Knowledge: the lifeblood of an organization
As organizations become increasingly globalized, more complex and embrace different ways of working, it’s important to be able to access core knowledge as efficiently as possible. However, legal functions frequently struggle to surface information both within their team and throughout the rest of the business, often leaving people unable to find key legal information, policies and documents when they are needed. Furthermore, without a systematic method of keeping the knowledge current, information becomes outdated, yet is still accessed and relied upon.
What is knowledge management?
There are numerous definitions of knowledge management but, in general, it is the ability to capture, store, locate, and use relevant information, as needed. For the legal team, it is an area that is frequently overlooked but can have a significant impact on time, cost, and even regulatory risk as a result of:
> people and content distributed globally
> content sitting in silos and across multiple data stores
> lack of governance around the creation and storage of content
> lack of connectivity between systems
> out-of-date content being relied upon
The benefit of knowledge management is clear but where do you start and what should you tackle first?
1. Know your users
Speaking with people in the legal team and the business, particularly those who are involved in the process you are attempting to improve, is the best method to learn more about their challenges. For knowledge and legal content management this may include:
> senior legal stakeholders – understand the views and objectives of senior stakeholders within the legal team. Knowledge and content will provide a window into legal teams for the wider business, so it’s important they are comfortable with how they are represented
> lawyers from each sub-team – understand the needs of the lawyers who will be relying on legal content to carry out their day-to-day tasks
> producers of legal knowledge and content – although not everyone in the legal team will be producing legal content, it’s important to understand the needs of those who are. You want to make it as easy as possible to create content, otherwise this could jeopardize the frequency and quality of their output
> Business users who are likely to interact with the legal team – target areas of the business which regularly interact with the legal team to understand their requirements and pain points
2. Know the challenges
Conduct surveys and interviews to learn about the issues your users are experiencing, focusing on: > what are the users looking for when it comes to legal knowledge or approaching the legal department?
> their preferred methods of finding legal information
> pain points with the current method of finding legal information
> positive experiences of where they have been able to locate the legal information they needed
> how would they rate the experience of accessing legal information? You should return to these responses on a regular basis to assess the impact of any changes or solutions that are implemented.
3. Know your content
A spring clean of your content may be in order! Examine the content that you already have available within the business. This can be a large undertaking but you may be surprised how much of the information is no longer needed and can be removed.
With the remaining content, focus on answering key questions:
> who is the intended audience? this will have an impact on where the content should sit. If content is only intended to be accessed by people on a specific project or function, you need to ensure it is in a secure location where access can be restricted
> which category should this content be in? designing a categorization taxonomy can have huge benefits in understanding and finding your content
> who is the content owner? identifying who is responsible for the content once it is made available will ensure your knowledge sharing is accurate and up to date. Owners of the content should be tasked with reviewing their content regularly, either to update or to archive
> should the content be reviewed regularly? content should be created with an expiry date in mind, for example, if a regulatory change date has passed. Alternatively some content may require updating over time such as your precedents. Technology can be used to create automated reminders and notifications accordingly
4. Know your tech
While you may need to purchase technology to aid with this solution, your first port of call should always be to try to utilize technology that is already present within the business. This will dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with implementing the solution. To begin, speak to your IT team to determine whether suitable technologies are already available. Better utilization of existing Microsoft 365 licenses is one example that we see frequently in the market, in particular tools such as SharePoint, Teams, and the Power platform
Putting it all together
You have the users, you understand their issues and you know what existing content and technology you have available to help. Now it’s time to design a solution to manage your legal knowledge. Begin by creating a proof of concept that meets the most critical requirements. Then, solicit input from a small group of users to check you are on the right track in addressing their needs. Further iterations of the solution can then be planned to solve the remaining requirements. Often overlooked, change management is a crucial part of implementing the solution successfully. You may have the perfect solution, but if no one uses it, the project has ultimately failed. Good change management ensures that your users and key stakeholders are involved throughout the process and maximizes adoption.