The Role of Intranets in the Hybrid Workspace

By Tom Baldwin posted 04-22-2022 09:15

  

Please enjoy this blog post authored by Tom Baldwin, Partner, Fireman & Company - an Epiq Company.

Intro: 
In this blog post, we will learn what marketing and KM teams have done with their intranets to promote engagement and productivity across the organization in this ever changing environment.

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The pandemic has revealed quite a lot about society, and certainly our little legal industry bubble is no exception.  At the onset there were many questions, periods of anxiety, and fear of the unknown.  However, we learned a few things:

  • Lawyers can, when pressed into action, work remotely and be effective for extended periods of time working outside of the physical office
  • Firms can achieve, if not exceed, their financial goals
  • Thanks to the work of many amazing IT professionals and vendors in our industry remote working, frankly, works

However, these revelations have resulted in some potentially unintended consequences:

  • The serendipitous water cooler & hallway chats are fewer and farther between, leaving members of firms more in the dark than ever and less informed about both the business of the firm and what’s happening in their colleagues personal lives
  • The long-standing tradition of organic knowledge transfer, learning and development of more junior lawyers by virtue of being in close proximity to their senior colleagues is now at risk
  • While lawyers have been more self-sufficient, working remotely has more brought to light the deficiencies in the way lawyer-facing software is designed and deployed
  • Culture can be compromised if communications and knowledge are not more thoughtfully managed
  • Lawyers and business professionals can feel a sense of disconnectedness if a firm continues to operate as it did pre-pandemic

Having worked on 60+ legal intranets, we’ve seen many firms seize the moment and realize that now is the time to put in place mechanisms to ensure these issues, and many others, can be addressed in a sustainable way - future proofing their firms’ remote work strategy.

While there are many things firms have done, we’re going to narrowly focus on the role a firm’s intranet can play, and what both Marketing and KM teams have done to promote engagement and productivity.

Let’s talk about engagement:

  • In lieu of water cooler conversations, many firms use their intranet’s prime real estate to highlight the firm’s victories and success via a “Hero banner”. *Pro tip*: Little nudges like automatically showing people’s faces that are tagged in the story drive more engagement and news contributions.


  • We saw firms mimic social media features that many people are now familiar with.
    • Similar to Instagram (in fact many firms called this feature “{insert.firm.name}Gram”), early on many firms asked people to send pictures of their family, pets, or home office setup. Some firms introduced a Picture of the Day, asking anyone at the firm to contribute pictures they wanted to share. One firm would drive engagement with specific topics, like “Post pictures of your kids on their first day of school.”
    • Like Twitter, in an effort to provide more routine communications for leadership, we’ve seen leading firms leverage a feature we like to call “Leadership Updates” where, in lieu of solely using email, the firm’s leadership can use a section of the intranet to communicate in a more frequent, pithy and colloquial way. This preserves the attention and gravitas of email from your leadership team, and gives them a platform for more frequent communication.


  • To stay current on the work of the firm, we’ve seen firms fold in feeds from their Foundation or Intapp Experience system to both highlight cases won and deals closed, and also to encourage lawyers to contribute to these systems.

On the knowledge management side, we could dedicate an entire post to how KM has leveraged their intranet to solve for some of the aforementioned challenges, but here are some highlights:

  • Lawyers have day jobs, it’s to practice law. Not attempt to learn the ins/outs of every piece of software they may ever need to use, nor remember the name and location of each system they are expected to master.  Being in the office they had a built-in ecosystem of support that, with a simple email or phone call, could scurry to their office and walk them through just about anything.  But working remotely now required more self-sufficiency.  To enable this new obligation on the lawyers, many intranets now act as the gateway to most of the tools a lawyer would need to use on a regular basis; a one-stop-shop for everything from the DMS, to financial dashboards, curated news feeds, matter budgeting information, legal research, custom links, even their stocks!
  • To help curate knowledge for the firm’s lawyers to leverage, we’re seeing more and more firms invest in creating knowledge banks/hubs that house the firm’s precedents, forms, checklists, and other know-how in an easily digestible format, readily accessible via the intranet
  • Firms haven’t stopped lateral hiring, but integration is harder when people aren’t in the office. One way firms are remotely onboarding and integrating laterals into the firm and vice versa is via power directory pages on the intranet.  To centralize and collect what they know about their lawyers, we’re seeing more and more firms invest in collecting rich data and surfacing it in an almost LinkedIn-style firm directory page on the intranet. 
  • People are spoiled by Google, and working remotely requires having an easy way for people to find things on their own. While no firm can replicate the power of Google in their intranet, we have seen many firms take advantage of a method we created called “Guided Search” in the early days of our intranet practice.  It lets users see results as they type, and pulls back results on the most common things people search for on the intranet in one single interface:
  • People, clients, matters, and content on the intranet



A note about Teams:

  • Your firm is likely already using Microsoft Teams to some degree. Beyond the out-of-the-box features of Teams, leading firms are looking to use Teams as an even more powerful Digital Workplace that can elegantly aggregate even more technology experiences for lawyers.
    • Speaking of Teams, if you’ve not looked at Microsoft Viva, you should. It has four modules that are integrated into Teams (Viva Learning, Viva Insights, Viva Topics and Viva Connections). It is an employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights in the flow of work.




#Firm
#KnowledgeManagementandSearch
#IntranetsandPortals
#ProfessionalDevelopment
#RemoteWorking
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