It’s the same old story isn’t it? If you go away for a week, or even a few days, the avalanche of email correspondence that awaits your return hardly makes the break worthwhile.
We’re doing some work at the moment with a firm who are drowning not only in external email correspondence, but internal more so. Every hour there is a consistent surge of emails from colleagues asking about this or that, or administrative staff alerting practitioners to often remedial matters and consequently, internal correspondence is ignored, or not given the degree of attention that perhaps it necessitates. Is there a way you can segment email correspondence between internal and external at the funnel? There is, but a far better approach is to look a little more widely at the issue.
Over a 4 week period, move all your internal correspondence into its own folder. At the expiration of the period, identify some of the key subject areas. Invariably it is the case there are repetitious themes or subject matters that could be adequately handled within another platform as opposed to email.
Some firms at this juncture, consider an intranet. It’s somewhat of a stale term these days and harks back to those times when mid to large size firms invested heavily in their intranet, only to find that no-one ever went there. Despite their “unsexiness” intranets can work when there is a commitment from top down to ensure that all internal communications and firm updates etc are posted there and not elsewhere. So, in other words, you start to engender a culture within the firm that the intranet is the primary vehicle for internal communication. Also, it’s worth throwing a few carrots at it as well. For example, we have just built an intranet platform for a firm and within it, are all the tools and technology for each practitioner to be able to work remotely via a mobile device, like an iPad. How it often plays out, is that when one of the firm’s lawyers is in court, needing to access certain documents or research, they simply login and access the material they need.
There are also some other very good alternatives as well in the shape of community collaboration platforms. At the moment, we’re panel-beating a platform called Yammer for a firm who have diverse practice areas and among other things, want to start creating niche discussion forums ect within each practice group and external partners as well. We’ve had some experience with it previously and love it’s elasticity. Lexis Nexis is a huge fan of it and the video below, denotes their experience with it.
Our preference at this stage is Yammer. It’s agile, can scale and has a very good entry fee, particularly in contrast to Jive.
At the end of the day, where collaborative platforms trump over intranets is where there is an eagerness within the firm to harness internal communication and put it to better use, not only from an efficiency perspective, but also effectiveness. If you’re a firm who simply wants to eradicate the rush of internal email, intranets can work, as long as you give your people both compelling reasons to go there and refrain from sending internal subject matters via email as well. If you do, or allow others to do it, it simply undermines the motivation behind the intranet. But, if you’re a firm who sees opportunity to engender a collaborative culture, than do explore, ready made platforms like, Yammer, Ning and Jive. If you’re utilising Sharepoint or Microsoft Dynamics at the moment, sure these platforms can be knocked into shape by your developer to tailor the experience to suit your firm. But, having recent experience with the latter and some more grey hairs to show for it, cutting to the chase and exploring built platforms is highly recommended and Yammer has a free trial! Be mad not to have a look at it!