Law firm takes Notes beyond e-mail

At Miller Thomson LLP, Lotus Notes is being used for more than just e-mail. The Toronto-based law firm recently created a Notes-based knowledge management (KM) system to streamline content delivery and improve client service.

Miller Thomson is a full-service law firm, with nine national offices including Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. And with more than 500 professionals working out of these offices, the firm was faced with the task of organizing large amounts of content, including legal memos and record books, according to Richard Van Dyk, national director, information technology, Miller Thompson LLP.

“There was a huge volume of information but no way to host it anywhere in a simple fashion so that people can get to the knowledge,” Van Dyk said. Miller Thomson was using IBM Corp.’s Lotus Notes 5 primarily for e-mail but the firm decided to expand the product’s functionality by upgrading to Lotus Notes 6.5.3 and creating a Notes-based knowledge management system.

KM is about improving the collection and dissemination of knowledge, Van Dyk said. To that end, the firm decided to create a test environment to streamline communication. “Literally within 48 hours we had five databases created,” Van Dyk said. The KM systems are replicated and self-contained within each national office, Van Dyk said. “Notes is a database product that collects and stores whatever information you want to put into it…it’s a standard search and retrieval capability so you’re not retraining users on how to find information.”

The solution is cost-effective, Van Dyk said, and also operates within the firm’s IT infrastructure, including the portal environment, collaboration tools, HR and reporting systems, online documentation and business continuity plans. Documents such as memos can be routed to the appropriate business units and then added to the database. “It gives people a standard single interface into getting their memos on to the system,” Van Dyk said.

For organizations running Lotus Notes within their IT environment for e-mail, the potential is there to extend Notes to tackle document workflow and real-time communication challenges, said Ken Bisconti, vice-president, Lotus Workplace and collaboration for IBM.

IBM has been ramping up its e-mail, document workflow, Web conferencing and other collaboration tools under the IBM Workplace banner, particularly as the collaboration market is becoming more competitive, Bisconti said.

Intent on rivaling IBM’s collaboration push, Microsoft Corp. announced this week it has completed development of its next generation instant messaging and real-time collaboration client, Office Communicator 2005, with plans to ship the software this month.

Communicator is part of the Office System, which is Microsoft’s centerpiece for real-time communication and collaboration including Outlook, Communicator, Exchange, Office, SharePoint, Live Communication Server and Live Meeting.

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