Web Search Pacific – After5 Meeting, Wednesday 19 February 2014

We had a good turn-out on a damp evening to hear Carl Olson, Commercial Director for Thomson Reuters Australia speak at the After5 meeting in February. Carl’s plan was to provide a vendor’s perspective on the evolving role of the librarian/knowledge manager in the environment of convergence, mobility, and data securitywhile managing the cast of characters involved with technology decision making. He said he was looking for feedback.

He chose as his topic: Knowledge in Action.A broad topic perhaps, but so is the range of Thomson Reuters (T-R) activities in the knowledge industries – from their classic Legal and Tax and Accounting Services to Financial and Risk Services for the wolves of Wall Street, to IP and Science for the boffins.

The scale of this operation is impressive.  For example, half a million photos and images are captured and published by Reuters every year while their less well known Government revenue and Management Software is used by local governments around the world to manage 65 million land parcels.

All this takes place in an environment where there are distinct pressures on corporate spending for technology. A survey of UK/USA law firms in mid 2013 showed that about 57% of firms spent the same or less than last year on technology with cloud-based technology emerging as a significant investment focus. 34% of firms are now using some form of cloud solutions and a further 36% have it on their IT roadmap. Client expectations are driving the use of cloud solutions while providers have to wrestle with data protection issues.

Mobile applications are booming.  95% of Australian legal practitioners use smart phones and 67% use tablet computers.  An interesting side aspect of this use is that many are using their own device (‘BYOD’), complicating on the one hand, the range of devices that software must match and on the other, the problems of security.

The picture for social media is perhaps not quite so clear.  While 56% of professionals use social media sources as part of their research, 25% of professionals don’t use social media at all. An overwhelming majority of Australian lawyers are ‘afraid of saying the wrong thing’ when using social media and this is unlikely to improve since 39% of surveyed law firms provide any training on social media use.

So technology isn’t necessarily helping us as much as it might. 15% of librarians in T-R client firms are working more than 100 hours per week, yet the majority (78%) arespending less time on conducting legal research, while only 37% are using workflow technologies to save significant time.  Carl then reviewed a number of T-R offerings like Know-How and similar newer practice tools (including Softdocs, Infinitylaw, Elite Software, and Full Spectrum recruitment) that facilitate more efficient work flows.

And while these solutions are at hand, implementation is often fraught.  Carl showed a slide of ‘Who’s who in the zoo” highlighting a bewildering array of job titles and roles in the average firm that are often involved in the decision and implementation process for new technologies from the IT Director to the Knowledge Manager, to the Office Manager, the Risk Manager, the Procurement Specialist and ultimately the dreaded CFO and more.  All have a view and most want a say. Pity the technology champion who has to first devise useful products and then negotiate this labyrinth of interests! Naturally there was a lively discussion, providing Carl with plenty of that feedback.

Robert Grundy

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