to direct client services geared towards in-house attorneys.

Here, we consider how KM can successfully approach this changing role and answer the question we posited earlier: WDIHCW?  What do in-house counsel want?

Publications

In-house counsel are busy, intelligent, multi-tasking attorneys fielding questions from and advising many business units within their organization.  They want something at their fingertips that keeps them up-to-date on a wide range of areas of law.  Dependable publications from their outside counsel can serve as a first stop for in-house counsel when they have a general question about the law.  Whether these are large legal compendiums that cover multiple areas of the law in a variety of jurisdictions, or smaller more narrowly-focused guides, reliable publications of any variety can be an invaluable resource for in-house clients.

In this vein, publishing shorter online articles is a way for a KM department to provide in-house counsel with to-the-point summaries of legal developments, new cases, and new laws. In providing brief, timely legal publications, we should ask ourselves, WDIHCW?

Clients want the bottom line: “How does this affect my company?  What does it mean for our business?  Do I need to do anything?”  By their nature, online articles are not only timelier and less labor-intensive than more in-depth treatises, but they comprise a strategy any KM department—regardless of firm size or specialty—can employ to keep clients up to date on emerging legal developments.

Our ASAP articles, which are concise analyses of up-to-the minute legal developments by region, are distributed based on client-identified industry and legal areas of interest.  Likewise, Littler’s 11 different legal blogs on a variety of subjects allow clients to subscribe based on their specific area of concern.  For example, a large retail client that employs primarily hourly workers in a number of different states may be more interested in our Wage & Hour Counsel blog, while a smaller tech company might be more interested in our Workplace Privacy Counsel blog.

Subscription Expert Systems-GPS

In-house counsel are also looking for quick solutions to those “fires” they are called to put out.  Take the company with operations in several states that needs to know plant closing and layoff laws of six states immediately, lest they inadvertently break those rules by not providing enough notice of a major business restructuring happening in 61 days. While in-house counsel could call on the law firm attorney, who likely will draw on KM resources to answer the question, a KM department adds value (and pleases clients) when it offers topical legal research that in-house counsel can access from their desks, without picking up the phone and incurring a charge each time.  At Littler, we offer A Guide to Policies by State, or GPS, which is a subscription service that offers clients a continually updated database of select employment regulations for every jurisdiction in the country.  While some may argue it is not KM’s job to answer legal research questions, providing a technological platform to deliver research answers to clients is exactly what KM should be doing.  KM’s success comes when it can move outside the walls of the law firm and extend the invaluable service it has been providing to firm attorneys directly to firm clients.

Matter Management And More–Littler CaseSmart

A central goal for any successful KM department is to continually monitor new technological developments to employ cutting-edge platforms to deliver the resources necessary to most efficiently answer clients’ needs—sometimes before they know they have them.  Clients do not want to pay a law firm to continually reinvent the wheel.  One significant way that law firm attorneys can retread the same ground is processing employment charges (filed with an administrative agency) for the same client, a process which can in many ways be rote.

By developing a support system for employment charges filed with state and federal administrative agencies, which involves customized work-flow, assignment tracking, and document automation—we call it Littler CaseSmart—we have drastically streamlined the time it takes for our attorneys to respond to administrative charges.  Beyond merely streamlining the process for firm attorneys processing these charges, Littler CaseSmart provides a client dashboard showing the status of each charge and capable of creating customized reports based on the specific data the client is seeking, such as the regions where charges may be on the rise, whether certain supervisors are being repeatedly targeted, or how different state agencies may approach and resolve charges.  Clients may also monitor the dashboard to make efficiency determinations regarding how the work is being processed.  Indeed, such aggregation of data and resulting comprehensive view for in-house counsel is typically well beyond what companies have the means to create and maintain on their own.

Client Self-Help

Further value-add from KM can include automated documents, secure client extranets, customized e-newsletters, and web-based training programs to provide directly to clients.  One new platform Littler offers clients is the Healthcare Reform Advisor, a free, web-based, interactive online system that helps employers determine whether they are at risk of having to pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “pay or play” mandate and estimate what those penalties may be.  After employers complete the online evaluation, Littler’s Healthcare Reform Consulting Group offers a brief consultation to discuss the results and potential risks for penalties under the ACA.

Conclusion

Every KM department is different and the key to determining what components work best for your firm’s clients is to not only help provide traditional legal services, but to focus on applying the expertise of your attorneys delivered through the latest online technologies.

KM is moving beyond its original audience of firm attorneys and the corporate organization and now communicates directly with the purchasers of legal services.  KM can answer WDIHCW and respond to client needs in innovative ways that stretch far beyond the traditional attorney-client relationship.

Swartworth Leadership Development Seminar: The Judge Advocate General on What Leadership Means To Me

30 Aug

Post By David Hobbie, ILTA KM Blogmaster

Most of the reporting on the ILTA Conference 2012 has been made informally over on my Caselines blog and on Mary Abraham’s Above and Beyond KM blog as well. I thought to report on one session here, for a variety of reasons that will be evident.

Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, the Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army, spoke at ILTA on Tuesday August 26th as part of the Sharon Swartworth Leadership Development Seminar. He has a dry but effective speaking style, sprinkling personally relevant stories amongst more general points about leadership and communication.

Today his thoughts are down in Louisiana (his home state) and Hurricane Isaac.

He met Sharon Swartwood in 1991 when she was an administrative warrant officer, a “little ball of fire.” He greatly admired what she did for his office and his office’s systems, and he appreciates ILTA’s continued honoring of her memory.

The success of an organization depends on followers’ perceptions of the moral value of their leaders. Leadership has personal, organizational, and managerial dimensions.

Personal Leadership

How do you convey an organization’s challenges?

They have monthly publications, periodic speaking engagements, senior leader discussions, and other communications fora.

Effective communication begins with effective listening. He does a series of “iterative engagements” with key stakeholders and has a series of conversations. Listening, sleeping on the advice, and listening again will lead to better decisions when they have to be made.

His company commander gave him a practical lesson in communicating when, even after he had thrown a shrimp party for the commander, was called the next morning to attend to a vehicle maintenance task that had not been sufficiently addressed. In other words, Lt. Gen. Chipman’s commander let him know that personal appreciation for the shrimp and the party would not lower the organization’s standards.

Competence means you have studied to develop into a subject matter expert in your field. There should be increasing complexity in what you study as a professional. You have to stay fresh. He finds this particularly hard with respect to technology.

Scott Reid and his team are working to extend concepts, best practices, and tactics that make the JAG Corps more efficient and effective in the delivery of legal services through a JAG Corps enterprise social network (as he discussed at an ILTA panel on Monday, that I also participated in). Lt. Gen. Chipman understands that he has to understand KM in order to supervise those efforts effectively.

Competence involves “sharpening the saw”–staying fit, maintaining balance and family relationships, and the like.

Competence also requires having a personal philosophy of being a lifelong learner. Pass on inspiration you may have received from overcoming adversity to others who are or will be facing adversity.

Competence also requires self-reflection, the ability to laugh at yourself (his nickname is “the laughing general.”)

You can only have followers meet high standards when you set and meet high personal standards for yourself. Personal standards is “doing the right thing when no one is watching.”

There is no level at which “sacrificial leadership” does not apply. We want to maintain professional standards. Ambition is not a bad word. You should want to develop and seek out new challenges and opportunities.

Our current environment is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA). To survive we need to be agile.

Toxic leadership is not a popularity issue. A toxic leader will look good to upper leadership but treat peers and subordinates dismally. Toxic leaders can succeed for a long time. It can be effective for a short mission but wears out organizations over the long haul.

Chipman quotes Secretary Panetta– “It is the character and the standards that each of you bring to the battle that makes us strong. We can often be better than our word, but we can never be better than our actions.”

Our own firms have standards. Are they well known? Are they perceived in the marketplace?

As a leader, it can be about wanting to contribute in the way that you do best. Lt. Gen. highlighted George Marshall as someone who could have been Supreme Allied Commander but recognized that his skills would be better used in organizing the U.S. war effort in World War II.

Organizational Leadership

“Mission first, people always.” You need to ensure that your organization is always responsive, effective, and efficient.

Management Leadership

Good management requires having systems to gauge how effective your management is. Address the “task, purpose, [and desired] endstate.”

Managers look to develop their younger staff, grow the next generation.

Lt. Gen. Chipman told a story about a girl cutting her finger in a Disney restaurant or resort. They rushed her to the clinic, and on the way heard her complaining about not being able to finish her dessert and they “made magic happen.” When she got back, six desserts were lined up in her hotel room. Corporate commitment to “make magic” is enabled by management system where every employee will fix problems.

The more you rise, the more you can look externally. His Lieutenant Colonels can manage the JAG Corps, he needs to think about what his organization needs to be in relation to the national security picture and the like.

There is a role for email, and there is a role for personal contact. You have to get face-to-face to be effective in coaching the next generation of leaders.

Vision is about communicating a clear direction based on values. Goals are waystations on the way to achieving a vision.

General Casey would ask at the start of every meeting, “What are we trying to do here, where are we trying to get today?” He was getting at meeting the larger vision of the organization, not getting lost in the short-term goals.

Taking care of people means listening, advising, praising when warranted and correcting when needed.

Feedback to people you are mentoring and coaching is critical for their advancement.

There are so many misread emails. People take offense from emails very easily. Hard discussions should take place face to face.

Loyalty entails debating issues before a decision is made and afterwards executing the decision “as if it were your own.”

Each of us is here because we enjoy a chance to work with others and make a difference in our organizations. Recognize that there is a need for leadership. Informal networks can be just as critical as formal networks and heirarchy. Effective leadership is when you help your network develop the next generation of leaders.