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Global intranets should ‘underpin’ law firm strategy

'A successful intranet is user and organisation centric' 

2 May 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

A law firm's intranet should "enable business strategy and firmwide values to be realised," Linklaters' global intranet manager, Angela Rossiter, has said.

Speaking at Ark Group's conference Using the Intranet to Inform, Inspire and Engage Your Users this week, Rossiter said that intranets "need to underpin firm strategy".

"Why are any of us changing our intranets? Because they probably aren't fit for purpose anymore."

But, she warned against dismissing current intranets as completely outdated and replaceable.

"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater - the intranet you currently have isn't always bad," she said. "Use what you have, build on what you have and learn from what you have."

Developing a new intranet

The first step in the process of launching a new global intranet, said Rossiter, is to ask 'what problem are you trying to solve?'

The firm should agree the vision and scope for the intranet at the outset. At Linklaters, this was to enable people to: find the useful resources the need to do their job; connect with others who can help them do their jobs; and use online tools to collaborate globally.

Firms should then think about how the intranet is going to be governed and put a project governance team in place, she said.

It is also important to engage users in the development process, as they should be the ones driving the direction of the new intranet, she added.

But, Rossiter warned against trying to make the intranet all things to all people.

"At the end of the day, an intranet is going to be different things to different people at different points in time."

Fee earners in different offices will also have different needs and will understand information and navigate it differently, she noted.

"Keep it simple - you can't fix everything, so don't try," said Rossiter. "Look for quick wins - things to keep users engaged."

"But, make sure any change you make has a tie to the business requirements and benefits the users," said Rossiter. "Think about content migration, users and owners."

"It comes back to what you are trying to achieve. Consider the technology feasibility - can the technology do it? And, if the technology can do it, should you do it? How are you going to generate the content? If you don't have it, you can't build it," said Rossiter.

"Remember also that, all the time that you are building your new intranet, your people are still living with the old intranet. They can't envisage what it will look like, so you have to help them on that journey," she said.

Rossiter concluded: "When designing your intranet, remember that it's the beginning, not the end. It needs to be scalable, migratable and repeatable in order for the next genesis of the intranet to avoid the same pain you went through."

Tying the intranet to firm culture

Another component of a successful intranet is to ensure it ties into firm culture, Chris Shilling, innovation vizier at Pharma Diagnostics, said at the conference.

"One of the challenges firms face is: what is the culture that we have and how can we use it? A successful intranet is user and organisation centric."

"Culture will always kill everything," he noted. "Firms need intranets that work with the culture that exists."

Sharing his experiences in managing intranets, Field Fisher Waterhouse's KM systems manager, James Mullan, said: "Usually problems with intranets fall into five broad areas: lack of senior management support; lack of ownership; technical problems; information design problems; and overly complex environments."

"Effective management of content requires: processes and rules around content creation; motivated and active content providers; the right solution/design in place to support the content; and content owners," he added.

For Shilling, the key is for firms to define the value proposition of the new intranet and and to track key performance indicators against that proposition.

"If you can't communicate the value of it, how can anyone else?"



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