Seth Earley Keynote: Winning the Customer Experience Arms Race #KMWorld

kmworld-socialSpeaker: Seth Earley is CEO of Earley & Associates, an information management strategy consulting firm.  Seth also serves as Editor, Data Analytics, for IT Professional Magazine from the IEEE.  His interests include Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions.  Seth has conducted workshops for senior leadership around aligning information management strategy with measurable business outcomes and developed information governance programs for clients in healthcare, technology, manufacturing, insurance, retail, pharmaceutical and financial services industries.  He has worked with a diverse roster of Fortune 1000 companies helping them to achieve higher levels of operating performance by making information more findable, usable and valuable through integrated enterprise architectures supporting analytics, e-commerce and customer experience applications.  His twitter handle is @sethearley.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2014 Conference. 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.]

Session Description: As product differentiation diminishes in many markets, companies are increasingly investing in the customer experience as a competitive advantage. Winning organizations have decision-making processes and feedback mechanisms that enable them to experiment and respond quickly to their evolving market landscape. They have also taken action to make their full portfolio of product and customer information accessible to their customer-facing processes. Earley looks at which Fortune 1000 companies are winning the customer experience arms race and how they are doing it and provides ways to frame the needs and opportunities to senior leadership.


  • What’s customer experience? Customer experience is about ALL of the interactions the customer has with an organization: the marketing, product, communications, interchanges, etc. It applies to external AND internal customers. (Customers often do business with the company they hate the least at the moment.) Customer context is key.
  • What makes customer experience challenging? The customer experience ecosystem is complex. It cuts across lots of different interaction, touch points, systems, silos, etc. (E.g., email, print, shipping/logistics, support, legal/contracts, receivables, web, call center, bricks and mortar store, billing, mobile, social media, sales, service, partner portal, etc.)
  • Two-site syndrome: According to Forrester, most corporate websites have segregated brand marketing and ecommerce sites that are poorly stitched together. Therefore, the customer must leap across various rorganizationaldivides as they switch between exploration, education, purchasing and support.
  • The customer experience must be seamless across the product lifecycle: This can be tough when different stages rely on different systems and processes. To make matters worse, internal customers also have to contend with this disparate systems and processes. To address this problem, you need an enterprise view of the systems/processes that underpin the customer journey. Map the customer journey through use cases and scenarios.
  • Start by describing the customer: Look at their social graph, behavioral segmentation, marketing and any other relevant attribute models. Use whatever makes most sense in your context AND in your customer’s context. When you mine the social graph, you can make personalized recommendations. Remember, however, that context changes. To cope with this, build libraries of customer use cases. What information do people need in the context of this step of the process toward their goal?
  • Don’t be creepy: There is a very fine line between excellent customer experience and being really creepy. The more you know about your customer, the more you can anticipate your customers’ needs. However, don’t cross the line into invading their privacy or making unauthorized disclosures. (Eg., Target’s famous pregnancy case.)
  • Move from fragmentation to integration: This means moving along a maturity model from confused to siloed to coordinated and fully integrated. For many, building an enterprise taxonomy is a key part of this effort. Building an enterprise taxonomy is very challenging, but it is the foundation for knowledge management, content architecture, workflow and biz processes.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Purchasing Digital Workplace Technology #KMWorld

kmworld-socialSpeaker: Jarrod Gingras, Senior Analyst and Managing Director, Real Story Group

Session Description: Based on work with thousands of enterprises, Gingras shares the common mistakes that cause technology projects to go off the rails before they even start. He reviews the 10 most critical mistakes that enterprises make during the digital workplace technology selection process and introduces ways to navigate around them.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2014 Conference. 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.]


  • Perspective & Disclaimers: Real Story Group describes itself as the consumer reports of the digital workplace space and digital marketing space. They analyze the weaknesses and strengths of the tools and their vendors. They also do some consulting on technology audits; technology strategy & roadmaps; and product and vendor selection (i.e., tech matchmaking). They consider themselves to be a buyer’s advocate for enterprises looking to invest in content technologies (e.g., web content and experience management, digital and media asset management, enterprise collaboration and social software, SharePoint, etc.).
  1. Neglecting the Business Case: Now that there are some cheap/free technology options, it is easy to overlook the business case. After all who wants to go through the hoops of identifying and documenting the business case? Wrong! It’s important to consider more than just the financial implications of new technology. The companies that go through the discipline of creating a business case find that they are more honest about goals and requirements, and it improves their communications internally about the project.
  2. Prioritizing systems over screens: IT tends to focus on the “IT stack” (e.g., access channels, common core of standards and frameworks such as permissions and security, systems of records, technology platforms, infrastructure services). This approach is good for the enterprise, but Gingras says you should take a more employee-centered view. Employees want efficiency, effectiveness, ease of use. They want applications that help them work better. Think about giving them a social Q&A capability rather than thinking about a system (e.g., document management system). Focus on what they want to get done. This means you have to put a priority on the user experience (e.g., user journeys and top tasks, workplace “contextually inquiry,” etc.). This may mean poaching UX/UI talent from other businesses/industries.
  3. Thinking project, not product: Think beyond the implementation project. Think about your digital workplace initiative as a product that needs to managed, they need care and feeding, they need continuous improvement. Focus on product managers, not just project managers. Product managers work with your internal communities to improve the product and mine those communities for new ideas and use cases.
  4. Falling into the requirement checklist trap: The RFP isn’t the problem. The type of RFPs are the problem. Don’t start by identifying all your technical requirements. Vendors will just respond by claiming that they can do every little thing you want. Do start with a handful of high-level technical requirements. Then, focus on typical scenarios and processes for which you need a tech solution. Be careful to be sufficiently DEScription without being excessively PREscriptive. This allows the vendor to engage with your issues/dreams rather than disembodied requirements. These scenarios can be used to shortlist the right vendors and create a bake-off among vendors.
  5. Shortlisting the wrong vendors: If you shortlist the wrong vendors, you end up doing an apples-to-oranges comparisons. It can be confusing to sort out vendors because many of them overlap. Yet not all of them are right for your needs. Yes, they all may be able to solve your problem BUT they will likely use very different approaches.  Do your homework so you understand the difference in their approaches. How do you get to the right shortlist? Start with your use case scenarios. Then compare those to the “canonical use cases” that each vendor is best at. (When they move outside their sweet spot, they end up customizing massively to get their square peg into your round hole.”) You want to match your key use case to their greatest area of strength. In other words: find the products that were built with your use case in mind.
  6. Only viewing canned demos: Most canned demos are a waste of time. They always look good, but they have very little to do with your use case/problem. Demand that the vendor provides a demo that matches your scenario. In addition, insist that they spend the vast majority of their time on these scenarios and just a few minutes (10?) on their company. Be aware that vendors want to focus on the Sexy: social, mobile, cloud, sentiment analysis, etc. Instead force them to focus on the Not Sexy: workflow, version control, audit trails, content models, taxonomies, metadata, etc.
  7. Underestimating the full implementation picture: Most companies overbuy and over-estimate. Don’t overbuy on products. If you can’t implement or adopt them sufficiently, it’s a waste of time and money. Equally, don’t over-estimate your capability to implement and use a technology. Often you need a third-party integrator, implementor or consultant to help you actually standup and adopt the new tool. You may need a blend of in-house team, professional services and third-party advisors.
  8. Improperly test-driving the solution: Conduct a realistic bake-off or proof-of-concept to build out something that closely addresses your most important scenarios. This will reveal what it is really like to accomplish simple things (e.g., configure users, create templates, modify workflows, etc.) and it reveals the harder things you will face. Use “your kitchen, your ingredients and your cooks.” This means your premises, your users, your scenario.
  9. Ignoring the intangibles: Don’t purchase without first assessing vendor professional services, channel partner services, support & community, strategy & roadmap; and the viability & stability of this product and this vendor. You need a scenario fit, a technology fit, a vendor fit and a value fit.
  10. Waiting too long to negotiate: List pricing is always negotiable in larger deals. They have seen up to 100% price reductions in order to win/keep a customer. So don’t accept rack rates. (Obviously smaller deals have less room to negotiate.) Most organizations do their price negotiations at the selection/launch phase, which is after you have made a substantial investment of time and effort. This is too late. At this point, you don’t have much negotiating room. It’s better to negotiate at the time you are getting your true scenario onsite demos — always pushing the price down as the vendor learns more about you and how well the product fits out of the box.

After Ark: Notes from the Legal KM Conference

ark-logoAs I discovered at last week’s Ark Legal KM Conference, one of the benefits of being a conference co-chair is that you have an opportunity to provide some closing remarks. Eager to take advantage of this opportunity, I prepared my remarks and a slide deck before the conference started. However, by the end of the first day of the conference it was clear to me that I would have to toss my materials and start over again. Why? Because the speakers took the conversation into some new areas that I had not heard discussed at recent Ark conferences.

How nice to be surprised!

Among the themes that emerged during the conference were the importance of trust, strategy, knowledge flows and alliances:

  • Trust. According to psychologist Robert Plutchik, trust is one of the eight primary emotions. As Bruna Martinuzzi points out, it may be the most fragile of the emotions: Trust is “difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break.” The challenge for knowledge management personnel is that without trust there can be little effective knowledge sharing. Yet how many of us intentionally focus our efforts on establishing and preserving trust?
  • Strategy. As I discovered in the course of my research for Optimizing Law Firm Support Functions, having a strategy is critical if you wish to optimize your KM department. While any number of activities may be worthy, they won’t be ultimately worthwhile unless they serve your firm’s business strategy.  Interestingly, while many of the KM personnel attending the conference said that their firms had a business strategy and that their KM program was aligned with that strategy, virtually no one in the room was willing to claim that they used metrics to track their progress against strategic goals. Do we have a fundamental problem?
  • Knowledge Stocks versus Knowledge Flows. Traditionally, law firm KM has focused on building up sizeable knowledge stocks: inventories of model documents, practice guides, clause libraries, etc. To be honest, far too many lawyers believe it is the role of law firm KM to create these knowledge stocks and then make them accessible via the firm’s intranet. During the conference, however, we talked about the value of switching focus from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows. This switch would mean shifting from capturing, organizing and classifying knowledge into databases, collections and websites, to sharing knowledge by convening and facilitating conversations. If we’re agreed that the firm’s most valuable and elusive knowledge is its tacit knowledge, then why are some of us spending the bulk of our time on stocks of explicit knowledge?
  • Administrative Alliances. Lori Reese Patton (Chief Learning Officer) and Bill Turner (Chief Knowledge Officer) of Womble Carlyle showed the conference attendees an inspiring example of how much more can be accomplished when heads of administrative departments reach across departmental boundaries and silos to create alliances for the benefit of the firm. In a time of reduced budgets and smaller staff, strategic administrative alliances can expand a KM department’s opportunities, resources and impact.

This is just one of my snapshots of the conference. Each attendee of the conference undoubtedly has their own snapshots of memorable moments and lessons from the presentations. I hope the conversations begun at the Ark conference continue. There is much for all of us to learn together.


Reinvent Law NYC 2014 in the Rearview Mirror

reinvent law On February 27, 1860, the Great Hall of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, played host to one of the most important speeches in the history of the United States. That was the day Abraham Lincoln, an aspirant for the Republican presidential nomination, gave his “Right is Might” speech to a crowd of 1500 New Yorkers. According to Wikipedia, Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer called the Cooper Union address “Lincoln’s watershed, the event that transformed him from a regional leader into a national phenomenon. Here the politician known as frontier debater and chronic jokester introduced a new oratorical style: informed by history, suffused with moral certainty, and marked by lawyerly precision.”

On February 7, 2014, the Great Hall of  The Cooper Union played host to a completely different kind of gathering: the Reinvent Law NYC 2014 Conference. Organized by Professors Daniel Martin Katz and Renee Newman Knake of the Michigan State University College of Law (along with their students), and sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the ABA Journal, this conference brought to one stage 41 speakers from various parts of the legal industry. The presentations included 10-minute Reinvent Law talks; 6-minute “Ignite” talks in which the slides automatically advanced, forcing the speaker to stay on task; and a conversation between Professor Bill Henderson (Indiana University School of Law) and Mark Chandler (GC of Cisco). Nearly every presentation contained an insight or useful nugget — some were replete with them. The only problem was that the members of the audience were on the receiving end of a firehose of ideas and information that was overwhelming at times.

To manage the flow of information, I adopted my usual role of conference social reporter and tweeted nuggets from various presentations. The Storify compilation of my tweets gives an overview of the speakers and their key points. Since I was restricted to 140 characters, it was hard to convey all the nuances. That said, you should get a good flavor of the ideas presented from the compilation.

While it will take a while for me to process fully the wide range of talks I heard at the conference, there were several standouts for me:

  • Kyle Westaway – How to Run Your Firm Like a Startup: 
    • Allocate 70% of your time to client service, 20% to improving client service delivery and 10% to experimentation.
  • Lisa Damon – Confessions of a Pyrotechnician:
    • You need passion to innovate, but it helps to have some safety glasses that protect you from the resulting sparks. When innovating, don’t think about being IN a law firm, thing about being ON a law firm. Being ON a law firm means treating the firm as a platform rather than a prison or constraint.
  • Andy Wilson – How to Build a Product in the Legal Industry that Lawyers Will Actually Buy:
    • We need to bring speed and cognitive ease to the practice of law.
  • Abe Geiger – Legal Infrastructure for the Sharing Economy:
    • His company is focusing on “Tiny Law” not Big Law. They are creating easy ways for lay people to create and execute contracts.
  • Joshua Kubicki – Legal by the Numbers:
    • After he called to the stage all of the legal tech entrepreneurs in the audience (there were many, and they were young), he announced that $258M had been invested in legal technology in 2013. There is a great deal of opportunity in this space.
  • Mark Cohen – The Legal Delivery Model: A Post-Cubist Paradigm:
    • The key trends for law firms now are unbundling services and then integrating those unbundled services into a package that is useful for clients.
  • David Howarth – Law as Engineering:
    • Of all the design professions, engineering is the closest to legal. Like engineers, lawyers make devices (e.g., contracts). The legal industry can learn a lot from the deliberate way engineers have identified in explicit terms their design processes and then used technology to fuel new creativity in the profession. Lawyers made devices that led to the global financial crisis in 2008. He believes that lawyers need to step and take responsibility for the consequences of devices they design.
  • R. Amani Smathers – The T-Shaped 21st Century Lawyer:
    • While 20th century lawyers were “I-shaped” (i.e., experts in a single legal discipline), 21st century lawyers need to be “T-Shaped” (i.e., experts in a legal discipline and another discipline such as coding, project management, design, etc.).
  • Margaret Hagan – Law By Design: Creative Approaches to Legal Services: 
    • Law needs design. This means going beyond simply using technology. It means focusing on usability in order to make law “user friendly.”
  • Nicole Bradick – Starting from Scratch:
    • When starting a law firm scratch, begin by defining the ethos of your firm. For example, if you are serious about retaining women attorneys, how would design your firm to meet that goal?
  • Susan Hackett – “It’s the Client, Stupid!”:
    • The role of the inhouse lawyer is to solve business problems, not legal problems. So they need outside counsel who can focus on business problems rather than legal issues. It is not enough for law firms to say they won’t change unless clients demand change. Since the DNA of inhouse counsel reflects their earlier experience as outside counsel, they cannot always overcome their DNA sufficiently to identify and demand the necessary change. Instead, it is the responsibility of outside counsel to do the right thing —  to take their clients by the hand and lead them to the better way of practicing law and providing client services.
  • Mark Chandler Interviewed by William Henderson:
    • Chandler’s legal department focuses 80% of their attention on the work that gives Cisco “competitive differentiation.” The other 20% is routine work that they try to automate as much as possible.
  • Martin Schwimmer – The Law of Shapes To Come: Intellectual Property Considerations of 3D Printing:
    • This fantastic talk was given by an intellectual property lawyer who has been ahead of the curve for sometime. In his talk he confessed that being ahead of the curve can be very uncomfortable: “Being early can often feel like being wrong.”
  • Basha Rubin – Everyone is an Expert: Lawyering in the Age of Self-Diagnosis:
    • The challenge for lawyers is to redefine their role in this information-rich age. When DIY clients arrive with detailed instructions (and maybe even drafted documents that they obtained online), their lawyers need to find productive ways to incorporate these third-party materials into their practice rather than fighting these incursions.
  • Jeffrey Carr – Law & Order: CCU (Corporate Counsel Unit):
    • Creating and using a “lessons learned” process is critical to improving client service.  Inhouse counsel should also provide performance-based pay and constant monitoring and feedback to their outside counsel. He believes that inhouse counsel are the single biggest point of failure in the legal industry since they have not demanded change from their outside counsel. In his view, Big Law is irrelevant. They won’t be the source of change in the industry. They are in the business of billing hours.
  • Patrick Lamb – Designing Results:
    • We need to start with the end in mind. Just like we program our destination into our GPS before we begin a journey, we need to identify a better way of delivering legal services and then use law + tech + design + delivery to reach the desired goal.
  • Karl Chapman – Customers Are the Winners:
    • The key to being a successful law firm in the current market is to have the DNA of a legal process outsourcer, not the DNA of a typical law firm. The genius in the Riverview Law approach is that they have mapped all their processes, they learn AND they are fast.
  • Ron Friedmann – Do Less Law:
    • Client interests would be better served if we collectively agreed to “do less law.” This means moving away from crisis response mode in favor of finding ways to prevent the crisis to begin with. He believes that firms that invest in R&D will find new and profitable ways to shift to prevention mode.

Richard Susskind delivered a fantastic closing keynote: The Past, Present and Future of AI + Law. There is absolutely no way to sum up his tour de force in just a couple of sentences. That said, there were some key takeaways for me:

  • Change does not come quickly in the legal world. Look for change over the next 3-6 years rather than the next 3-6 months.
  • Why is change so slow? Hourly billing is a huge deterrent to change. Furthermore, it takes substantial time and effort to build the expert systems that could replace some or all of the work lawyers currently do.
  • The goal is to use computer technology to make legal expertise available to people who otherwise would not have access to such knowledge.
  • It  cannot be that information technology and the Internet are transforming all parts of the world EXCEPT the legal industry. Change will come to our industry.
  • Computing power is growing (while form factors are shrinking). In the face of these advances, shouldn’t we rethink the way we draft contracts?
  • The legal industry currently is in a state of denial. The next stage is re-sourcing (in which we unbundle legal services and then source them more appropriately). The final stage is disruption.
  • By the 2020s, technology will have transformed the way lawyers work.
  • What is our legacy? Have we created intelligent systems for the commercial world and access to justice for individuals?

All in all, it was a terrific conference. I commend the organizers for putting together a schedule that was jam-packed with thought-provoking ideas. And, I especially commend the sponsors who made it possible for the conference to be free to the public. The value: priceless.



Components of Effective Legal Project Management #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYKSpeaker: Lucy Dillon, Director of Knowledge Management at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. 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.]


  • “Project management in law firms is like the global environment: everyone knows it’s an important issue, but very few people are willing to change their behaviour in order to address it.”
  • The 5 stages of a project
    • agreeing with the client on what needs to be done
    • planning the work
    • doing the work
    • closing the project
    • reviewing the project
  • Required Skills
    • communicate, communicate and communicate
    • empower someone to take charge
    • delegation and supervision (these are skills, not just something people do)
  • What effective project management in law firms needs
    • resource — documents, checklists, practice guides
    • small group training that has been customized to specific practice areas and approaches
    • champions and guides with the practice groups and client teams
  • The Client-Driven Approach
    • the process improvement only takes hold on matters (and in practice groups) where the partner in charge acknowledges the for efficiency. When this happens, the process mapping effort helps the team understand how to push the work down to less expensive staff. This improves the price for the client, the time management of the partner and the experience of more junior lawyers.
    • when you create the project map that shows the actions required and the actors involved, it quickly becomes very clear if the work is being done at the right level within the firm. It also shows where there are imbalances in workload.
    • in the course of process mapping, highlight everything that represents an improvement or innovation.
    • measure outcomes so that you can establish clearly what’s working and what’s not

People-based KM: the Role of the Professional Support Lawyer #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYK Speaker: Lucy Dillon, Director of Knowledge Management at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. 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.]


  • Her Firm’s PSL Team: BLP has 24 professional support lawyers. One-third are men, the other two-thirds are women. Some work on a part-time schedule. Half of the group were internal transfers who were fee-earners in the firm; the rest were recruited in.
  • The traditional PSL role: This role started with the need to develop standard-form documents. The purpose of this effort was really about ensuring quality and consistency, not so much about efficiency. Then the developed practice notes, creating know-how databases of useful precedents, legal technical training, in-house counsel training, and current awareness.
  • Traditional Staffing Approach: The PSL role was conceived as a means to keep talented female lawyers involved in the practice. Over time, it has become an appealing alternative to fee-earners (male and female) who want new challenges.
  • The Skill Set Required:
    • Legal technical excellence
    • Good understanding of how to deliver service to internal and, increasingly, external clients
    • Interest and literacy in IT
    • Great communication skills — they need to be able to communicate with the KM team, internal clients AND external clients.
    • Team-player
    • Self-motivation — This role is what you make it. There won’t always be a client setting the agenda for you.
    • Impact and influence — if you’re going to be asking people to do things they don’t really like to do,
    • Robustness — they need to be resilient because they will experience rejection and delay from the fee-earners. KM professionals need to believe in what they are doing so that they can persistent in the face of setbacks.
    • Wider firm vision — they need to be able to stand back and look at a practice group and look at its work as a whole. (Peripheral organizational vision.)
  • Evolution of the role in the new legal landscape
    • Firms are redefining the value of KM and redefining the value of knowledge
    • Moving from using KM for the practice of law to using KM in the business of law
    • New areas of activity since 2008
      • Strengthening client relationships — providing training and current awareness, adapting internal standard-form documents so that they are tailored for specific clients. This is a value-added service. Clients don’t usually pay separately for these services.
      • Innovation product design
      • Reducing risk
      • Process improvement and project management
    • New skills required to support these new functions
      • Facilitation skills
      • Process mapping
      • Understanding how the firm makes money
      • Social media
      • Thought leadership to support a premium practice
      • Efficiency expertise to support a commodity practice

Impact of KM on Old and New Business Models #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYKSpeakers: Michael Roster (former managing partner of Lex Mundi member firm Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office, former general counsel of Stanford University, Stanford Medical Center, and Golden West Financial Corporation) and Bill Turner (CKO at Womble Carlyle).

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. 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.]


  • Law firms present enormous challenges to clients:
    • In a recent 10-year period, costs to US companies went up  20%, but legal costs went up 75%. Most of this increase is due to rate increases and the increasing seniority of the lawyers who provide services. 
    • Most law firm lawyers do not have in-house experience. This means that not enough of them truly understand the pressures their clients and their internal legal departments face.
  • Law firm lawyers are not converting their clients into advocates: Only 31.4% of clients would recommend their primary law firm. (This is down from 35.9% in 2012; 42.3% in 2011.)
  • Applying KM to firm’s and client’s targets: KM helps reduce client legal costs by 25%. It provides high predictability and helps improve outcomes for the matters undertaken. In fact, KM needs to be used for these purposes. (Many firms don’t understand WHY they should use KM. Those firms need to focus on reducing legal costs increasing predictability and improving outcomes.)
  • KM Challenges the Prevailing Law Firm Business Model:  When profitability is driven by inputs (billable hours), then any efficiencies introduced by KM will undercut profitability. [Is it any wonder that KM has had a hard time making its case to lawyers who are wedded to that old model?]
  • Proposed Changes to the law firm budget process: Instead of starting from the perspective that we need to provide a certain level of compensation to top partners (and then keep everyone else happy), start by asking: “What’s a competitive price for a given type of legal work?”
  • The the old, reactive/responsive approach to pricing:
    • How much do we need to make to deliver the expected level of profitability?
    • How much can we raise rates and billable hour targets to deliver required revenue?
    • Can we eliminate any groups (e.g., Trust and Estates is often the first to go) or employees?
    • How do we sell it to the partners, and then clients?
  • The better new client-driven pricing approach:
    • What’s the competitive price for this type of legal work?
    • How much profit is desired?
    • How can we create a highly competitive legal product for this amount?
    • How can we still exceed client expectations?
    • How can we get rewarded for the results?
  • Ford Motor Company provides a great example for law firms: They used to adjust pricing by tinkering around the edges of auto manufacturing process (e.g., replace leather with vinyl, remove some of the chrome, etc.). Then Ford got smart. They asked (1) what is a middle class willing to pay for a car? (2) How much profit do we need to make on each car? (3) What’s the resulting price per car? (4) What’s the best possible car we can make for that price? This is how the Ford Taurus was born.
  • Even General Counsel need to adopt a new approach to legal costs.  How to think in the new proactive/predictive way?
    • Where are our company’s major legal exposures?
    • How can we reduce or even eliminate those exposures?
    • How can we maximize expertise, efficiency, elasticity?
    • How to incentivize reduced cost, high predictability, improved outcomes?
  • Why Harness Knowledge Management? Bill Turner quotes Dave Snowden who asserts that the main purpose of KM is to (1) create conditions for innovation and (2) enable better decisions.
  • Use KM to enhance cross-border legal services:
    • Improve coordination among offices and practice groups
    • Reduce duplicative activities
    • Remove barriers to using fixed prices, managing portfolios, working across juridictional lines
    • Improve quality control

KMWorld 2013 Roundup #KMWorld

KMWorld 2013The KMWorld knowledge management conference is an annual deep dive into all things KM. And for people with wide interests and lots of stamina, there are parallel conferences focused on enterprise search, SharePoint and taxonomy. The reality is that these conferences offer far more sessions than any single person can take in during the course of three or four days. That said, I definitely gave it my best effort!

As is my practice, I generally live-blog or live-tweet the sessions I attend. For those of you interested in following the tweet stream, you can check on Twitter under the hashtag #KMWorld or you can check my personal tweet stream ( You can also see the Storify archive of KMWorld tweets created by Eric Ziegler.

On the blogging front, here are my blog posts from the conference.  (Since I was live-blogging, these summaries are raw reports rather than polished blog posts. So caveat lector!):

If you’d like to read more about the conference, I commend to you blog posts written by my friend, Catherine Shinners:

On a final note, after the conference, the organizers asked us to identify our biggest takeaways from KMWorld 2013. Here’s my reply:

Let me explain: As I attended various sessions, it became clear that there was a significant gap in understanding and execution among the participants (presenters and attendees alike). Some were still focused on what I would call “KM 1.0 activities” such as building and digitizing document collections. Meanwhile, others had moved past that to create virtual and physical spaces in which people could work collaboratively in a manner that maximized the sharing of useful knowledge. Some of this gap can be attributed to differences in experience and learning. Some of the gap was due to choices about technology. However, one huge piece of the puzzle related to differences in understanding about how humans behave in the work environment and how best to foster practices that achieve the primary aims of KM, as articulated by Dave Snowden: enable innovation and support better decision making.

When thinking about the wide range of human behaviors, we need to go beyond technical specifications to topics such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and behavioral economics. My hope is that next year’s KMWorld conference will include more conversation about those disciplines as a way of providing insight to rank-and-file knowledge management professionals so that we all can get a little closer to the goal of enabling human innovation and supporting better human decision making.




10 Things KMers Can Learn From Angry Birds #KMWorld

KMWorld 2013Angry-Birds-HD-WallpaperSpeaker: Daniel W. Rasmus, Owner/Principal Analyst, & Author, Listening to the Future and Management by Design. For a previous incarnation of this closing keynote, see 10 Lessons from Angry Birds That Can Make You a Better CIO.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2013 Conference. 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.]

Session Description: Colorful and fun, our closing keynote speaker and futurist discusses lessons learned from various activities. He then uses scenario-based work and other research to discuss what the future of KM could be under different social, economic, political, and technological circumstances. Be prepared to hear why good ideas don’t become viral, and be inspired to think of KM in new and different ways.

NOTES: What KMers Can Learn from Angry Birds

  1. You have to play to figure out the rules — in Angry Birds, you learn the rules by playing the game. In the beginning, you won’t play well because you don’t understand the opportunities and risks before you. As you play, your understanding and skill grow.
  2. Know your bird’s capabilities — People like to be recognized for their skills. In fact, they perform best when their unique skills are recognized. If you are managing a team, you have to know your people well. With respect to yourself, you need to ask yourself these questions: What skills do I have? What skills do I need? What skills WILL I need? Then, start training!
  3. You can’t recover from a really bad start — When you know you are not going to get a high score, STOP. Then start over. Try a different approach.
    • The project dilemma = we start a LOT more big projects than we finish. We are really good at the project kick-off meetings, but not so good at project closure.
    • We need to stop the madness, collect ourselves and then apply our energies in a way that is more rewarding.
  4. What you’ve learned in one place isn’t always transferable to another place — Different problems require different specialists. Mastery in one area doesn’t automatically qualify you to work in another area. You will need to build a diverse team of varied talent. And you need to understand that, as an organization, you may not always have the requisite expertise and will need, therefore, to find knowledgeable partners. Even if it appears that you are facing a situation that is similar to one you have mastered before, Rasmus advises every “organization to ask and answer the question: `what is different this time, and how are we planning for those differences’ before proceeding.”
  5. If you don’t practice complex actions regularly, you’ll forget how they work — This isn’t a fix-it-and-forget-it business. Practice and procedures are important. However, they aren’t always enough since things don’t always happen exactly as before. Scenario planning is a useful tool because it helps you practice thinking about the future. Once you’ve thought about it, you can plan for it. This helps your staff anticipate and respond flexibly to the inevitable changes in their environment and processes.
  6. Blowing something up isn’t necessarily felt everywhere — in your change management planning, make sure that your changes take effect everywhere. Otherwise, you’ll have to fight many small battles in various places, without actually winning the war. Rasmus gives the example of an email migration project he worked on: “Many little conversations led to a lot of commitment without action. It wasn’t until the team went to the CEO and convinced him change was necessary that change happened.”
  7. Early on the measure of success will be ill defined — you may not know what good looks like until you actually start doing it. You need a better understanding of the context before you can assign value. This is particularly the case today as we shift from an Industrial Age method of valuation to a 21st century approach to valuation:
    • In the Industrial Age Economy, we measure everything as if it comes off an assembly line. So we measure time elapsed, productivity, etc.
    • In the Serendipity Economy, it is hard to forecast future value. In the 21st century, the focus shifts to accounting “for the valued derived from seemingly random and unanticipated encounters and interactions.” Organizations now must monitor information networks so they can “act on serendipity when it occurs, and account for it as a part of their value.”
  8. Even if you are good, you don’t know. Keep trying to be best to get better — He likes the notion of good practices. However, he hates the concept of “best practice” since it implies that you have stopped trying. And be careful about benchmarking. Rasmus warns against using benchmarking as a way to establish that you are as mediocre as the other guy. Use it primarily as a means to compel your own improvements. In his view, you have to keep trying to be the best in order to keep getting better. (No resting on your laurels!)
  9. Most improvements are incremental — Lessons learned and shared can have important benefits across the organization.  Even if you don’t see the obvious win from your own experiences and lessons, others in the organization may see opportunities in those lessons that lead to wins for the organization.
  10. You can never do the same thing exactly the same way — Circumstances change. Different contexts require different approaches
  11. Good strategy still requires good execution — It’s important to identify your execution components. How do you work? Do you have what you need?
  12. Context is important, but it isn’t always as important as you think — Be careful about your context. Sometimes, it starts your problem solving in the wrong place. Instead, think beyond the immediate context. Go deeper, challenge your assumptions.


[For those of you who have read this far, I want to assure that neither I nor the speaker had a counting problem. He actually did deliver more than 10 tips.]



Building Smarter Networks #KMWorld

KMWorld 2013Speaker: Jeff Stemke, President, Stemke Consulting Group, formerly at Chevron

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2013 Conference. 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.]

Session Description: Operational excellence—the systematic management of processes, systems and behaviors—drives an organization’s productivity, safety and reliability. Expert knowledge is struggling to sustain continual performance improvement as work grows and the new generation workforce is less-motivated to spend years of concentrated practice to replace retiring thought leaders. As described in David Weinberger’s book Too Big to Know, collaborative networks harnessing their members’ diverse skills and experience are emerging as an important problem-solving and decision-making resource. KM practitioners have developed effective methods to create these networks. Their next challenge is finding ways to help network members become smarter— learning how to “think” as well as how to “do.” Learn about several smarter network systems including a SharePoint social learning system based on an expert’s mental model that cuts time to competency while enhancing the network’s performance capability.


  • Workforce Competency is his primary concern. 
  • Forces shaping the “Too Big to Know” Workforce:
    • The education system is not doing well in developing critical thinking
    • Retiring thought leaders
    • Contract workforce: where’s the loyalty
    • Millennial’s work on 2-3 year gigs
    • Skill gaps: STEM, critical thinking, business behaviors
    • Low interesting sending 10-20 years in one discipline. Therefore, it is harder to replenish thought leadership
    • In a complex world, it’s hard to see and understand the big picture
  • Where are the positive factors?
    • Networked knowledge = information + context
    • Good knowledge transfer, retention and recovery
  • Engaging Millennials
    • They want meaningful work more than money
    • They want to use their skills and learn more
    • They want communication, teaching, transparency
    • They want flexibility in the work (time, place, channel, etc.)
    • You need to set expectations, provide more frequent feedback and recognition
    • Managers need to be more actively involved in guiding millenials
  • How to accelerate competency?
    • Based on a survey by Schlumberger company
    • They focus on how different learning methods affect the rate at which an employee achieves autonomy. (The point of autonomy.)
    • They have shown that the right learning approach can cut in half the time it takes to reach the point of autonomy.
    • Innovative methods to accelerate expertise
      • teach functional knowledge (how we do things here)
      • participate in communities/networks
      • ask questions
      • share experiences
      • mentoring/coaching
      • master classes
      • create knowledge assets (processes, template)
      • learn to think like an expert
  • Smarter Networks: Learning and Performance Support
    • An expert begins by documenting topics in their area of expertise: e.g., preferred operating procedures
    • Put this on a platform that is available throughout the organization
    • Give edit access widely: then others can add information at will
  • To Demonstrate the Value of KM, Align Metrics with Your Business Strategies. Focus on what the business managers care about:
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Quality
    • Innovation
    • Revenue
    • Costs
    • Productivity
  • The smarter room relies on the collective intelligence of the people in that room.
  • Shaping Knowledge Transfer Behaviors
    • The role of the experienced worker
      • Give your subordinates more hands on responsibility, but coach from the sidelines
      • Close the loop on knowledge — once you have solicited advice, contribute back to the knowledge base by letting everyone know what you did and how it worked
    • The role of tomorrow’s workforce
      • ask questions. ask to go along. ask for details
      • develop your network
      • seek out temporary assignments
    • The role of the manager:
      • Be accountable for developing people and transferring knowledge
      • Have learning and development plans with specific objectives and measures
      • Provide the time and tools to transfer knowledge
      • Recognize contributions to knowledge transfer
  • The Value of Smarter Networks
    • Business value is created mainly by workforce capabilities
    • Leveraging the collective expertise of the workforce to handle complex issues is important as experts retire
    • Mental models and operational know-how accelerate learning
    • Learning to think like an expert and participation in vibrant networks can reduce time to competency by 50%
    • Knowledge transfer metrics can clearly demonstrate the value