Archive for August, 2008
Another ILTA 2008 session on Wednesday 8/27 from the Project Management Peer Group Track was geared towards those beginning project managers (PMs) and those who might not have “project manager” in their job title but still have the duties. Although unfortunately I missed Joseph Fousek’s slides from Kirkland Ellis, I did get there to hear most of Katherine Cain’s presentation on her experiences as project manager at Winston & Strawn.
I especially appreciated Katherine’s metaphor of the tree swing from projectcartoon.com (see my previous post on How Law Firm Intranet Projects REALLY Work) and how what you hear and what people really want may not match. Her real-life example was when she created an extranet for a client pitch. They jumped right into development, created some “shiny” technology, and ended up missing the direct connection to the attorney and client needs – not what was wanted OR needed. To remedy the situation, they started to ask questions about the strategy and direction, and finally delivered a tool with a connection to the needs and won the client business plus more. Her main advice was to build solutions based on customer needs by:
- focusing on business before technology
- asking intelligent questions, and then asking them again
- drawing a picture
- aligning the requirements with the customer business need
Tim Golden from McGuireWoods gave great advice about making your process fit the project, not the other way around. He said that one size does not fit all in project management, and there are four aspects you should consider with each project:
- Definition – what is your project?
- Assessment – what does is mean?
- Control – how are you going to manage it?
- Reporting – how are you going to track and measure it?
Another of Tim’s key tips is to conduct an AAR (after action review – a concept popular with the US Army) for every project you work on. This includes asking the following questions:
- What did we think was going to happen?
- What actually happened?
- Why was there a difference?
- What did we learn?
At the end of the sessions during the attendee question period I was pleased to hear Joseph mention the importance of aligning your project with the PMO if at all possible to help with overall management (see my previous post on What’s a PMO, and why does is matter for my intranet project?).
~ Amy Witt
The ILTA 2008 conference definitely had a heavy concentration on SharePoint sessions. (A two-part hands-on demo on Tuesday 8/26 was so popular that it was standing room only, and they ended up turning people away. One person I talked to waited 30 minutes in order to stand in the back of the room for the remainder of the session.) This particular session was a panel of four firms using SharePoint for their intranets, part of the Communication and Collaboration Tools Track on Wednesday 8/27.
Moderator Chad Engrun from White & Case began the session by discussing his use of SharePoint and Handshake Software to integrate with their document management system, Interwoven. He also is using a beta SharePoint workflow product called K2 blackpoint.
Michael Williams from Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi showed some screens from his SharePoint intranet also using the Handshake Software Relationship Toolkit, including a matter page that integrated with their docketing, financial, and document management systems. They utilize individual content managers across the firm with mixed success.
Next up was Paul Phillips with screen shots from Nixon Peabody, who started moving to SharePoint 2003 in the year 2005 (previously using Plumtree and ISYS for their intranet). They, too, are using Handshake web parts for integration with their document management system and SQL data. Recommind is also being used with their integrated Mindserver. Some of Paul’s top goals include moving to enterprise search and creating a financial dashboard for his firm.
Last on the panel was Sam Shipley from Ulmer & Berne. His original intranet was programmed in ColdFusion, but is now using SharePoint and (you guessed it) Handshake. They concentrated first on creating some useful reports and meters, including firm performance, practice group performance, and attorney performance.
All panelists indicated at least some level of difficulty getting decent metrics to measure success out of SharePoint, and some of them are using web analytic tools such as WebTrends.
~ Amy Witt
The last session of the day for me at ILTA 2008 on Wednesday (8/27) was another one focusing on ways to use wikis in law firms in the Communications and Collaboration Tools Track. Chad Ergun from White & Case presented along with Peter Westervel from Minter Ellison. The published title of this session was “Three Ways to Use Wikis in Law Firms” but there were no defined points (let alone three of them, at least that I could discern), rather descriptions and screen shots from both panelist’s firm.
Chad talked about using a wiki for extranets that clients can subscribe to, and also to track internal projects. He disclosed that because people at White & Case get nervous when they hear the word, the tools he develops are never titled “wikis” even though that’s what they are. One interesting tool Chad pointed out was wikimatrix.org, which allows you to compare and contrast dozens of wiki products to find one that meets your specific needs.
Peter made a good point that self-moderation is the key to a successful wiki. Minter Ellison uses the wiki capabilities of SharePoint, and in the next phase will try to incorporate wikis as part of their knowledge management program as a whole. Peter also tried to answer an attendee question about showing the value of wikis when it’s hard enough to get lawyers to use their existing intranets and document management systems. His answer citing the key differentiator of user empowerment via editing capabilities was echoed by Chad.
~ Amy Witt