Culture of Collaboration: Optimal Insights Through Inter-Departmental Initiatives 5 years ago

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In my last column, available at, we looked at the critical importance of finding actionable insights within firms. How you as a legal marketer get to these insights can be challenging, tasked with gleaning timely business intelligence and spotting trends in an ocean of sources teeming with content. Information inundation can consume departments and overwhelm firm stakeholders. The speed and quantity of information filtered through firms’ news aggregation tools and Intranet publications has led to a clogging of inboxes, cross-sharing of information and overlapping of resources. Relevancy and valuable insights can easily become lost in a sea of alerts, article feeds and competing agendas.

As dizzying amounts of resources and the need for the timeliest insights grow, the conduit and collaboration between business development and an organization’s information management department, especially, becomes more critical than ever.

At the recent 2016 SCIP Conference, the theme ‘Collaborative Intelligence’ “urged intelligence professionals and teams to collaborate with other entities within their organizations for holistic insight into customer and competitor trends.”

This imperative illustrates the clear opportunity and new direction that firms and other organizations relying on advantageous intelligence can embrace to adapt to the sea change in the amounts and type of intelligence resources: We are seeing more and more firms implement responsive, collaborative information intelligence initiatives in order to acquire the most strategic information and streamline their efforts as an organization.

Embracing these new initiatives means a shake-up and realignment of roles for marketers, information specialists and lawyers. Through a sharing culture that better supports firm-wide strategy and success, and armed with responsive tools and services, they can create a climate, process and workflow that enables decision-making to be efficient, scalable and effective.

Let’s take a closer look at the challenges the current digital landscape presents for tracking and identifying crucial business intelligence, and how traditional roles, tools and relationships can evolve to best navigate this expanding ocean of content to find it.

Riding the Waves in a Sea of Information

Amid the volume of resources today, departments need information about specific industries and clients, requiring tracking multiple trends to generate new opportunities. Pre-determined, proprietary RSS feeds and inefficient intra-firm sharing frameworks have led to email overload, group alerts overlap and often a doubling up of efforts and resources. Identifying valuable information as it evolves real-time is becoming paramount.

If you’re on the front lines of your marketing team developing a practice area, and see a trend emerging, you need research that is current and ongoing. You can’t take a 30-days-to-get-it-back-to-me approach. In the past, this may have led to seeking outside resources to acquire specialized information on an expedited timeline. This also likely overlapped with others’ independent efforts–an inefficient model.

Casting a Broader Net for the Timeliest Insights

In addition, when we make these statements about needing to be timely with information, the collaborative relationship between information departments and marketers is compounded by the fact that we don’t know where these insights are going to come from.

As your clients are tweeting information about developments that they’ve had, or others in the industry are talking about your clients, it likely may not appear in the New York Times. Rather, this intelligence and conversation could be occurring in other new media sources: blogs, Twitter, company newsletters and discussion forums, much of which is not included as content for news aggregation platforms.

These organic online conversations reveal potentially the greatest insights. In these channels, breaking topics are synthesized by discussions, spun and analyzed, and therein exists a valuable resource for seeing where your organization’s strengths, as well as your clients’ and prospects’ opportunities (or risks) lie.

As a rule, marketers haven’t been trained how to manage information, or where an insight might develop from, to find these less standardized sources. Library and information professionals have been trained to do that. This illustrates the benefit of collaboration between marketing and BD or library teams. It’s a huge opportunity to nurture tighter integration and become high-value advisors to lawyers.

Additionally, in the not too distant past, information specialists acquired intelligence by reading and focusing on proprietary sources only, as they were good sources of vetting information around development in certain practice areas. Today, that’s an incomplete set. The researcher, then, can and must adapt as well, by casting a broader net in order to have more complete analysis.

Allens Research Librarian Caitlin Nevill addressed just this issue, sharing at the recent ALLA conference that their firm’s BD team needed timely, actionable intelligence about current and potential clients; They asked their library department to help deliver this critical competitive intelligence and background research, and viewed it as an opportunity to engage and build trusted relationships with different sections of the business, as well as a way to raise their profile within the firm:

“Our staff told us that they wanted actionable intelligence about their clients from online and new media sources,” she explained. “We heard frequently ‘news from today’s print newspaper is yesterday’s news online. We want to know what we didn’t know’.  We were sending out news on key clients from major Australian print newspapers, but we were missing content from sources such as blogs, social media and client websites.”

Aggregation to Analysis

In her article “You Say Aggregate, I Say Curate…” (2016), online:, competitive intelligence expert Zena Applebaum differentiates content aggregation from the current trend toward content curation. As opposed to simply processing information, she defines content curation as “the craft of collecting, organizing and vetting information”

We can see how this transition to curation also demands that the information specialist’s role evolve. In the traditional knowledge management model, law librarians, research or paralegal departments gathered and distributed relevant articles through Intranet feeds and internal newsletters as requests were received and to share content. Now, there’s more of a need for greater front-end analysis of sources–to flag content relevant to the organization and, as a marketer, your, needs to spot and watch trends.

Bucking the stereotype of knowledge and library departments as “gatekeepers” of information, many law librarians have embraced the shift to curation as part of the information-gathering paradigm, focusing more on analysis of sources, as well as being invested in the needs of firm stakeholders and BD strategy to deliver key intelligence proactively. Historically perceived as producers of information without synthesis, now librarians and information specialists are synthesizing information and forming opinions:

“In Information Services, we don’t see our role as merely presiding over subscriptions,” Jeffery A. Bois of Foley Lardner shares about their role in their firm’s new intelligence initiative. “Our mission is not only to provide people the information they need, but also to provide advice on how to better leverage that information into actionable intelligence; it’s about providing solutions. So we embraced the business intelligence gathering initiative.”

The progressive need for more timely, sophisticated awareness and synthesized information has also tasked knowledge department and law library functions with trying to create specialized, relevant content for hundreds, even thousands, of stakeholders or practice area groups, so library departments are collaborating with BD departments to implement more customizable intelligence platforms that can tailor information to individual criteria.

For example, to unify and standardize the dissemination of business intelligence, Bois and his team created a customized portal called Foley Insights.

“We see Foley Insights as a tool for delivering pertinent news items from a number of different sources,” he explained. “We have positioned it as a solution for overcoming information overload.”

“We felt the information should be specific for each stakeholder instead of a canned approach. We tailored Foley Insights for each and every one of the attorneys in the firm. We can create unique reports for all attorneys so they have relevant content at their fingertips and are ready to have an intelligent conversation with clients about developments in their industries.”

A Culture of Sharing Breeds Success

These cases illustrate how collaboration can streamline and focus content management and intelligence efforts, as well as engage departments in a culture of sharing that brings even greater long term value to departments and the firm as a whole.

Imagine inter-departmental collaboration to further a firm’s viability and growth: business development through the curation and dissemination of high value, timely and insightful content.

There are new challenges, but also opportunities for library and information professionals and marketers to work integrally to bring those insights. Armed with evolving product solutions and tools, both departments can become drivers and players in the firm’s strategic business development and client relationships.



peterBW-250x250About the contributor:

Peter Ozolin is the co-founder and CEO of Manzama, a next-generation content intelligence platform, specifically designed for legal professionals, that mines and analyzes vast amounts of business and legal-related news and information, then delivers customized, consolidated and highly relevant intelligence to each professional across the firm.

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