Thursday, August 23, 2007

Extranets and Intranets Are The Information Hubs of Your Firm

  • Felicity Badcock, online Services Manager of Mallesons Stephen Jaques
  • Erik Buker, Internal Practice Consultant of Hunton & Williams
  • Nestor Holynskyj, Director of Consulting of eSentio Technologies

The new model of intranets and extranets

Instead of a publishing model with little or no audience discrimination, instead it is personalized with audience discrimination. Instead of a focus on information, it is focused on people, communication and collaboration.

What is happening outside the legal sector?

  • Instant messaging
  • Webcasts, podcasts, streaming media
  • Collaborative journalism - blogs
  • Collaborative drafting - wikis
  • Networks and communities: LinkedIn

There is some penetration of these tools into the legal sector, but just starting. Law firms are trying to figure out how to leverage these tools for use in the law firm. Do we need to improve our people networks, within and outside the firm?

Mallesons Use of these Tools

Their intranet show the users areas of interest, their alerts, items on loan and RSS subscriptions. The view of information is personalized to them. They have their PeopleFinder tool that show your availability on the calendar, you current status and whether you are on the phone. The driver was to allow clients to talk with a person and track down a person, rather than just going into voicemail. The PeopleFinder is also available through a mobile device.

They are using webcasts and podcasts for training, seminars and communications.

They are experimenting with wikis. Their first one is with a client on regulations in the telecommunications industry. It is secure. (It looks like the mediawiki platform.)

They have a search toolbar in the web browser. Using a prefix in the term, has it search individual systems (You type an "i" in first and it searches InterAction. They average 7,00 searches a day.

Personal Centricity at Hunton & Williams

They make the use of MySites. From a technology perspective, the information is coming from multiple systems. The attorney does not need to know what system the information is coming from.

They have set up subscriptions around practice areas. The attorney has point for managing their subscription. They can chose to have them subscriptions sent by email or RSS.

Extranets at Hunton & Williams

They have 500+ active sites with 20,000+ downloads per month. The information available is customized to the person who is logged on. They can see a set of changes since the last time they visited. They can also subscribe for email alerts of changes. They also have a secure FTP function to send files, particularly large files. They also have substantive areas of law extranets. It is set up to address awareness of evolving areas of law.

They also have a client workflow solution. Inventors at a client can upload his invention, the supervisor can decide to approve or stop and through the whole process.

Nestor's Take on Extranets and Intranets

The business benefits of extranets can provide a competitive advantage. In some cases it is a basic client business requirement. Extranets allow more collaboration between the lawyer and the client. He thinks it can reduce email traffic and communication overhead (I am skeptical and have not found that to be true.) They can reduce the ISO (In Search Of) calls making things more self-service.

He also thinks it reduces the training, because you can reduce the number of interfaces. (I disagree. I think he is leaving off the training for the tool. It may be simple, but they need to figure out the basic features. I think most attorneys are just not using much besides Outlook, Word and the web browser. You are giving information that they could not otherwise get on their own.)

Personalization breeds adoption. Also a "killer app" function such as search can quickly generate user interest. (You need a clear message on why.)

Nestor's keys for success:

  • Having senior management support is desirable, but not critical
  • Decentralization of content management is critical for success. You do not want publishing to have to go through IT
  • Security issues must be understood and addressed in the initial design.
  • Find a champion to spread the good word
  • Solve a discreet problem
  • Search capability is generally a killer app that can drive use
  • Ease of navigation is critical
  • Personalization encourages adoption

Nestor's take on Sharepoint:

  • This third version has gotten it right
  • Easy development tool
  • 2003 webparts do not transfer well to 2007
  • 2003 development skills are different from 2007 (requires XSL knowledge)
  • Low cost of entry because SharePoint is part of the enterprise agreement

This session was very generic and missed the target.

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