Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Decentralized and Personalized KM

Following a recent post in which KM practitioner Larry Hawes was contemplating valuing KM by its cost (not a good idea since its value added can be so much more dramatically greater), Christopher Schmaltz made the following comment:

We are moving away from a centralised KM to a more decentralised, self-service, personal KM. Employees decide what information they want to subscribe to. They decide who they would like to follow in their network, which interest groups they would like to subscribe to.

This wonderfully concise statement sums up part of my vision for KM at my law firm, in particular, the neccessity to make the information presented that most likely to be relevant and actionable to users.

A partner logs in. She is presented with the matters she's worked on recently, her top clients, and today's news and alerts about new litigation filed related to those clients. She also has previously selected receipt of alerts about significant changes in stock price or quarterly filings for those clients. Her one calendar shows her upcoming litigation deadlines, online CLE, and internal meetings for her practice areas. She can link directly to a place for her to review those associates who have worked with her most recently, and shows her how she's doing in terms of work in progress, accounts receivable, and her own billings for the calendar year versus targets.

As someone interested in financial industry regulation, she has chosen to receive an alert when a piece of work product receives a "Regulation FD" tag, or when someone's profile receives such a tag.

It's about pulling together the information that we already know relates to each person, plus the additional information or alerts that they have chosen to receive.


Mark Gould said...


I think your approach is so right (and I really like the way Christopher Schmaltz expressed the concept). My experience in trying to sell this is that people understand and welcome the principle, but they don't appreciate (in both senses of the word) the work that they have to do to make it happen.

For example, good tagging (on which so much of this depends) can be started by information specialists who don't understand the subject matter, but the real value is driven out when the subject matter experts (information non-specialists) start tagging. They can add nuances that others cannot. I haven't yet been able to identify the right way of getting over this hurdle.

juliec said...

How did you get in my head and then concisely express my vision?! I've had numerous dreams about such a place ...

I think we are really close to making this happen, at least the technology is here and mostly ready. As noted, the "sell" is still, unfortunately, too often about the upfront investment. Gotta get over that hump.

Mark also pointed out the issue of how to get users to develop tags from the get-go (when they don't understand what/why their doing it).

One suggestion would be to find a person in each practice area who can understand your vision and interview them. Try uncommon approaches like picking up a document off of their desk and asking them to describe it in three words. Then ask his/her secretary to describe the same document, and then ask the paralegal.

That approach would take a good amount of time for the KM person, but shouldn't take much time from the billers and their support staff.

The other side of the answer to this issue is building in a process that can capture comments (like Google's searchwiki). If a user finds a document, but would have tagged it differently, give them a quick and easy way to add a tag themselves, or provide a comment to a "tagger".

Just my thoughts on a late Wednesday afternoon ...

Unknown said...

Thank you Julie and Mark for your thoughtful comments.

Actually the "feeds off of tags" aspect of my vision is the most aspirational, that is, my firm does not have currently have a system for tagging documents inside the firewall.

I think it's important to realize that documents are very important for practitioners, but aren't what we're selling, and lawyers and other businesspeople need all of those other types of information to make the sound judgments and decisions that clients pay us for.

Doug Cornelius said...

David -

Spot on.

I think one of the big limitations in law firms is the document management system. They are good at managing documents, but bad for sharing knowledge.

I think your vision is similar to the early goals of an intranet acting as a portal, pulling information from different places that is relevant to you. The onset of 2.0 tech has changed that a bit. I see the portal as being more of an RSS feed reader. If we could just more of the underlying systems to push out relevant information in RSS (going back to the document management system).