Monday, January 28, 2008

Law Firm Knowledge Management 2.0

Back in June, I had the good fortune of going to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. (Thanks to Luis Suarez.) Those of you have been reading this blog know that I have been talking about and experimenting with blogs, wikis, tagging, social media sites, enterprise search and other enterprise 2.0 tools.

One of the questions that I had coming out of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference was the relationship between knowledge management and enterprise 2.0. Which was correct: (a) enterprise 2.0 is a subset of knowledge management (b) knowledge management is a subset of enterprise 2.0 (c) knowledge management is the same thing as enterprise 2.0 (d) knowledge management has nothing to do with enterprise 2.0?

I have come to the conclusion that enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management are two disciplines that need to join together.

Several of the sessions were run by Jessica Lipnack. Her focus was on the need to focus on the people and process side of the problem and not on the technology. Enterprise 2.0 was 90% people and 10% technology. That is a common theme in knowledge management.

Early knowledge management was about developing a "knowledge management system." One big database to hold the knowledge of the company. It was a top down approach, trying to force people into the process and the technology. The theme was to contribute to the common good. But the "knowledge management system" did not really give the individual user much in return. It lacked personal knowledge management. People have a hard enough time managing their own stream of information and knowledge. The "knowledge management system" was outside the typical workflow. You had to implement a different process and a roundabout way of collecting the information. Information that was already collected some other way. The "knowledge management system" would rarely give the individual a way to organize information in a way that makes sense to them.

Incorporating enterprise 2.0 technologies into the knowledge management toolbox, gives people easy to use - easy to learn tools. It allows them to capture and organize their information is a way that works for them. The focus of knowledge management should be on the individual, by giving them tools for personal use, the content of which can leveraged by the rest of the enterprise. Knowledge management is trying to get people who do similar things communicating with each other and collaborating. Then capture that collaboration for their own re-use and re-use across the enterprise. That sounds like what the enterprise 2.0 movement is about.

One aspect of enterprise 2.0 at a law firm is that there is less of a hierarchy at a law firm. It is more of a caste system. The newer, younger attorneys are at the bottom and the senior partners are at the top. The bottom of the caste produces lots of the substantive knowledge. It is those junior lawyers that are doing the research and analysis that gets consumed by the higher levels of the caste. The lawyers move across cases and work for different players in the senior levels of the caste. (My family asks if I have good boss. I have dozens of bosses.)

Law firm knowledge management 2.0 is about incorporating Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 technologies and processes into the law firm knowledge management toolkit. I am going to have few follow-up posts on the use of the technologies as part of a law firm knowledge management strategy.

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