A Wiki Case Study: Replacing a Static Intranet at a Law Firm

A few months ago we announced the release of the Social Networking for the Legal Profession report by the Ark Group, which was written by Headshift’s Lee Bryant and Penny Edwards.

The London team recently followed up the release of this report with a special ‘Insight Event’ for the legal profession last week, which include three of the contributors from the report sharing their experiences. They were:
  • Mark Gould – Head of KM, Addleshaw Goddard;
  • Stephen Perry – Head of Knowledge and Business Development Systems, Freshfields; and
  • Sam Dimond – Director of Knowledge, Clifford Chance.
You can also read Penny’s summary of Mark’s presentation on how social software helps to close the loop on knowledge management in law firms and on Stephen’s presentation, ‘A portrait of the social intranet’ (including his slides).
Because I know everyone loves a case study, I’m going to focus on Freshfields as Stephen outlines exactly why they moved from a traditional intranet to a wiki – all of which I’m sure will sound very familiar to you:
  • They had out-of-date content that was difficult to find and complex to maintain;
  • The intranet was sucking up time and effort to manage; and
  • It was hard to use.

These are pretty common challenges with first generation intranets. Quite naturally, users had become dissatisfied with the intranet and this was reflected in usage rates.

But rather than trying to fix something that was inherently broken (e.g. tidying up the content, reviewing the information architecture or simply throwing a new Web CMS at the issue), instead with some help from Headshift they decided to try a light weight, lower cost Web 2.0-based platform – in this case, a Confluence wiki.
Quoting from Penny’s summary, the results have been:
  • Previously, the firm had around 40-50 global editors. Now there are around 2000 people contributing to 270 spaces. There are approximately 20,000 pages, with 1200 updates a day. The diverse and regular contributions helps to keep content fresh and up-to-date.
  • The platform also links people, ideas and insights, building up a rich network that is beneficial to both firm and individual.
  • There has been minimal training (more in the nature of hand-holding) to get people over initial hurdles.
  • People’s feedback indicates that they now feel better informed about what’s happening in the firm, about the sectors that they follow and clients that they work with.
Of course, we don’t simply drop in a wiki and walk away to get this kind of result. Picking a suitable social technology is key, but it also has be supported by an appropriate social computing approach to implement it.
UPDATE: See Sam’s presentation and notes for some implementation tips.
Regardless of your industry, I think that this kind of result speaks for itself about the potential for a social computing-based intranet. The question is, what’s stopping you?