April 18, 2007

Collaboration Thoughts: Google "Presently", Parallel Processing, Simplification and Savvy Execution

Google is rounding out their web office apps with a PowerPoint clone. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch blogged on the announcement yesterday at the Web 2.0 expo. As a word play on Writely, Google's collaborative word processor, Google fans are now eager awaiting "Presently".

Although it's still early, I tend to agree with Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comment that it isn't a threat to Microsoft -- yet. With Office 2007's release and obvious refinements (particularly the ribbon bar), enterprise and legal markets are already sitting up, taking notice, and planning their upgrades. However, in this Web 2.0 era of business at the speed of broadband, waiting for revisions to roundtrip through multiple people is becoming more and more burdensome and costly. Think serial processing vs. parallel processing. Core Single vs. Core Duo.

Would I trust Google's web tools with confidential or sensitive data? [Update: No. A major concern I do not see going away any time soon is how easily a third party will give up records under subpoena, or threat thereof, when there may be defenses or other protections available to the data owner. There may also be security concerns]. But there have been times when I've been collaborating with one or more CLE presenters when it would have been incredibly helpful to work on the same presentation file concurrently.

I also like Workshare's Professional Suite's "Manage Changes" feature, particularly for Word documents. It goes Track Changes a few times better as it allows you to import and manage revisions from multiple reviewers within the same document, enabling a more flexible review and revision process.

Collaborative technology can definitely help, but it's not a panacea by itself. It doesn't eliminate the need of those involved in the process to understand and identify more efficient ways of conducting business.

I recently re-read the Corporate Counsel article, "Seven Sigma: GE lawyers take a low-tech road to come up with a high-tech way to draft contracts quickly" (I believe it was the Jan. 2007 issue, no web link available). It describes how GE's law department -- using only sticky notes -- tore apart and simplified the process for drafting contracts, cutting their document length, complexity, and execution time dramatically. Then they implemented the technology to facilitate it. If they would have tried to automate their existing voluminous contract forms around the old process, I seriously doubt the gains would have been anywhere near as rewarding.

Web 2.0 has been getting a lot of hype, along with criticism for over-hype. Some of it is probably deserved, but businesses and their lawyers would do well to give it a spin. Before the ride is over, it'll likely get people thinking and moving in a new direction.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Legal Technology  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard