Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wikis and Law Firm Knowledge Management 2.0

Wikis will be one of the most important pieces of law firm knowledge management 2.0.

An intranet or portal has usually been one of the centerpieces of a knowledge management at law firms. The problem with the intranet was the content was not well indexed and therefore not easily searchable. Also, the content was hard to edit. Generally someone in IT would be tasked with updating content. Either the security model was too rigid or the editing process was too complex. As a result content was not in the hands of the front line attorneys. The security model of the intranet imposes a barrier to the keeping content up to date and complete. Wikis can remove these barriers.

A wiki is just an easy to edit webpage, with a version history and a notification of changes. Wikis are meant to be simple to use and easy to teach. If an attorney wants to edit the content, they hit the edit button, they make the changes and hit save. A new version of that wiki page is made and the wiki sends out an alert to the subscribers of the page.

Wikis are simple enough to use that they require little training and little tech-savviness. It is not much different than making comments to a document by editing the document itself. You can generate a blackline of the changes by comparing the previous versions of the wiki page. You can see who made the changes to the wiki page by looking at the history of the wiki page.

Since the content of the wiki page is basic html, even a simple search engine should be able to easily index and return the content in it results.

The technology barrier is all but removed when using a wiki to capture content.

The challenge is getting the attorneys to use a wiki instead of (or in addition to) email. We are trained to draft letters, send letters and send responses to letters. With a wiki the process is compressed into editing and adding content to the wiki. It requires the attorneys to synthesize content into existing wiki pages.

The advantage of using a wiki is that synthesis. Content should get edited and added upon, with that stream of edits being pushed out to the subscribers.

At its simplest, the wiki can act as a simple content manager. At its best, the wiki will engage the subscribers in the conversation happening in the wiki. Either way, content is being generated in a form that it is easily searchable and retrievable.

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