If you ask users, they might well tell you that in their experience of KM and IT implementations, the old saying sadly holds true: “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” That saying captures what often happens when law firm knowledge management and IT personnel start building systems to “meet user requirements.” Lots of well-intentioned folks spend far too much time worrying a problem to death and yet, in the process, sometimes lose sight of what the end-user actually needs or wants. The best cure for this malady is to stick as closely as possible to the user during each of the requirements gathering, design and implementation phases. And, as you’re doing this, make sure that your work product reflects at each stage the users’ growing understanding of the tool and your growing understanding of the users. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a system that faithfully follows the initial requirements document while missing the mark on what the users ultimately realize they needed all along.
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[Photo credit: Dullhunk]
If you’re ever asked for a church key, don’t assume that the person making the request wants access to a house of worship. They may, in fact, be looking for spiritual assistance of a completely different sort. Are you puzzled? Well, that’s perfectly understandable if you aren’t familiar with this particular idiom.
Idioms of all sorts abound in the work of lawyers, as they do in the work of their IT colleagues. Unfortunately, remarkably few lawyers understand IT idioms and it sometimes appears that fewer IT folks understand lawyers. It’s aggravating that the legal profession, which prizes clear communication, can’t consistently communicate clearly with this other profession — especially given the fact that understanding between these groups is critical to the smooth and profitable running of a law firm.
Both groups need to spend a little time thinking about why communication has proven to be so difficult. I suspect it’s partially due to some insularity and arrogance on the part of both professions. However, there may also be some fundamentally different ways of approaching problems (and life). Law firm knowledge management often finds itself in the DMZ between the two groups. While this is not an unreasonable temporary position, it really doesn’t make sense for this to be a long-term one. Law firm knowledge managers shouldn’t merely be translators. Perhaps we need to be the mediators who promote the long overdue frank conversation between the two groups.
[Photo Credit: Moirabot]