Recently, InsideLegal attended the 6th annual ILTA SharePoint Symposium, an intense two day educational forum featuring 2 keynote sessions and 14 unique SharePoint-specific sessions, all with a focus on better understanding, utilizing and planning for Microsoft SharePoint in the law firm and corporate legal departments. The target audience: C-level strategists, operational managers and developers - anyone who deals with SharePoint or needs to plan around SharePoint in the law firm or law department. The conference was free for ILTA members to attend and non-ILTA members were invited and were charged a registration fee.
According to symposium committee chair Kara Portwood, practice area solutions consultant with Armstrong Teasdale LLP, the 2012 SharePoint event included several firsts. This year's conference welcomed the largest and most diverse crowd spanning 225 legal technology professionals from 30 states and 10 different countries. ILTA specifically assembled a 8-person volunteer committee to present a diverse educational program that reflects the interest levels of members involved with SharePoint, both on the law firm and corporate legal side. The symposium features a blend of technical 'how-tos', open forum collaborative sessions, practical case studies and several ILTA member-vendor perspective sessions, designed to help attendees understand how they can better leverage SharePoint. Portwood also noted that the interest level in SharePoint has increased considerably among non law firm IT functions including records management, marketing and KM.
We were equally impressed with the vendor turnout and support for the event which included 31 companies that provide SharePoint consulting services, enhancements and solution add-ons to the legal community. We were particularly happy to see former Microsoft 'crowd favorite' Norm Thomas still in legal with his new company Litera and attended his session - SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010...Better Together, co-presented with Jennifer Beaudette of Fish & Richardson, which turned out to be one of our favorite sessions [view their PPT here]. When glancing in the exhibit area, we noticed many SharePoint 'early adopter' vendors including Handshake, SydneyPlus, Project Leadership Associates and Hubbard One were all present and ready to engage symposium attendees.
While the expression 'save the best for last' is often used, it did not apply to the educational content offered at the symposium. In fact, we believe the most applicable and relevant session of the ones that we attended was the first day keynote delivered by SharePoint evangelist and recent ILTA 'convert', Richard Harbridge. Harbridge, a Boston-based SharePoint consultant with Allin Consulting, frequent speaker and author, has spent the past 7 years working extensively with SharePoint as an end user, developer, administrator, architect, business analyst, and consultant.
Having architected and implemented hundreds of SharePoint solutions across various verticals and business sizes, his keynote topic 'Future-Proofing your SharePoint Strategy' focused on key tenants and considerations involved with rolling out SharePoint, enhancing its usability within the firm or taking a step back and planning it's long term viability. According to Harbridge, future-proofing any SharePoint strategy involves at least two critical components; having a clear strategy to begin with, and an eye on the future and what future challenges can be addressed by a SharePoint solution. This may be over simplifying it a bit, but he cited many examples of companies being too short sighted and exclusionary when it came to articulating long term, shared SharePoint-focused objectives. Harbridge went on to identify and define the following strategies that any SharePoint project should be focused on:
- Business strategy: Why do you want/need SharePoint? Be as specific and focused as possible when describing why, what and how it will benefit end users.
- Governance strategy: Rules and regulations have to be established to help guide your overall strategy. Harbridge likens a governance-free approach to a football team with no rules and responsibilities.
- Performance strategy: How will you measure success and performance gains? For example, if your goal is to reduce loading web page time by 2 seconds, you can measure this in terms of billable time based on seconds, minutes and hours.
- Support strategy: How will you provide proper training and user support and be able to identify support bottlenecks and training issues?
- Security strategy: Whether you plan to use SharePoint as an intranet or client extranet, how will you provide a secure environment for proprietary documents and content?
- Development strategy: Your business objectives will provide insight into what needs to be developed but how will you allocate the proper resources, find the right SharePoint expertise, and deliver in a reasonable time frame.
- Integration strategy: The cited example included SharePoint and Microsoft Office 2012 and the many workflow compatibilities that exist between the two. How do you chose what to integrate with and how does it get done?
- Adoption strategy: The key to any SharePoint project is user buy-in and adoption. Find out what your users want and deliver it by keeping things simple. To make his point, Harbridge shared the Betty Crocker cake mix product launch example. When initially introduced, Betty Crocker hardly sold any of the ready to bake cake mixes and after talking to homemakers and bakers they discovered that it was too simple and they felt that they were cheating. By requiring eggs to be added in with the mix, the customers felt more like they were baking and it increased adoption. The rest is history...
- Mobile strategy: How will your SharePoint plan cater to the increasingly mobile lawyer and workforce?
- Search strategy: How can the firm minimize user and client time wasted looking for and finding content within the SharePoint environment? How will others find you? Do you have a SEO plan?
- Social strategy: Along with mobile, this a central future SharePoint-specific trend. How will things be integrated to include social networks and media tools?
- Cloud strategy: We are slowly but surely moving to a cloud-based environment so what does your firm need to know when it comes to SharePoint in the cloud?
The keynote was a great start to the conference. Stay tuned to InsideLegal for our interview with the ILTA SharePoint Symposium keynote speaker, Richard Harbridge, who will list his top 4 SharePoint trends. Below are some resources from Richard...