I promised to share my thoughts following the ARK Group KM Summit a couple of weeks ago in London. It’s taken me a bit of time, partly with the normal day to day getting in the way (as usual!), but mainly because I’ve been taking the opportunity to discuss some of the things I heard with my colleagues, clients and contacts. Hopefully, this period of reflection has helped to provide a bit more of a rounded view of the things I heard.
I was fortunate enough to attend the first day of the conference, although I understand that day two was equally interesting. I was particularly pleased, however, as number one on my list for this conference was hearing from Nick Milton about the new KM ISO standard—something which is of interest to LAC as a KM consultancy. I also enjoyed the other presentations in the legal stream, although I may venture into the corporate, charity and public sector stream next year as movement between the two is now much more fluid, which is a great decision. Thank you Ark Group! I am sharing here a few of my thoughts and takeaways on all of the sessions but focus mainly on the KM ISO standard. As always, I’m very happy to chat with anyone about any of these—particularly the ISO standard as that continues to fascinate me and feels like something which will only grow in importance in KM circles over the coming months and years.
KM ISO standard
Nick Milton provided a very insightful and practical session taking the audience through the process of developing and publishing the new KM ISO standard. I remember hearing about the early stages of this process at a previous conference. I was keen to hear the final output and see how it has been received and how it might be used in businesses. The process has clearly been very thorough, starting back in 2014 and involving 12 countries including the UK. The output is a document (of about 20 pages, which I am planning to buy and read) taking people through the details of ISO 30401, the new management systems standard for knowledge management.
Nick made the point that there are 54 ‘shalls’ in the standard, which feels like a lot, but a good chunk looks at how this will focus attention on the key aspects of KM best practice which businesses can aspire to achieve. Much of the discussion at the conference (and subsequently) has been around how it is not about dictating the process and being overly structured, but instead about understanding what ‘good KM’ should be. One factor which seemed to draw a fair bit of interest was the fact that at this stage at least, the standard has is not something which can be formally certified. This is a possible next step; but at this stage, it effectively provides the foundation of KM best practice and in my view, offers a very good benchmark for KM teams to use in assessing their KM practices and processes.
Both during and since the conference, Nick has asked for views on how the KM community might use the standard, and I’ve had my own similar conversations. My view, which I expressed in a question at the conference, was that we need to be careful people don’t view this as ‘another quality initiative’ and something which is ‘done to us’. I believe that the use of the ISO KM standard can be a positive step, both for the KM team, but also for others in the business —an opportunity to see what is being done well and perhaps not so well—in terms of KM. Nick’s straw poll at the conference and in his blog post suggested that many people are planning to buy the KM ISO document and are keen to understand more, perhaps using it to assess their KM approaches.
However, a number of people are keen to see the standard formally accredited. This is a view I’ve heard repeated by a number of my contacts—particularly considering whether any necessary resource and time investment will be approved if no accreditation can be achieved. Also, my law firm clients have queried whether their end clients will view it as important and therefore if it is something which can justify the internal investment. However, in contrast to this, a good number of people have expressed a view to me that the KM standard is required, that it is something which will help to establish KM in a similar way as many other ‘professional business standards’, which could give KM more credibility and provide more substance to an area few people fully understand.
The overwhelming view seems to be that it’s not to be ignored and many of my contacts are planning to purchase the standard to find out more, something LAC will be actively encouraging over the coming months…
A few other top picks
Although the ISO presentation was a key focus for me, other sessions were equally useful and insightful. I’ve picked out just a few key takeaways here from several presentations which I hope you find helpful.
Marlene Gebauer shared some interesting thoughts around the management of knowledge and big data and how this drives KM in US law firm Greenberg Traurig, where Marlene is Global Director of Strategic Legal Insights. Providing a number of examples around data analytics and trends, Marlene flagged that one of the most valuable uses for the analytics is when they can be shared with clients to provide better insight which helps shape work and processes, and achieve better outcomes. This was particularly useful, she noted, in helping the firm to work collaboratively with their clients, something we are all keen to achieve.
Victoria Duxbury from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner then followed up with a useful run through of the process they have adopted to assess, select, test, evolve and implement new technology—embracing new technology and acknowledging disrupters in the market. Victoria described the use of a formal process to identify, assess (and pilot) these products, using gamification to help support a successful launch and then continuously improve the use of this technology. In assessing options, Victoria stressed that they will assess a number of criteria both before and after the introduction of any new technology—does it allow the firm to do things faster, is less lawyer time required, is it risky, what is the appetite for change in that area of the business and are there any hidden benefits the tool can provide?
In looking at how KM can deliver efficient services, Melanie Farquarson from 3Kites Consulting stressed that as KMers we have to deliver all or some of the following key aims, and I absolutely agree. We should:
- Address risk
- Support professional competence
- Improve profit
- Provide quality and innovation
- Enable efficiency
- Improve client relationships
- Increase intellectual capital
- Assist with retention and recruitment of staff
Melanie then went on to talk about the sheer volume of systems available to lawyers to assist with everything across the matter management and case management continuum. PSLs now have a key role to play in assisting with process and efficiency in supporting the operation of the firm, but stressed that KM efficiency projects must be managed carefully. For example, she flagged how important it is in document automation projects to ensure that out of date documents are not automated and best practice is shared, in this case starting with a standard document for example. Melanie also noted that a key point to ensure acceptance of new tools is to make them easily available to the lawyers, so they don’t have to go looking for them. In Melanie’s experience, aside from case management users, there’s no getting away from the fact that most lawyers work in Word and Outlook all day, so this is a good place to start with any efficiencies.
Melanie shared her view that the best way to add value through KM is to ask yourself the following questions: Where is time wasted? How can KM help? And how far are consistency and best practice important in these areas? Often these sorts of checklists are a good place to start…
The day wrapped up with another useful Peer Assist session, expertly facilitated by Simone Pearlman. There was plenty of discussion on topics from How to Measure KM Value, to KM Governance, The Future of KM and How to engage Lawyers in KM. As always in these sessions, Chatham House Rules applied which helped the discussions to flow. Ideas I jotted down included: the value of ‘lessons learned’ discussions and capturing the output of these in a simple ‘snapshot’ which is shared across the organisation; some useful discussions on the use of real-life examples; the importance of peer pressure and (always a recurring topic these days) chargeable hours to support KM work across the business.
All in all a useful day of learning and networking, sharing stories and experiences—this was the KM Forum after all!
This article was originally published on LinkedIn: ARK Legal KM Conference 2019