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Knowledge Management and IT: Push and Pull - Recap

By Catherine Hanley posted 06-08-2021 13:05


Please enjoy this blog post recap from Kate Hanley, Knowledge Management Lawyer, Sidley Austin LLP.

On June 2, 2021, ILTA hosted a roundtable on "Knowledge Management and IT: Push and Pull." The participants were Caroline Sweeney (Director of Knowledge Management and Innovation) and Paul Miller (Chief Information Officer) from Dorsey & Whitney, and Gwyn McAlpine (Director of Knowledge Management Services) and Rick Howell (Chief Information Officer) from Perkins Coie. The roundtable was moderated by Kate Hanley, Knowledge Management Lawyer at Sidley Austin LLP

How do you define 'modern' Knowledge Management?

  • At its core, KM is about sharing knowledge across an organization to improve efficiency and effectiveness. It is particularly important in large professional service organizations like law firms, because we are selling expertise, but it is distributed across many people, so we are trying to figure out how to make the connections to share that knowledge.

  • KM has evolved a lot over the years– the approaches for knowledge management originally were non-technology based and focused on content, but increasingly there is a focus on technology and how to bring that in to sift through information and to improve efficiencies through the application of technology.

  • ‘How to provide value to clients using knowledge management’ is a core question. KM is moving beyond traditional documents and templates to connecting expertise and internal knowledge so everyone has access to that information, and to presenting that knowledge and expertise in new ways to clients.

  • IT looks at how to leverage technology and AI to expand services of law, and relies on KM to be the voice of what legal technology in the business of law should be. Legal technology is a huge ecosystem of technology stacks, and modern KM acts as a liaison or bridge between IT’s evaluation of whether technology will be valuable or beneficial to the legal practice, and the practical application, deployment, and use of that technology by the practitioners.


Where does KM fit in with Innovation and IT at your respective firms?

  • Innovation is becoming more of a strategic initiative in many ways, but KM and IT often shoulder the majority of the responsibility for driving innovation.

  • KM and innovation initiatives can be integrated or separate – but there has got to be a close partnership between KM and innovation, regardless of how organized.

  • Innovation has to be cultural and throughout the firm, and it comes in lots of flavors, so there may be something innovative that comes out of Finance related to their internal processes that KM is not involved in. All departments – Marketing, Finance, Development, not just KM, Innovation or IT – have responsibility  for innovation and are involved in figuring out how to innovate internally and to meet client needs.

  • To the extent that it is practice or client-facing, KM should be involved in innovation, because KM has the deep relationship with practices and understands the work being done, and can help bridge gap between technology and opportunities within the practice to bring in technology.


How do your IT and KM teams work together to identify, evaluate, and sponsor new software?

  • For IT, the partnership with KM is important. IT’s mission is to supply a lot of different technology services to different business units, not just individual departments, and to see the gestalt whole. The question for IT is how to connect the innovative ideas from different business units and make them run as a systemic whole. 
  • The real value from KM is in understanding the outcomes that the practice is trying to achieve, what enabling structures within the practice have to exist in order for a technology tool to be sustainable, and what organizational changes need to happen in order sustain the benefits or outcomes.

  • Understanding the business process is important to understand what needs to change in the practice in order for a technology tool to have actual sustainable impact, and to get adoption and return on investments in technology. KM can provide insight into the underlying business process and needs of the practice, and work with IT to break down components of the process and figure out where technology piece fits in. 


Are there areas where KM benefits from incorporating IT tools or methods to measure the success of KM initiatives?

  •  The use of metrics and data analytics has changed dramatically in the recent years. One of the areas where KM has learned from using IT is in the use of analytics to further goals and amplify what is already occurring. There is a level of sophistication from IT in pulling and analyzing data, and KM can really learn from that.

  • KM evaluates data and metrics from a support and performance standpoint, looking at adoption rates, patterns in how different offices or groups are using tools, and identifying outreach opportunities. 

  • An area where the intersection with KM and IT is happening is where KM teams are working with legal operations teams that are metrics driven. We are starting to find more opportunities to decompose the work or value streams and put real metrics behind them. This is an area where IT can really lean in and help with defining the value streams and bring the maturity models to the supply chain questions that legal operations teams are looking at.


Where do KM tools or methods benefit IT?

  • KM is leading the charge on introducing AI tools into the practice and to clients and helping to understand whether AI tools will help in certain situations.

  • KM drives adoption, connects tools and resources to practice pain points, and contextualizes technology for practice groups.

  • Technology is important to innovation, but also important that people look beyond technology for ways to be innovative that are not technology dependent. An overly technical approach to innovation can miss the needs of the organization, miss opportunities, or lead to implementing technology that no one adopts or uses in the manner intended. KM leads efforts in building and maintaining relationships with practice groups and in breaking down the underlying processes to understand what is really happening in the legal practice.


1 comment



06-08-2021 13:12

Here is the link to the actual roundtable recording: