Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What should have happened? Continuous learning

After Action Reviews (AARs) are excellent tools – they may be painful to do, (someone who can fulfil the role of a facilitator is always well worthwhile), awkward to suggest, time consuming to pull out the most valuable lessons, and even more time consuming to change processes within the organisation in the light of that learning – but they are such good value!

If you are not familiar with After Action Review it is basically a case of getting together all of those involved in that particular project, and reviewing how it went. It could be a project or a transaction, and the aim is to find out:

  • What was supposed to happen?

  • What actually happened?

  • What is the difference between the two questions above?

  • What can we learn from this?

  • What would we do differently next time?
The benefit can be enormous; it can stop the wheel being reinvented in future work, it can improve the quality of the work carried out next time, it can save time and once a routine of carrying out AAR’s is established, the lessons learnt can be used right at the beginning of the project, adding in a “what do we already know” stage, before the project is undertaken.

Then you can move into “before, during and after” reviews, which is a very healthy state to be in.

I believe that some of the origins of this can be traced back to the US Army, but my favourite hand book is “Learning to Fly” by Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell.

There is a lot of good material on their website, but there are lots of helpful experiences, templates and implementation advice around elsewhere as well. Kim Plowright shares a template that she uses for projects, and it has some useful prompts. Some of the language used may need to be changed to be relevant to your own organisation, but it can be a useful exercise.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Merger mania

The mergers and acquisitions market appears to be warming up, with recent high profile mergers like Orange and T-Mobile, Cadbury and Kraft, there are bound to be more to follow.

BNET have put up some tips on “how to survive a mega-merger”, dealing with some of the issues around consolidation that mergers always bring.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Charging for the The Times online

Karen Blakeman blogs about the latest move from News International.

The Financial Times did the same thing three years ago, making us all pay for additional licenses to be able to obtain FT data through the aggregators. The FT withdrew their content from Lexis, Westlaw and other aggregators, losing several customers in the process.

If The Times does the same thing, is the content unique enough to merit us taking out additional licences and extra cost? I doubt it.

Friday, 26 March 2010

What value does Knowledge Management add?

Why "do" KM? Isn’t it just common sense? An intelligent way of working? The answer for me is yes it is indeed all of these, but KM facilitates and leverages all of those good ideas that might not come to anything otherwise, it supports innovation, enforces some of those good habits, more importantly it can reveal what measures would actually help an organisation to improve quality, save time and reduce risk.

A simple overview of the difference between conventional knowledge sharing and what is gained by using knowledge management is shown in a presentation from Óttar Erlingsson and Espen Grødem.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sources disappearing?

Many of the online database aggregators that we rely on remove sources – sometimes without letting subscribers know. This could be because they have not been able to agree distribution rights and licence fees with the source owners, or even because that source could be seen as a competitor to one of the aggregators own products.

Some aggregators are great and tell you as soon as they know that it is going to disappear and why, but all too often we find out the hard way that a source is no longer included when we thought it was – a real quality issue.

Robin Neidorf from Freepint VIP has been carrying out a brief survey on sources: " What sources have you lost? What sources are you concerned you may lose? How have you adapted?"
Participants will receive a copy of the report, and a feature story on the results will also appear in an upcoming issue of VIP Magazine.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Hidden information

A lot of useful and current information is hidden away within Power Point presentations, and although an advanced search on a mainstream search engine may find the odd one, many will remain undiscovered.

There are several good tools to find this sort of material – I have previously used Slideshare but have recently discovered Slidefinder. Both of these – and probably several other dedicated sites out there, provide access to presentation materials that contain all sorts of corporate information, insights into lessons from other industries, statistics, concepts, background etc.

Slidefinder has the advantage of taking you directly to the slide that contains your search term, rather than you having to search through a presentation to find out whether the item is relevant to you.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Legal Document Management using SharePoint?

Several organisations have been looking looking towards a Microsoft solution for a document management system (DMS) in recent years. The Orange Rag (Legal Technology Insider) has a nice overview - if you are a subscriber.

Some are pushed in that direction because their organisation already has SharePoint and want to leverage and integrate with other Microsoft applications, collaborative platforms and Word, others are looking that way because it could be a cheaper alternative to some of the bigger systems like Interwoven and Opentext. Finding a good SharePoint solution out of the box is certainly exercising a few minds; version control, security, individual document numbers, metadata retention, lack of email management and integration have all been issues.

There is of course lots of information from Microsoft, such as on the Microsoft TechNet site and Sharepoint 2010 appears to be the answer. However, these do not necessarily highlight some of the issues, so there are many blogs and many Microsoft partners happy to be paid to develop Sharepoint DMS solutions – but at a cost, plus development time. Such as Kraft Kennedy, and documents such as SharePoint briefing .

One recent announcement has come from Sword Group, who plan to launch a Legal Document Management Solution based on the Microsoft SharePoint platform. Sword Group have entered into a collaborative agreement with Lewis Silkin to acquire the IP for their “Legal centric Document Management application”, which uses SharePoint. Their objective is to develop a commercial package (Excalibur) for launch Q3 2010, targeted at law firms and in-house corporate legal counsels, so more of an out of the box product.
I am sure that there are many others in the race to a flexible Sharepoint DMS solution off the shelf.

Monday, 22 March 2010

KM and innovation

There has been lots of great discussion recently about knowledge management and how it affects innovation – it is so pertinent in the current economic environment where every advantage counts.

I have long subscribed to the theory that KM helps, supports, and nurtures innovation. The only "innovation" that might be stifled is when people waste time and effort re-inventing the wheel and do not build on experience.

Nick Milton of Knoco has a number of helpful posts around this issue, and about project-based learning:

If you have never encountered Nick Milton’s "bird island" to illustrate how constructive it is to capture and re-use knowledge – it is well worth a look!

Recent discussion on a LinkedIn Knowledge Management Experts * thread added that if KM is done properly it is no extra effort, it is just about getting business processes to an excellent level, standardised and shared across an organisation. If KM is not done so well and ignores the behavioural change needed to make projects succeed, then there is a disconnect between the Knowledge Management intiative and the employees, with people not understanding what the benefits could be, and a lower success rate as a result.

*(NB. You may have to be a member of this group to be able to follow this particular link, you will certainly need a LinkedIn account - but it was an interesting discussion so I wanted to give it a mention)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Plain English - legal writing and drafting

Legal writing and drafting training can be very valuable in the legal world, as can careful proof reading! To support good english language habits there are various texts and sites, one that I particularly like is Ken Adams’ site, especially the blog.

Nishwa Ashraf from Melcrum has also written an interesting post; "Are you guilty of crimes against the English language?"

Nishwa explains that The Local Government Association (LGA) is tightening up on what it calls "impenetrable words", and has drafted a 250-word list outlawing meaningless and confusing terms including "trialogue", "clienting" and "goldfish bowl facilitated conversation".

Oh to be a "fly on the wall" for that meeting...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Business information service

With the closure of the the FT Business Information (FT Research Centre) and London Business School fee paying information services, there are not so many business information services available for the more obscure historic enquiries that need specific sources to resolve.

Dermot McGrath was the senior researcher at the FT Business Information Service and when the Research Centre was closed in early 2008, he left to set up Markets Information and Research Ltd, to provide a service that the FT no longer operated in.

Markets Information and Research Ltd specialise in researching the World's stock exchanges and other financial markets, global public and private companies, economies and rich lists. They have a wide-ranging library including a significant collection of pre-1980 data, such as company rankings, UK economic statistics, and UK stock market records that may be impossible to locate elsewhere.

Dermot is always helpful and has found things that we cannot obtain elsewhere, well worth a try!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Open source software and how to do more with less

James Mullan puts some excellent posts up on his “Running Librarian” blog, and like the “good blogger” he is, he has captured some useful resources and tips on providing information for less cost.

Based on his recent talk at the Ark conference; “Managing your law firm library and information service through challenging times” James includes several open source presentations and details.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Business Directories

Two established company directories have re-vamped their online offerings – Kompass and Kellysearch.

Both have become less of an essential source for business information in recent years but will these changes make them useful tools?

Anne Jordan looks at their new offerings. Kellysearch is positioning itself as a B2B request-for-quotes site, and some of the Kompass site is still in beta form.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Looking for national court decisions on EU law?

The European Court of Justice’s Research and Documentation Department database has been made available in both English and French.

It contains over 20,300 decisions of national courts concerning Community law from 1959 up to 20th June 2007.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Free map data?

The "Making Public Data Public" project’s latest hope is to make Ordinance Survey map data freely available online from April 2010. It looks as though this is mainly to allow people to access and interpret public statistics by postcode, local authority or electoral boundary. One of the applications is the "ASBOrometer", a mobile application that measures levels of anti-social behaviour at your current location (within England and Wales) and gives you access to key local ASB statistics.

If you have not seen the beta site it is worth visiting, the site aims to provide access to government data and is under constant development. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Professor Nigel Shadbolt and others are advising the government on this initiative.

Free Legal Web

FreeLegalWeb is being pulled together by Nick Holmes, with the aim of delivering; "better, affordable, joined-up access to the law". Ideally this would link up all of the good free resources that already exist, such a BAILII, government information, primary law and secondary law, commentary and know how.

It sounds great, if ambitious, and could be an alternative to the expensive commercial resources that help us to obtain commentary and analysis, primary and secondary law.

"FreeLegalWeb is a collaborative project which will provide intuitive, joined-up, public access to the law and legal guidance via:

· A user-generated knowledge base of expert guidance on the law
· Underpinned by direct access to all publicly available primary law and related resources
· A content-analysis system automatically connecting articles to related primary law and other resources on the internet.

It will benefit all who require better, affordable access to the law, providing a wide-ranging public and community service via a Community Interest Company."

The beta site is due to kick off this spring, focussing on housing law only. The hope is that this first platform will help to attract potential sponsors and grow the project.

Are you mobile?

This view of mobile working from BT looks at the four traditional barriers of mobile working; technology, culture, cost and security.

With some case studies around collaboration, security issues and ROI this is an interesting read even though it concentrates on BT products.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Financial Times images - will your licence cover it?

The Financial Times is consulting on the way that they licence their digital images, consolidating their digital licensing.

Do you use the FT or and have an NLA licence / an licence / a press cutting agency agreement? If so this is what the FT are saying so far.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Copyright and social networking

As social networking increases in popularity, are people breaking copyright with some of the items that they post? Photos or videos appear to be most at risk; with a large number of social networking site users completely unaware of the potential copyright issues associated with posting such original works.

Although looking at the situation in the U.S. this item in Law Technology News provides an interesting review and some good suggestions to bear in mind when posting on social networking sites.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Do you mind map?

Some of us naturally think graphically and are happiest drawing diagrams to explain structures, concepts, make notes and to think things out. I have just been introduced to some lovely freeware called "Freemind".

You may have found this one already, but it is great tool, and I prefer it to a lot of the alternatives. I use it for planning out ideas, showing the relationship between issues – and it has a polished output that I can pass on to others without having to tidy up my scruffy hand drawn efforts!

I find it helpful to record discussions in meetings, and for sharing thoughts / strategy / objectives. Free to download it has not conflicted with anything on my pc so far…