Are you a partner in a medium-sized or smaller firm, who knows KM could help you in improving your firm’s effectiveness, but is unsure where to start? These are a few ideas which I hope will help overcome the inertia.
Read up and learn more about KM
Too many people think KM=IT and in order to tick that box they need to invest in an expensive IT system. This isn’t true. IT is a great facilitator of the management of a firm’s knowledge, but it is only half the story. Read around the topic and learn what KM is really about and you’ll probably find that there are lots of things that you can do far more cheaply that will really improve the way knowledge flows around your firm.
Start with a fast-track KM strategy, aligned to your business strategy and begin making some positive changes straightaway
It can be tempting to feel totally overwhelmed by the task of starting your first KM strategy, but don’t delay making changes which will improve your business in order to start with a perfect strategy. Don’t waste the opportunity to benefit straightaway. You simply need to understand what your business’s top three objectives are for the next few years and compare how current activity supports this. Once you know more about KM (see 1) you’ll see that you probably already do a fair amount of KM work, some of it really effective and some less so, and with some important gaps which only become obvious when you look at KM strategically. Make sure you are covering all the important basics, then move onto the more sophisticated tools/techniques which promote your business objectives.
Be clear about your budget
There’s no point wasting time and money on aspects that you can’t afford to change – concentrate on those aspects that you can afford to change. Don’t completely ignore the bigger projects, though – try to understand what data you will need in order to analyse the cost-benefit of potential solutions and take the simpler steps, so that when you do have the budget to tackle the bigger projects, you aren’t totally at square one.
Use the covering fire of quick wins to make progress in the longer battles
Get your fee earners involved in analysing their own work processes so that everyone can make real strides in improving their efficiency and effectiveness by studying how their knowledge is managed. Once they see how their own work can be transformed by some strategic thought around KM, they will be far more likely to support you in tougher battles which may benefit the firm, but seem hard to individuals.
Don’t assume you have to do this alone
There are a number of independent professionals now who can help you in a wide variety of fields for fixed fees or hourly rates. As well as those like me who offer independent KM advice, I’ve met independent PSLs and Information Professionals, and of course there were always contract IT professionals and self-employed marketeers to help you with the client-facing KM.
If you are new to KM, what have you found to be the best ways to just get started? It’d be really interesting (and probably inspirational to others) to know.
*Update* “Practical Projects in legal KM: A Year of Living Knowledgeably” is now available to buy, giving you 12 fully planned projects to improve the knowledge flow in your law firm.
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I also talk about getting started in law firm KM in my popular “KM: The Works” training session in London (January/May/September). Find out more here.