Archive for the ‘Content’ Category
This is Part 8 of the “What Functionality and Content Should I Add to My Intranet” series. To view previous parts of the series, click on Series link listed under pages on the right or use the link in the first sentence.
In my last post, I covered law firm intranet content for administrative department pages. This part of the series will focus on content for internal users of practice group and administrative department pages. The next post – Part 9 will focus on Research Pages/Portals.
Goals & Intended Outcomes
In a business focused on making money, the creation of an intranet should be based on a goal to increase productivity while decreasing or containing expenses with the outcome of improving revenue. To reach that goal, the intranet’s functionality and content improves:
- Business processes
- Information access
and, in the end, delivery of services to clients.
To date, the strategy for the creation of intranets in law firms has generally been focused on firm-wide initiatives that will make those improvements (e.g., supporting new client/matter intake). Administrative department pages went a step further in marketing their services/support to the rest of the firm. In recent years, some firms have begun to work more on practice pages but, in many cases, their focus has been on the marketing of practice groups/areas to the firm.
To be clear, our strategies have focused on communication and have dabbled with improving business processes and information access but we have a way to go. To achieve the goal described above, firms and their intranet teams will need to focus on processes, communication and information used by internal members of each practice group and administrative department.
In a sense, what is needed is an intranet within an intranet.
What would that look like? Here are some ideas in the case of an admin department, let’s say IT.
Click on image to view it in a larger format.
In this example, I created a wire frame (using IntranetFactory Modeler – a free SharePoint tool) that included links to other pages, links to bookmarks, the latest posts of an internal blog (internal to IT), announcements, and the IT calendar. The links to other pages include some that need no explanation – policies, procedures, projects, and others that may not be so easy to determine the content.
The Network, Help Desk and App Support team pages are used by those teams to support their work. As an example, the following image of the Help Desk Team Page, has the same navigation as the IT Department home page as well as a quick launch web part to give team members quick access to their most often used web apps, the help desk request que, a chart with the % of open requests by priority, and frequently asked questions the team receives. If you were able to scroll down, you would also see a web part for the teams knowledge base.
Click on image to view it in a larger format.
While this is an example of an administrative departments internal pages, it should give you an idea of what to include on practice pages as well. Anything the practice group, area, team, etc. thinks would support its work or requests during your user needs assessment. For example, a practice area page might include:
Contacts, projects, forms, most often used DMS documents by practice area members, open matters, calendar, who’s an expert in what, etc. Anything that is important to the practice area (within reason).
A caveat: If you get requests for content/functionality that may be used by other departments, groups, etc., you have a decision to make. Do you treat it as a one-off or do you take a step back and decide if what they are asking for might be a firm-wide, office-wide, etc. initiative. If you have a strategy in place regarding how this will be handled before it comes up, the decision and how you communicate it back to the group will be much easier. If you went one step further during planning and conducted a thorough user needs assessment before starting to code, you would have fewer decisions altogether.
NOTE: IntranetFactory looks like an interesting product. The modeler is offered at no charge along with a lite version of a product called SharePoint Works which IntranetFactory says can convert the wire frame into a SharePoint site. A more full featured commercial version of Works is available as well, along with a commercial version that includes all of the products.
This is Part 7 of the “What Functionality and Content Should I Add to My Intranet” series. To view previous parts of the series, click on Series link listed under pages on the right or use the link in the first sentence.
In my last post, I covered law firm intranet content for client pages. This part of the series will focus on content for external users of administrative department pages. The next post -Part 8 will focus on the internal users of administrative pages.
Both administrative department pages and practice group/area pages have two audiences. For the practice group/area, the audiences include individuals internal to the group/area and individuals external to the group who need information or assistance about the practice and its lawyers. For the administrative department pages, the audiences are the individuals internal to the department and individuals who need information or assistance from the department.
The function of both these types of pages is to market to and provide assistance to external users while providing internal users the functionality and content needed to do their work. To satisfy both audiences for the administrative department pages access to be given to users in the following manners:
Access by role – Is the user viewing the page a department member. If they are, give them a different view of the page that include links to information and functionality they need to do their work. If no, give them access to content developed for external users.
Access by secured groups – Has the user been added to a security group that can see the link. If yes, it would give them a link that would take them to their internal page along with the content developed for external users. If no, hide the link.
Note: In both cases, you would be using Active Directory or some other means to authenticate your users by identifying them using their network login id.
Aside from the differences already mentioned, these administrative pages will be different for each office. Additionally, you may want to provide a page for each department and for departments within departments because lawyers and staff tend to think of each administrative team as a department. For example, the lawyer recruiting team may be part of human resources but are generally seen by the lawyers as a separate unit.
As with the client pages, while I write about an administrative department page, it could be a page with many supporting pages. Also, I am only talking about the content for these pages but some of the content could be integrated into other parts of the intranet or to a personalized page for each user. For example, all department training calendars and documentation could be listed by department and by the use of a firm-wide training calendar.
What content might be included? Here’s a list of ideas for content for external users. Again, it is only a beginning. Content for internal users in groups and departments will be covered in a separate post.
- Staff list with links to staff directory (or link to staff directory with results limited to practice group)
- Services FAQ with contact info (who to call)
- Policies/Procedures – these items could be provided in a list or integrated into a workflow
- Forms (these are administrative forms the firm uses to conduct business) – Rather than just provide a list of forms, you could provide access by a “How do I label” where the users will be given access to a page or pages that have both instructions and the form for an individual task.
- Case studies or testimonial pages
- Suggestion “box”
- Online intake form to use in requesting services
- Client/Matter lookup
- Search by client and/or matter number that returns client/matter name, responsible lawyer, etc.
- Link to accounting application if web interface is used by firm
- i.e. Elite, CMS Professional, etc.
- Business intelligence reports
- Open matter or New matter intake form
This is not a research task page. It is a page that is used to market the libraries services and provide access to policies, forms, etc. I will be creating a post that covers the research page/portal separately.
- Library catalog
- List of electronic resources accessible by practice group/area and title with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- List of journals
- Training calendar – as with the training calendars listed for other departments on this post, each session on the calendar could provide a description of what will be covered in the session with the ability to register
- Access to online training
- Suggestions for research work flows depending on the type of research being done
- Best practices for conducting research
- Copyright compliance instructions
- Link to any web application HR may make available to lawyers and staff (timesheets, vacation balances, etc.)
- Training calendar
- Firm Polices (staff and/or lawyer policies)
- Open positions
- Manuals for staff, supervisors, etc.
- Curricula – for any program the firm offers to staff that allows them to develop skills that they need or that they can use to better themselves
- Training calendar
- Access to online training
- List of applications IT supports with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- Training calendar
- Help desk information
- Access to online training
Litigation support (may be called by other names)
- List of or access to all applications supported by Litigation Support with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- Request form for electronic filing userids/passwords for federal and state courts if applicable
- Training calendar
- Access to conference room scheduler
- Floor maps for each office
- Description of any services provided by facilities – for example, I’ve seen where one of the most important part of facilities content at one firm was the list of pop/soda machines in the office, their locations, and the type of pop/soda they contain
Office Services (could be part of HR or Facilities)
- Hospitality content
- Mail room content
- Telephone information
- Document services information
- Link to CRM system if firm has one that is web-based for end users
- Access to proposal writer if applicable
- Previous responses to RFPs
- Top XX client list
- Firm and group marketing target lists
Training/Professional development (Maybe part of HR or other departments)
- Training staff
- Training courses (any course provided regardless if it is on the schedule)
- Training sessions calendar (Lawyer, Paralegal, LAA, Professional Development, Soft Skills, Research, Computer)
I am not including everything that could be included on each departments page as this post has to end sometime. What I would like to see is your ideas. Please use the comment feature to add to the content listed above as well as functionality.
This is Part 6 of the “What Functionality Should I Add to My Intranet” series. To view previous parts of the series, click on Series link listed under pages on the right or use the link in the first sentence.
In my last post, I covered law firm intranet content for the home, firm-wide, offices, and practice groups/areas pages. This part of the series will focus on Client/Matter content. There are at least two different ways to make client/matter content available on an intranet. Note: While I am referring to the home of this content as a page, it can be made up of a main page with many supporting pages.
An information page gives users centralized access to the information about specific clients. As some of the content is confidential, access is generally based on roles. Some or all of the content on the page may be static html (updates are done manually by assigned editors) or dynamically generated from firm systems already in place (this would be the most useful and cost-effective method for the long-term), or you could use databases that have been created and are being updated for this purpose). If you only want to present the information and not provide the functionality of users being able to interact with it, this type of page is what you might create for your users.
The interactive page is, most often, dynamically generated from firm systems or custom databases as described above. There is little static html used. Besides that feature, an interactive page allows users to access information from firm databases and add, update or delete that information if they have the rights. An example of this would be a page that includes a marketing plan for the client. The client information/marketing plan is pulled from the accounting system, CRM, etc. and presented on the page. An edit button or blank metadata fields are included in the presentation of the information, allowing the user to add updates on the tasks/work done on the marketing plan. (I will cover how this can be done in detail in a future post)
The information page could include:
- Company information – This can be dynamically generated from outside resources – ask your librarian for assistance in sourcing this information.
- Law firms and other vendors the company has used for legal work (besides your firm)
- Litigation history
- Deal history
- Family tree (parent/subsidiaries)
- Contacts (at clients)
- Other offices
- Link to website
- List of firm lawyers supporting client
- Firm’s history in supporting the client
- Accounting/management reports re client (this would be something you may want to restrict access to) – this could include hours worked, invoiced, etc.
- Recent company news - This content could be pulled in using alerts delivered by an RSS feed. A free alternative might be using Google alerts. You can pay as little or as much as you want to for this type of news delivery. Your librarian can help you to source the news that meets your firms needs and budget.
- Stock info if public company – There are many free sources available for this information
- List of open matters – The most effective way to provide this information is to pull it dynamically from the accounting system. If you don’t have the technology in place to do this (or the database expert who can work out the structure of the backend database) you may want to maintain a list in a document that is updated by an assigned editor.
- List of closed matters - I am not sure how useful this is but I have seen a firm include on their intranet.
- List of practice groups that have worked on matters for the client – this can be dynamically generated using the accounting system or CRM content if the information is available in those or other systems. It’s great information for cross marketing. List of offices that have worked on matters for the client – again, great for cross marketing.
- List of matter types – This deserves its own post as it depends on how good the content your firm has collected regarding types of matters. Many firms ask for this information during the new client/matter intake process. The more granular the types are the more useful this content would be on a client page. For example, if your firm only has 2 matter types, could end up with something like Transaction and/or Litigation listed for your client. Using a more granular taxonomy for this content will make the information more valuable for marketing purposes.
- List of client contacts who have attended seminars, webinars, etc.
The interactive page content is the same as the information page but it’s what can be done with the information that sets it apart. What follows is a list of brainstorm ideas that can provide interaction but please remember that they are only a few ideas. What you do on your intranet will depend on your firm’s needs. Also, your software vendors may already have SharePoint web parts or other means for this integration. Additionally, there are third party vendors who can provide these web parts.
- Search function for accounting system or CRM that allows for generating information at point of need.
- Ability to drill down from client page to matter pages.
- Billing information and ability to mark accounts/invoices for collections, generate an email
- Hours worked on a matter by lawyer or subtask with the ability to drill down to billing narratives
- DMS documents – work in progress docs. Here the user would be able to open and work on documents that pertain to a matter.
- Ability to open new matters
- Ability to close matters
- Ability to view records maintained for the client and to create the labels, and indexes for records filing
- Ability to view and update those client contacts to receive holiday cards
- Ability to send emails
Some of you may say your users can get to and update many of the items I’ve listed in the various enterprise systems your firm uses. While that is possible, one of the goals of a business centric intranet/portal is to improve profitability by reducing the time lawyers and staff spend looking for information. Placing the content from those sources in context of all the information the firm has or can get about the company via an intranet page, and allowing users to interact with it will reduce the time spent seeking information. Beyond that, it will also reduce the time users now spend learning how to use the various enterprise systems the firm has in place for this information. It also can serve to improve processes if done interactively.
Finally, these are only some ideas and not meant to be all inclusive.