It has been exactly 12 months since we introduced ThoughtFarmer, an Enterprise 2.0/wiki style intranet platform within Hicks Morely. Despite a few growing pains, the implementation was successful in meeting our primary objectives to decentralize content updates and increase knowledge sharing and collaboration within the firm. A review was recently conducted that included an in-depth analysis of the site and user statistics as well as a feedback survey to determine the frequency of use, value of content, usability of the interface and ease of information retrieval. The results were very informative and are discussed in more detail below.
Approximately 40% of the firm's employees (including partners, associates and support staff) have contributed content to the Intranet. Content updates to the old intranet were previously done by 4 people at the firm who had Dreamweaver installed on their desktop. A key factor to ensuring high adoption and contribution rates was the individual hands-on training sessions where lawyers were shown how to add documents, short cuts to internal pages, external links to websites and documents to their personal profile page on ThoughtFarmer. The profile page became a Personal Knowledge Management "enabler" for many lawyers who created pages to store precedent collections, articles, presentations and speaking notes. These documents, previously buried in personal folders on the Shared Drive, are now found through a keyword search
The overall transparency, openness and visibility of changes to the Intranet has also helped content contribution by raising the profile of many staff at the firm. Anybody can add a news item to the Home Page and items have been added by partners, support staff and students. Such items include updates on social events, firm policies, charity campaigns, as well as marketing and knowledge management news. Each Practice Group has a section that is open for editing and processes were developed that transferred the updating responsibility to associate lawyers or administrative assistants for each group. Practice Groups are now utilizing the Intranet to capture and share best practices, new procedural rules, precedents, and practice specific documents. Recent enhancements to the platform include a blog and news item template that are being utilized by some groups, including the Knowledge Management Group, to highlight breaking case law and legislative developments. The decentralized model, ease of adding content and removal of bottlenecks has resulted in frequent updates. Now the biggest challenge is keeping track of daily content additions to the Intranet.
Due to the sheer volume of new content on the Intranet, our users sometimes struggle to find information, because they are unfamiliar with the new content areas, labels on the navigation bar and cannot apply restrictions to their search. Lawyers still rely on email to find certain types of documents although the number of queries has definitely dropped. We are planning to improve access to information by making the following cosmetic changes to the interface:
- Change labels on navigation bar so they are more intuitive to users
- Add descriptions for each content area
- Add more tags to help filter search results
- Develop naming conventions and descriptions for all attachments to increase the relevancy of search results
ThoughtFarmer continues to enhance its platform and the latest release includes a new tree navigation pane that displays a further breakdown of content, making information easier to find. It also recognizes that lawyers continue to use email for collaboration and is introducing the ability to capture email discussion threads which contain valuable content and expertise that is currently lost in email inboxes. We are excited about introducing these enhancements to the firm but would also like to see improvements to the search functionality that allow users to narrow down the scope of their search.