Legal

Case Study: CMS Legal

“I am seriously impressed by PBworks’ service orientation and response time. I wish all our suppliers would show the same dedication.”

Patrick Torti, Head of Business Technology at CMS Legal Services EEIG

 

CMS is the pre-eminent provider of high quality legal and tax advice in Europe. With around 55 offices across Western and Central Europe employing a total staff of 5,000, CMS has the most extensive European footprint of any firm in its industry. When the firm wanted a better way for its 2,800 lawyers to share information across international groups, it turned to PBworks. Here is a brief Q&A with Patrick Torti, the Head of Business Technology at CMS Legal, discussing how his firm chose, rolled out, and uses PBworks.

 

What business needs were you trying to solve when you brought in PBworks?

The main reason to introduce a collaborative application was the need for information sharing across international practice groups and for joint business initiatives. The CMS organization is operating across the globe with offices in all continents and a number of different underlying IT platforms. PBworks enables us to cut across these regional organizations and system boundaries to share information and bring people together as team in between their physical meetings. In essence, we added a virtual layer to our team management efforts.

 

In a competitive legal market, clients realize very quickly which law firm only claims to be globally integrated and which one is really providing teams of lawyers who work across countries on a day-to-day basis. The challenge from an organizational perspective is to enable people to stay in touch without real effort and additional time spent, which in a professional service environment with high time pressure on the individual is perceived as "not justifiable."

 

How were you meeting those needs prior to bringing in PBworks?

The main reason to introduce a collaborative application was the need for information sharing across international practice groups and for joint business initiatives. The CMS organization is operating across the globe with offices in all continents and a number of different underlying IT platforms. PBworks enables us to cut across these regional organizations and system boundaries to share information and bring people together as team in between their physical meetings. In essence, we added a virtual layer to our team management efforts.

 

What other solutions did you consider?

Building workspace templates in SharePoint was one option, but the access management model within PBworks is quicker and easier for a distributed maintenance model.

 

Parallel to evaluating PBworks, we also ran a comparison across other workspace providers-and even briefly considered bringing the code in-house for customization.

 

What were your reasons for choosing PBworks over the other solutions considered?

The basic decision to go with PBworks (vs. doing our own Sharepoint-based workspace development) was based on a) the distributed maintenance and access model, and b) the decision to fully outsource our workspace platforms. We do not see IT development as a core competency for our firm, so as a matter of principle we prefer to avoid building functionality ourselves and rely instead on specific application suppliers to give us what we need.

 

Against more direct competitors, there were a number of reasons we chose PBworks. From a cost/benefit perspective PBworks offered-and I believe still does-a very good cost/benefit ratio. Other considerations were security and backups, granularity of user access management, adaptation to firm branding and (not the least important) the responsiveness of the sales and service team.

 

How did you roll out PBworks to your team?

Roll outs happen on a team-by-team basis. At the moment we have a formal team which operates on a global basis and other teams who are either regional or very project-focused. Although CMS Legal is headquartered in Europe, we have offices in Africa, Asia and America as well. Each workspace needs to be structured according to the business needs for a practice, client or project team. Only when the basic structure is agreed upon with the management of a certain business line, do we set up the workspace and load the appropriate information.

 

After that, the main responsibility is given to the respective teams. What we learned already is that the structure of each workspace will quickly adapt to the key objectives and upcoming priorities for each team. Basically, we provide a simple core structure and let the teams grow their workspaces according to their own needs.

 

All formal workspaces are linked into our traditionally maintained global intranet. In principle, we follow a two-way strategy where we can reap the benefits from both the structured and database-oriented Sharepoint environment, and the flexible, functional and people-oriented PBworks environment.

 

How did the PBworks team help you configure PBworks to meet your team's specific needs?

PBworks was great in adapting workspaces to our very specific requirements regarding the access and security model. They take feedback and suggestions very seriously and I can rely on the fact that our needs are met by either custom development or general product improvements in a surprisingly quick manner. As a central IT team, we rely on quick service, as we work in a demanding business environment where urgency comes from our clients and is passed through to our lawyers and to our business organization. We have no time for lengthy discussions about whether or not our business requirements are justified. If there is something not working for us, we need it changed-and that has to happen nearly instantly.

 

I am seriously impressed by PBworks’ service orientation and response time. I wish all our suppliers would show the same dedication and service mentality.

 

How has PBworks changed the way your team works?

Wikis and the other online collaboration functionalities that PBworks provides will ultimately change the way that lawyers will work in the future. I see this transition coming in steps:

 

The first step is to build shared information platforms where people share information in a flexible way according to their team structures. This could be 2 people for drafting a contract, 25 people for managing a project or 500 people for communicating within a practice or any other business unit. This is where we are currently.

 

The second step of usage will evolve around communication-people will start using chat and commenting and email alerting in addition to and as a replacement for traditional emailing. In parallel with people starting to use these alternative means of communication, people will start working on shared documents with telephone or video conferencing. This will completely change the way document will be drafted recently.

 

In terms of communication and implementation of our own workspaces, we are already seeing that they work on a bottom-up principle. However we also do top-down communication, followed by training and coaching to specific groups and teams. Smaller teams start using PBworks for a project or commenting on documents or plans, or sharing general information. Then usage grows across the organization as those best practices spread.

 

We understand the nature of people (and law firms) and we know that there will be early adopters, followers, and yes, even a number of people who will never feel comfortable using this new technology. Here are some practical examples of how we use PBworks:

 

• One of our groups posts legal templates for discussion, then allows the group members to comment. The advantages are obvious: we do not send the document around for commenting, and secondly we keep track of all comments, which are visible to all group members instantly.

 

• Other groups post lists for information and/or completion and/or correction: e.g. contacts lists, project tasks and business planning templates.

 

• Some groups use commenting for building “Forum” type pages-either using the frontpage for quick updates on “what’s going on” or dedicated pages for countries, clients or legal areas.

 

• All groups use folder structures and/or dedicated pages for posting important team information such as strategic plans or project plans, contact information or legal or industry news and updates.

 

How do you feel about PBworks after rolling it out to your organization?

I know one thing for sure: We would not have been able to build it based on SharePoint without going through lengthy project management and development pains. And in the end, any in-house solution would cost far more than our PBworks subscription. For us, the PBworks business model works. It just fits our structure and organization.

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