Bryant & Woolfson: Building a Bespoke Social Business Platform [#e2conf]

Lee Bryant (Headshift, Dachis Group) and Andrew Woolfson (Reynolds Porter Chamberlain) spoke about building a bespoke integrated social business platform for a law firm.

[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2011 in Boston.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Social Business in Legal: They wanted to create a social platform for better knowledge flow in a law firm. Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) was willing to give the project team “permission to play.” The firm was also prepared to invest in something new because they wanted to own a tool that would better reflect the way their lawyers worked, they wanted to eliminate vendor limits on innovation and they wanted to use this deployment to energize the firm.
  • Understanding the Matrix of Relationships Before putting in some knowledge systems, you need to understand the relationships among the firm, the partners, the clients and the formal/informal groups within the firm.
  • Selfish Interests Lead to Collective Benefits.They focused on servicing individuals within the firm, while looking for opportunities to share benefits more widely. In fact, a goal of the project was to create a client-driven system that could be shared with clients later. Since the launch of the system, it has already become known as a critical tool for winning new business.
  • Build, Buy or Assemble?Some of the off-the-shelf platforms did not promise the level of control sufficient to allow the degree of innovation the firm was determined to undertake in coming years. HeadShift used Attensa (RSS), Confluence (wikis) and other tools on top of a firm wide platform. They used activity feeds as a “universal event bus.” They continue to “abstract” the specific business apps from the underlying social platforms. As a result, IT runs the platforms and data while the business units own the apps.
  • RPC EdgeThis tool has just one the prize as best knowledge management innovation at the 2011 KMUK conference. The Edge is personalized for each user, showing their activity streams and selected RSS feeds (internal and external) in the context of the groups to which the user belongs. The “personal pivot” in this system is critical. It starts with a personal profile. Anything and everything can be bookmarked for yourself or for your colleagues and turned into a stream. These items can also be saved for later use. There are a variety of group spaces (organized by type) that provide wiki-type work space, as well as activity streams, messaging, people information, links to specific content, etc. A typical group space might be dedicated to a legal practice.
  • Knowledge Collections.When there is a new topic, users can quickly assemble a knowledge collection, which then is turned into a feed that can be shared with others. In addition, they create precedent collections that have some tagging to help organize and present the contents.
  • Custom Bid RoomsThe created a space for auction deals. It allows them to gather key documents and resources, customized for each deal.
  • Trainee WikiThe trainees use this tool to share information on how to practice law and how to function RPC. This also helped change law firm culture regarding disclosing what you know and don’t know.
  • Kill the Intranet.RPC used a deliberate adoption strategy. They did not create pilots (Woolfson thinks they communicate weakness). Instead, they launched across the firm first and then started focusing on meeting individual needs. The firm wide launch also allowed them to win external awards for Edge, which then helped sell the system internally. Another key adoption strategy was that they turned off the Intranet. Instead, they made available in the new system the small portion of the Intranet that actually was used regularly.
  • How to Determine Success?Rather than getting hung up on misleading participation data, they are collecting internal anecdotes and external awards.
  • Next Steps.They are talking about Edge to their clients. They are showing clients how Edge supports client service delivery, which may in turn help identify new ways to collaborate with clients. RPC wants to do more than just create another client deal room or extranet.
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