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BIALL 2010: Anneli Sarkanen and James Mullan – “Using wikis as cost saving tools at FFW”

This  was a presentation I’d really been looking forward to: Anneli Sarkanen and James Mullan talking about the wiki they’d set up for use within their firm.

The IS/KM team at Field Fisher Waterhouse wanted to introduce a wiki for various purposes: increased collaboration, cross department/office working, knowledge sharing, project management, and drawing together content. The library team had no experience of wikis other than Wikipedia, so they trialled some different wiki software to get an idea of what could be done with it. This was also necessary in order to make a business case to get management buy-in.

Confluence was selected as the wiki software to use – it allowed separate spaces, pages, blogs, RSS feeds, commenting, page watches, and restrictions on viewing/editing permissions on different pages.

To implement the wiki, an external host – Noko – was chosen. The wiki was tested externally to begin with, then brought internal and hosted on FFW’s servers. The wiki sits within the FFW intranet, and is branded to match the look of the intranet. This, and single sign-on (SSO) was felt to be important for creating a seamless, integrated user experience – awareness that if there are too many (or any!) barriers to use, people just won’t use it.

The wiki has now been in place for 6 months, and is still in pilot stage. The library team space is the most active on the wiki, but other practice areas have been using their wiki spaces (with varying levels of activity and success). The library team have been reviewing levels/types of wiki activity across the firm – they didn’t  force access, but have identified where the wiki was not being used and offered training and advice for teams that still weren’t making use of the space after a few months. A soft approach was used in encouraging uptake, e.g. suggesting potential for wiki use during group meetings.

The main problems that have cropped up are encouraging use, deciding what to do with underperforming or defunct wiki spaces – do you archive or delete? How often do you leave them for? – and addressing misconceptions about wikis among the firm. Many people confused it with Wikipedia (frequently the only context in which people have heard of wikis) and/or thought it would just be a social space. The advice was not to use the words “wiki” or “social media” when trying to sell the idea to fee earners.

Looked like an interesting project, although I did think it was significant that only the library team wiki had really taken off. I wonder if this is related to the point from David Gurteen’s talk on Thursday, that librarians tend to be better at sharing and working collaboratively than lawyers! Also worth noting that the firm already had in-house team blogs, so this wasn’t their first foray into social media. This is something I wouldn’t mind trying out myself – although my firm is quite conservative when it comes to social media, so possibly something just for the library team to begin with!


One comment on “BIALL 2010: Anneli Sarkanen and James Mullan – “Using wikis as cost saving tools at FFW”

  1. Thanks for the good write up Laura, I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on the presentation! I agree, at the time of the conference, the library team wiki was the wiki which had taken off the most, but since then, other (practice area) wikis have grown and we hope by the time we write up the seminar for Legal Information Management, we’ll be able to discuss these more too. Watch this space!

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