Jeffrey S. Rovner is Managing Director for Information, O’Melveny & Myers LLP. Today he is speaking about the next frontier for law firm knowledge management: truly successful adoption.
[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession. 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.]
- Adoption is the Problem. The elephant in the room for knowledge management is low adoption. Although we offer great tools and services, why don’t our lawyers use them? It’s as if we can’t get through the last mile between our hopes for our wonderful new tools, on the one hand, and our user base, on the other hand.
- Why does this happen??? Here are some of the perennial problems:
- The Waterfall of Tears:
- We introduce new tools / products / services via email, which not everyone reads.
- We invite them to a training session, which few attend.
- Those who attend do not remember everything they are taught.
- Those who attend do not always decide that the new tool / product / service is worth the effort to make the change.
- The 9X Problem: Whenever you are introducing a new technology, it needs to be a least 9 times better than the current tool. The new user is looking at the delta between their current approach and the effort required to adopt the the new approach. Most new tools fail this test and so the user falls back on the old and comfortable way of working.
- For more information on this, read John T. Gourville’s HBR article: Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New-Product Adoption.
- The Waterfall of Tears:
- What can we learn from Online Shopping?
- Shopping started out as a series of separate stores and storefronts.
- Then some retailers such as Amazon focused on aggregration: offering as many products as possible. This required a very long tail that might satisfy customers.
- Next, online retailers adopted nudging techniques that pushed forward recommendations and even extrapolated from searches done in your browser more generally. Some think this is creepy, but it remains a profitable approach.
- What is the experience of law firms?
- Most firms started by creating separate storefronts (e.g., Finance, HR, documents, calendar, practice groups, etc.)
- Then they moved to aggregation via enterprise search.
- At O’Melveney, they created a layer above the storefronts called Ommni that lets lawyers find what they need without having to figure out where that information originates. However, this is still a “pull” approach. The lawyer must go hunting.
- 100% Adoption Requires Nudging.
- To increase adoption, we need to push our efficiency tools.
- There will also be some compelling new tool that does not fit nicely within our tidy aggregation approach. So it needs to be pushed.
- The push approach can help us convey information rather than software. People want the information. They would rather remain oblivious to the new software. They want the results, not the means.
- The push approach relieves users of the need to master new technology.
- Omniscient. O’Melveny & Myers has created a new way of delivering information rather than merely software.
- The first step is to identify “Moments” that are significant and require specific “Information” for success.
- Next disaggregate that Information from its software source so that it can be bundled in a variety of ways to address the needs of a variety of moments.
- Then, when a specific moment occurs, send the key information to the people involved — before they even request it.
- Example: when a new matter opens, Omniscient can find and aggregate useful information such as which lawyers have the best experience and availability to staff the matter. Omniscient then sends this information to the staffing administrators by email.
Whether they have intended to do so or not, law firms have been conducting a 20?year longitudinal study to determine whether their lawyers can share knowledge effectively through software. The results are in, and they are decidedly mixed. That is especially unfortunate because today’s law firm business model increasingly depends on delivering the right information on to the right people at the right moment. The time has come to revisit our basic assumptions and design a better approach.
For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.