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Gray Rule
Gray Rule
Tactics for Strategic Partnerships and Building Institutional Knowledge
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Tactics for Strategic Partnerships and Building Institutional KnowledgeInterview by Elaine Egan, Director, Global Libraries
& Information Services, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, New York, NY, with Marlene C. Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions, Greenberg Traurig, and Chris Laut, Director of Law Libraries and Knowledge Services, Liberty Mutual Insurance
In this interview by Elaine Egan, Marlene C. Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions with Greenberg Traurig, and Chris Laut, Director of Law Libraries and Knowledge Services with Liberty Mutual Insurance, share their experiences building institutional knowledge through collaboration and shared resources. Their examples are models for strategic impact through improving services, knowledge creation, and actionable intelligence.

ELAINE: Describe an initiative where strategic partnerships brought about institutional knowledge?

CHRIS: Our initiative was to build a knowledge management program for a Corporate Legal Department of 890 attorneys in 70 locations, with the initial focus on our Home Office operations. Home Office operations are conducted in three primary locations and a dozen secondary locations. We wanted to build upon our efforts to organize information in an electronic content management system, in order to deliver an evolving, learning, iterative legal department. We wanted to tackle the issues of reducing content overload, providing actionable information customized to end users and practice areas, reducing risk by driving more uniform responses to clients, and developing communities of practice across traditional practice group boundaries.

MARLENE: We were working with Neota Logic on process apps and wanted to get a wider audience. The Knowledge Management (KM) arena was a newer focus for us at the time and we wanted more exposure for our KM oversight. We also wanted to feature a product we truly believed could assist our attorneys in automating processes, additionally showcasing to clients the technology advances the firm was investing in and utilizing.

Once you identified this need did you volunteer or was it an "ask?"

CHRIS: I absolutely volunteered.

MARLENE: Chris was so right in doing that. Volunteering is really important. I think we often fail to see how taking the initiative to solve a problem builds organizational trust. In other words, don't wait for someone to tell you to do it. At Greenberg, working together across organizational groups to find solutions is something we are culturally expected to do. Launching Neota Logic was something we knew made sense given the firm's commitment to technology and innovation.

Since support is critical for any initiative how did you go about developing organizational buy-in?

MARLENE: We gathered organizational support for the product through a road show. This gave us attorney buy-in. Once we had that, we started making things and approached the Legal Project Management Office (LPMO) about how our project would marry nicely with what they were trying to accomplish.

CHRIS: Marlene's road shows are an imperative. Attorneys need to see how the product can solve their needs — without putting them in a defensive position and carving them out of the process. We gathered organizational support by approaching the Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President of Enterprise Legal Services. We discussed the merit of the program and gained acceptance at the executive and practice group leader level by undertaking a series of interviews across practice groups within our Corporate Legal Department.

Who were your key stakeholders and how did you get them onboard?

CHRIS: Essentially, the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Legal Services was our sponsor, but practice group leaders were very clearly identified as stakeholders.

MARLENE: Initially, the key stakeholders were attorneys, the COO, and CEO. After showing them what the product could do utilizing betas, we reached out to the LPMO. We had to reach out a few times, but once they saw Neota Logic in action, they started collaborating with us and became a stakeholder as well. It was clear this initiative made sense to the firm, so we all had a stake in its success.

CHRIS: Garnering executive buy-in is a key success measure — particularly if it is new and takes attorneys out of their comfort zone. It was very smart of Marlene to showcase betas that aligned with the needs of the organization. I love Marlene's persistence in building a partnership and respect with the LPMO. A strong relationship with the LPMO guides implementation and ensures adoption.

Scope can really derail a good project. How were you able to define the scope, or did you?

CHRIS: Knowledge Management is not a project; it is a process. We delivered a formal program proposal, a mission statement, and initial goals and objectives. We defined what constituted a knowledge management program, and defined resources including the job description and attributes of a full time knowledge management specialist.

MARLENE: I agree with Chris about KM being a process. Too often people think KM is rolling out a product. Products and tools are a component of course, but you have to look at resources holistically. This includes workflow and the culture of your organization, in order to figure out what products and processes will be useful and how they will interact in the firm environment.

What institutional assessment did you undertake to complete this project?

MARLENE: Our firm's 2015 initiative was to secure attorney adoption of new technology solutions. One of the products we had vetted, and which we thought could get traction with, was Neota Logic. As a decision tree tool for streamlining processes, we knew it would be well-received in presentations. Once we had interest from our practice group road shows, we moved forward with a contract and initial build. It was at this point we began our LPMO outreach strategy. Since the LPMO's mission is to integrate a more process-driven approach to legal work, Neota Logic started to gain acceptance with them. To further the product adoption, we worked with our general counsel and technology group to draw up a formal checklist and requirements for this new technology, as we do with any new technology.

CHRIS: It sounds like you developed a project charter defining scope, timetables, purpose, team members, etc. Marlene is excellent at getting out and interacting with end users. I think they trust her judgment and vision. Her strong endorsement of a solution goes a long way at Greenberg.

At Liberty Mutual, we participated in our organization's Legal Technology Roadmap initiative, which provided a five-year path for growth and development. We interviewed almost 50 members of the corporate legal department to uncover areas of opportunity. We also engaged with other business units who embraced knowledge management teams, process, and KM projects.

MARLENE: Chris, the Technology Roadmap is really important. I am sure it gave your stakeholders an understanding of the vision and security in knowing the path. We established a similar roadmap of the most critical areas of KM. But to be clear, just because you have a five-year plan, it doesn't mean the road map won't change. Roadmaps are guides and should be reviewed and adjusted regularly in order to match up with business needs.

Can you identify the core issues or barriers that influenced implementation?

CHRIS: There were a host of organizational challenges, but the central issue was decentralized content repositories with no standard of organization or indexing. Additionally, other than at the leadership level, there was a significant lack of knowledge across practice groups. Taking inventory of practice group repositories—and developing an enterprise migration plan that included mapping content into enterprise content management (ECM) structure — was the first step. The lack of knowledge or communication across practice groups offered us the opportunity to develop expert biographies with naming conventions and indexed areas of expertise, so you can find an internal knowledge source easily.

MARLENE: Sometimes lack of centralization gives us an opportunity to shine, and Chris wisely took advantage of that. For us, developing a relationship with LPMO took time. We both had to find our way and understand the natural and symbiotic partnership our roles play without feeling threatened. During this project, we found we had similar thought processes and approaches to running our respective departments. We understood that our teams and this project were a natural fit. Once our first project was completed and successful, LPMO got on board and we haven't looked back.

CHRIS: Marlene did a great job leveraging long-term relationships to jumpstart this project. Her penchant for strong advocacy and interaction across departments helps her team succeed.

You are so right — even the most thoughtful strategy will fail if you don't advocate and get the organization to rally around it. How are you leveraging strategic partnerships for current and future knowledge-creating initiatives?

CHRIS: We are partnering with other Liberty Mutual business units to collaborate and coordinate on future sharing opportunities. Furthermore, we are integrating our content into other business units as a way of providing them with legal self-service opportunities.

MARLENE: I love Chris' idea to expand upon an already-great accomplishment and share it with other units completely unrelated to legal. The legal self-help idea is gaining popularity. We are creating solutions like this for clients as well. It shows a commitment to innovation and an understanding of the needs of clients and business units.

Since our first project, we have leveraged our initial attorney stakeholders to create new products, and to expand and improve the existing ones. We have created five additional applications with more on the horizon. The attorneys themselves have taken an active role in presenting the concept and utility of the tools to executive management, peers in the firm, and clients. Our team has had the opportunity to participate in some of these presentations, which have generated a great deal of interest in Knowledge Solutions. We have other departments coming to us not only about the Neota Logic platform, but other resources. We have had some successful outcomes with Intake and Marketing, and look to expand upon those relationships. Another exciting development is the opportunity to advise clients shopping for tech tools and share our experience in using them.

CHRIS: On a side note, I asked Marlene to speak with members of my team at Liberty Mutual about Neota Logic. Marlene was very generous with her time, sharing lessons learned in a successful implementation, and the solutions her team members delivered to Greenberg.

So in other words — a perfect example of strategic tactics in building institutional knowledge!

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