Leverages Handshake Software’s Relationship Framework and SP Bridge to showcase robust KM system
Sheppard Mullin’s ‘new and improved’ Pipeline intranet portal solution is an indispensable collaborative communication, content and search platform for its 1,300+ users spread out among 15 national and international offices.
Getting the most out of SharePoint … ambitious beginnings
While the recently unveiled Sheppard Mullin Pipeline, the firm’s internally branded, SharePoint-based intranet portal, is receiving rave reviews from its user base and industry peers, it was not the firm’s first exposure to Microsoft SharePoint. In fact, Sheppard Mullin was the first law firm to deploy Microsoft SharePoint 2007 and to leverage the collaboration platform’s native search functionality. In 2014, seven years into SharePoint 2007, the firm proactively set out to upgrade its existing SharePoint platform, which was already one of the leading and most comprehensive portals among law firms.
The goal was to address pressing search functionality issues as well as offer users an easy to use, customizable portal that mirrored not only existing workflows but also met users’ increased need for timely, actionable information. This decision involved two major technology upgrades … one, a leap from SharePoint 2007 to the latest SharePoint 2013 platform, and two, the selection of a third party technology partner with a pedigree in law firm portal development. Enter Handshake Software, the market leading provider of SharePoint-based products and services for the legal market with 15 years of specific ‘SharePoint in Legal’ experience.
Taking the SharePoint 2013 plunge
For Sheppard Mullin, a central SharePoint 2007 issue focused on the lack of robustness of the existing Search tool. Users were not finding what they needed within Pipeline and once they left the platform to search, they could not match up search results. This not only took up valuable time but also led to a major loss of confidence when it came to Search all together. Sheppard Mullin’s KM Group led by Chief Knowledge Officer Dora Tynes established a methodical planning process vital to not only procuring but also implementing a new portal and search solution. The first step involved addressing user concerns with the old system.
“We took our time to set up user focus groups to truly understand concerns, needs and wants for an upgraded portal and search platform. We made sure to provide specific, relatable examples and worked extremely hard to include all types of portal users, from attorneys to support staff, technology and KM folks in the trenches, to firm management and even interns,” noted Ms. Tynes. The KM team spent several months gathering and documenting focus group findings, eventually coming up with wire frames which were instrumental in assembling the ‘RFP’ in search for a suitable vendor. A few months into the vendor evaluation process, Sheppard Mullin selected Handshake Software as its SharePoint 2013 technology partner.
“The firm’s ultimate selection of Handshake Software was based not only on their vast expertise with SharePoint projects in legal environments, but also specifically their strength of working with SharePoint Search projects in particular enterprise search within SharePoint 2013,” added Ms. Tynes.
“The firm’s ultimate selection of Handshake Software was based not only on their vast expertise with SharePoint projects in legal environments, but also specifically their strength of working with SharePoint Search projects in particular enterprise search within SharePoint 2013,”
Dora Tynes, Chief Knowledge Officer
Once the selection was made, a comprehensive project plan was put together including the initiation of a project committee working with attorneys and other users to explain how things would work throughout the project. The firm spent more than 12 months reviewing existing intranet sites (well over 100), and working with the Handshake team to pinpoint the necessary and desired components of the new Pipeline portal and Search. This included building additional sites, providing more individual and custom views and integrating enterprise search.
Preparing the ‘switch’
Sheppard Mullin’s transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’ Pipeline portal was led by the firm’s five-person KM Group with technical assistance from the Firm’s IT and training teams and Handshake Software’s engineers. The team pulled the old system offline on March 27th and proceeded with data migration over the weekend, enabling the ‘go live’ the following Monday.
Taking SharePoint 2013 with Search to new heights
FAST search technology (acquired by Microsoft in 2008) is at the heart of SharePoint 2013 and was one of several features that made it a viable option for Sheppard Mullin. By utilizing Handshake Software’s SP Bridge technology, the firm was able to develop a true enterprise search platform by quickly integrating document, financial, biographical, contact and other firm information.
Sheppard Mullin’s Pipeline Search now not only provides better performance speed but also integrates with the firm’s various line of business applications. Not only are search results accurate and comprehensive, they extend the ability to retrieve and build out actionable information. Firm users have quickly embraced the ability to search clients and specific matters and drill down to related financials or start legal research within Search.
In addition to SharePoint Search, Sheppard Mullin’s SharePoint 2013 Pipeline portal includes:
- Main Navigation/ user-friendly mega menus: Most sites can be found on menus [the firm; matter intake, etc.] split into categories including lists, documents and applications.
- My Favorites: Users can customize their Pipeline experience with most often accessed pages. This is easily done on the fly and can be changed and edited at any time.
- New Office pages: New navigation, formatting and organization makes it much easier to find things. All contact info is in left column; larger lists are in the center and frequently used items are on the right under popular resources.
- ‘Extended’ matter centricity: The “matter centric” environment is the staple of the ‘typical’ legal intranet portal where users can find the most important and relevant information regarding any particular matter. By extension, Sheppard Mullin’s Pipeline has similar sites for clients, users, offices and practice groups. An effective best practice entails the creation of a dynamic web part page for all “X-centric” sites ensuring an identical look and feel for each “X-centric” site. When an end user chooses a specific client, matter, office, etc., the content of the pages (not the look/feel or format) will deliver the data specific to that choice.
Bright skies ahead
So what’s next for Sheppard Mullin’s Pipeline? Thanks to SharePoint 2013 and Handshake Software’s Relationship Toolkit and SP Bridge search technology, the firm is able to further extend its enterprise search platform. While most future enhancements will be driven by user and client needs, the technology is in place to accommodate growth. Moving forward, the KM group will spearhead enhancements related to dynamic financial pages and build a portal dedicated to the firm’s pricing practice group. In addition, Sheppard Mullin looks to leverage Handshake’s Expertise Locator which extends SharePoint 2013 Search locating internal expertise and experts based upon a firm’s internal data.
“Our goal was to be a one-stop shop of useful information so our attorneys can provide additional value to our clients,”
Dora Tynes, Chief Knowledge Officer
Overall, the new Pipeline intranet presence has delivered on the firm’s broader business and communications objectives. “Our goal was to be a one-stop shop of useful information so our attorneys can provide additional value to our clients,” concluded Ms. Tynes.
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