May 16, 2005


I just got back from Interwoven's GearUp! Conference. Many people would probably yawn at the prospect of attending a three day conference on document and content management, but I've left invigorated. Talk about a mass infusion of information, news, strategy, and most importantly, change management ideas!

Hands down, two of the best presentations dealt with the issues of user adoption, which boils down to good change management. First, Peter Lamb and Pat Morris of the Torys law firm shared their challenges and triumphs in their early adoption of WorkSite 8.0. One of Peter's first comments: The technology itself played such a small role, while the change management issues were paramount -- more than anyone had anticipated. Rizwan Khan, Interwoven's Director of WorkSite Professional Services, also delivered a stellar discussion on change management for matter-centric collaboration.

The problem, in the immortal words of the Pogo comic strip character, is "We have met the enemy, and he is us." We don't like change. Think about it: It took a great deal of effort to become proficient doing what we're doing. Every time we start to get comfortable, even with an inefficient process, someone or something comes along to the reshuffle the cards.

Both sessions emphasized several key processes that absolutely must be done well for a great rollout:

  • Get upper management in the game ASAP
  • Involve all levels of staff
  • Most importantly: Analyze your business processes before plugging in new technology.
Consider the last one carefully: How can you attempt to automate a process if you haven't defined a) What it is you're currently doing, and b) How you want it to work more effectively?

DM is becoming more like KM -- it doesn't really do as well on its own anymore, and there tends to be greatly different needs depending on the specific business requirements. One size still doesn't fit all.

To be successful, it needs to be baked into our regular workflow and processes. Over the past few years, Document Management has evolved and morphed into a much larger concept: Enterprise Content Management, or ECM. Content isn't just limited to word processing files. People, not organizations, create all kinds of spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, web pages, graphics, video, and more. No one likes having to do even more work to save their work, such as filling out profiles and classifying documents. Thus the allure of matter-centric systems -- being able to drag and drop the desired files into virtual folders that auto-profile them for us, organize them for us visually, add subscription capabilities (so we only see selected matters, not thousands of them), and make it easier to find them later.

The end goal is to make it more usable -- make it easier and more intuitive for the end users to get their content both into and out of the system. Seamless integration makes it easier as well, especially when it's done right. All of which contributes to higher user adoption and buy-in, which ultimately reflects itself in a higher ROI and organizational effectiveness.

But to get there, it definitely entails change, and that change needs to be managed thoughtfully and carefully, rather than merely being imposed on pre-existing processes, workflows, and mental models.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard