Office Communicator 14 to become Microsoft Lync?

imageInteresting gossip from Mary Jo Foley overnight… It would seem that with the Wave 14 release of Office Communications Server and Office Communicator will bring some name and product changes. Mary Jo deduces that Live Meeting and Office Communicator are merging into a new product called Microsoft Lync that will provide a unified IM, VOIP, desktop sharing and web conferencing interface. For web conference attendees there seems to be a free-to-download Lync Attendee 2010 application already available on the Mirosoft download center.

It certainly seems some announcements are imminent as activity on the Communications Server blog has picked up recently. I look forward to hearing the details…

Email is Dead… erm, well actually, no it’s not

Google Wave LogoToday the Internet mourns the passing of Google Wave. The latest in a long line of products to be hailed as the email killer.

Whatever your problem with email, get over it. Email is here to stay. Here’s why: Email today is a commoditised, free service for most users. To get people to shift from email you have to give them something 9x better. And even then don’t expect email truly to die. TV did not kill radio. In fact today there are more radio stations than there have ever been. Home video did not kill cinema. Instead, better access to content drove a renaissance in movie going.

The reality is that email is going nowhere and instead of trying to find alternatives we would all be better focussing on better ways to integrate it with new collaboration technologies.

Consumerisation of IT

Clippy

Sadly I am old enough to remember when you would walk into your average corporate and be wowed by the latest technology.

When today’s Net Generation graduates walk into your firm they will probably find that they have more computing power in their home PC than the one on their desk. In some cases they may even have more computing power in their pocket!

For the last decade IT departments have been driven by lowering costs, reducing risk and delivering a “good enough” experience. But as Jason writes, today’s graduates are not about to accept this.

Some of today’s smartest graduates are choosing to forgo corporate careers for entrepreneurial endeavours. And who can blame them. With just a laptop, an internet connection, and free or low cost consumer-focussed software from the web, sole traders and small businesses can appear much larger than they are, and effectively compete with the big players all at much lower cost.

How can Corporate IT Compete?

First realise that IT is no longer just about cost reduction and lower risk, but also customer service and staff retention.

Look at delivering value to the business across a wider range of metrics: increased revenues, increased customer satisfaction and increased profit per customer. Look at how your IT systems can help the business in terms of new talent recruitment and retention.

What you can do:

  1. Enable staff to work flexibly, from home, from the coffee shop, and yes, even the office. Remove the need for employees to be physically at their desk during office hours.
  2. Provide tools that make it easy to find expertise and knowledge – tools that mimic the consumer tools they are used to: blogs, wikis and personal sites not dissimilar to LinkedIn or Facebook.
  3. Provide tools that enable staff to connect in real time, from any location via audio, video and IM.
  4. Deliver on-demand self-paced training materials through short snippets such as podcasts that can be easily integrated into hectic lives. Enable staff to upload their own best practices and ideas and use social computing techniques to enable the best content to bubble-up to the top.
  5. Provide corporate-class social computing tools to enable Net Gen recruits to express themselves in a way that is natural to them.
  6. Enable staff to stay connected, wherever they may be from the device of their choice. Let staff select their own IT equipment and use virtualization technology to stay in control of corporate assets and security.
  7. Provide platforms for staff and customers to communicate and meet customer expectations for rich online experiences that help create a sense of community.

Related information:

How UK Lawyers Are Using Social Media

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If you are a UK lawyer looking to grow your practice through social media then one of the best things you can do is learn from those trailblazers that have gone before you and successfully used social media in their law firms.

This article is a transcript of a web conference on the topic of social media for law firms hosted by Adrian Dayton (@adriandayton) with the UK’s two most prolific legal Twitter users, Brian Inkster (@brianinkster) and Chris Sherliker (@London_Law_Firm). Also on the call was social media marketer Rory Webber (@MrRX).

These are our notes. Enjoy…

Making Connections… Building Relationships

Chris: Twitter is a process in which you engage… It’s about building relationships… We have found clients from Twitter including a major client who then went on to became a supplier… They then also referred us to a large telecoms client

Adrian: It’s a giant cocktail party, and it requires you to step into the circle to engage

Brian: We haven’t received any direct client work, but I have been interviewed by the press several times as a result of being on Twitter, including today… Was interviewed by The Metro on topic of social media and property. This of course can raise the profile of the law firm, and it’s not impossible that tomorrow we could get enquiries after people read the Metro article

Adrian: Twitter is about instant real-time conversation… You can join any conversation internationally and make international connections

Chris: Our firm is active in the USA, but not Turkey, and through Twitter we have met @turkish_lawyer, got to know him, and as a consequence have referred work to him and received referrals from him

Adrian: This is the death of the cold call… There’s no reason to make them any more… You can build relationships first

Making Time for Twitter

Brian: It is called social media. I tend to do it in the evening or first thing in morning.

Chris: It fit it into my normal routine… 95% of tweets are from my iPhone… e.g. while waiting for taxi. It makes use of moments where I wouldn’t be able to do much else

What About ROI?

Chris: I think of Twitter as a way of finding people to provide services to, and people to provide services to me… It’s a very time efficient way to sell. We have benefited from that, but equally have met people who have since provided professional development services to our firm, and people who are building our blogs

Brian: Taking the relationship outside of Twitter is what really brings the benefits… But don’t forget it’s fun… It’s social media.. . It’s fun for me… If business comes out of it, great, but that’s not the key priority

Chris: When people talk ROI, one of the things they should also remember is that Twitter is completely free. And that effectively I have had something like 7,000 free adverts. The only investment you have to make is time and you don’t have to spend ages in Twitter

Adrian: I find it useful to organise meetings through Twitter ahead of conferences… So I have a jump start on other people attending

Getting the Mix Right

Adrian: Twitter is a great way to meet other fascinating people… But the perception in the US is that UK lawyers are more serious…

Brian: Not a huge number of UK lawyers using Twitter yet, and between those on the call, we probably know all of them. Firm accounts don’t work in the same way as personal ones, and you really need individuals or groups of individuals to make the interaction work on Twitter

Chris: I send out a mix of tweets from serious legal matters to how to make the perfect cocktail… and that seems to work well for me

Brian: We originally started with a company Twitter account, but switched to personal account… Going back to the cocktail party analogy, I realised you need to be a person to go to a cocktail party

Adrian: No one wants to hire a law firm; they want to hire a person they like

Getting Started

Chris: When you first register, it asks you the question what are you doing right now? I quickly realised no-one wants to know. People are more interested in getting to know people. There is a marketing adage that people only buy from people the know, like and trust. Otherwise they are not going to instruct you.

Rory:  People need to get connected then listen and learn. In the modern age listening is reading, and speaking is writing… When you first join you should spend more time listening than speaking… When I first joined Twitter i spent first couple of weeks ‘listening’ before joining the conversation

Chris: It takes a while to convince others to use social media. When I first started everyone thought I was mad. Now we have four partners using Twitter in the company

Adrian: It’s important to find right champions in your firm. Companies often leave it to juniors, and this isn’t always the right thing to do. Chris is using the tools better than many younger professionals… You need more experienced attorneys that add value… It’s about growing relationships and then taking them to the next level such as lunch or coffee

What Does the Future Hold?

Chris: With the upcoming Legal Services Act, and hence non-lawyers and institutions coming in, lawyers will need to use these tools to get work from elsewhere… It takes a while to build up followers so they had better get moving

Rory: Agreed. Growing competition means that people need to get involved

 

Footnote

These are our notes from the call, and focus on the things that grabbed our attention. Leave a comment below if there is something important you feel we missed.

And finally, Adrian has promised to make a recording available for on-demand playback for anyone that want to listen to the whole call.  Keep checking his website for that.

Social Knowledge Management

In their post on tacit knowledge management yesterday, 3 Geeks and a Law blog ask whether 2010 will be the year that Knowledge Management (KM) thrives or dies.

In its current state, KM has turned into a mechanism that attempts to capture explicit knowledge in a way that is seamless to the person creating that knowledge. The results turn out to be databases filled with retrievable information presented as contributed knowledge from someone within the firm. So, we end up with CRM databases, document management systems, research capturing tools and expertise databases. All of which are simply ways that KM has attempted to capture the explicit knowledge of those within the firm as it written down in order to be retrieved at a later time by others in the firm. Unfortunately, this has become the classical KM routine, and the resulting product turns out to be a rarely used resource because the data is either ‘dirty’, obsolete or irrelevant to the current needs of those within the firm.

The Geeks are right. KM as we know it is dead. And the sooner we all realise that, the better.

The key problem of traditional KM tools is a human one: When something becomes obvious, people tend to stop sharing. It becomes implanted in their subconscious as background thinking and they cease to write it down. Rajesh Setty explains this phenomenon beautifully in Why are some people reluctant to share?

What is needed instead are simple tools that connect people to people and their knowledge. And they are not always technology tools…

In my 7 years at Microsoft plenty of KM initiatives came and went but nothing was anywhere near as successful these simple social business tools:

  1. Searchable discussion forums – by far the most important mechanism for sharing knowledge. Why? Because it is based on need. People ask questions, and they get a response, as and when they need it. (Too many KM system entries are based on what experts think people need, or what they think is good for them)
  2. People Search – the ability to search for people based on their area of expertise, see where they sit in your social graph, and get an introduction.
  3. Instant Messaging – to be able to ask questions of experts in time critical situations. You should aim to create a flat organisation. Create a culture where staff are empowered to ask questions of experts and where experts are rewarded for sharing knowledge.
  4. A buddying system for new hires to coach them on the company culture and processes – all the stuff that isn’t in the training manual.
  5. A mentoring programme for all staff to help people build connections both up and across the business.

Blogs and Wikis also had a place too, but to a lesser extent. Blogs were good for keeping up to date with news from various parts of the company. Wikis useful when a group were collaborating to solve a problem or document a process for the first time.

Finally, in 2008 a prototype twitter-like service called TownSquare was introduced which was incredibly was useful for keeping up to date on what your network was working on. This will see the light of day in SharePoint 2010 later this year.

So there you have it… my take on knowledge management and the use of social tools to capture and share knowledge. 

What tools and techniques have you found most useful for sharing knowledge across your organisation?