Nov 27, 2009

Fueling Effective Team Working using Social Technologies

(scenario 2 from here)
Alacrity Legal Technologies is a new Legal Process Outsourcing firm which focuses on a complex method of helping law firms in the US get their litigation issues outsourced to India. On each of these teams it needs the various groups of people to work together so that case materials and lawyer’s notes for clients to work on before the start of the day. Hence teams of law researchers, Indian lawyers and US client managers need to work together to get fast turnaround times.
Sundar Raman, the 43 year old CEO of the firm, is concerned at the high levels of customer complaints – the key theme being that ALT teams always seem to be missing their deadlines. Sundar decided to dig deeper and found that the delays are caused by the serial processing nature of the work: a mis-communication in the to-and-fro chain of emails would stop everyone else’s work and cause serious delays.
Sundar instinctively knew that a way for people to work on documents together without necessarily emailing versions back and forth would speed up the deliverables.
“But I don’t know what that toolkit looks like,” Sundar told Gautam, “and I don’t know if it’s even possible to change the work habits of seasoned paralegals and lawyers.”
Gautam reassured Sundar that many organizations shared his dilemma. The nature of our work, especially knowledge work, has dramatically changed while our communication toolkit hasn’t.
“The model for email is offline filing systems,” Gautam explained to Sundar. “The system of Inbox, Outbox, Drafts? They spell the “I do my job, and now the ball is in your court” – There is little sharing of contexts – people don’t really write about the attachments they send or what people have to work along with.
So I’d tell Sundar Raman that what Alacrity Legal Technologies that what they need is for groups to work together in “Shared In The Flow Workspaces” – In The Flow to signify a natural way of working and not something that has to be done externally or in addition to ‘regular work’.
The Governance aspects of such a system would adhere to workflows, have access rules and align to the team roles in the group.
Some of the features that would be needed, and the behaviors that ALT would enable in such shared workspaces are:
  • Wikis - these are shared pages which anybody who has access to can add and edit text, images and even video. People can add links to internal and external sites and keep a track of changes made by people. So one can say goodbye to confusing version numbers when more than 2 people are working on the same document.
  • Content Repository – This is a shared drive/folder where all relevant files are tagged by the group and it is possible to search them
  • Microblogging / Status Updates - helps people keep others informed of what they are working on, what issues they are facing and therefore
  • Project Management – Helps people to assign roles, tasks and in calendaring timelines of when they are supposed to get back with work
Using these tools, and understanding how to manage the change process from current ways of working – ALT can make its teams work faster and more effectively.