Sending Very Large Files

Back when Dennis and I first started talking about sending large files to others, our favorite service was YouSendIt -- it's still a great service, but you're only limited to sending a 100MB file for free.  Nowadays, there are services that accept files in excess of 1GB -- even some that accept 50GB files or unlimited file size!  Robin Good's great blog features a guide on how to send files larger than a gigabyte, with a chart comparing eight services. We'll be adding these services to our Collaboration Tools Wiki as soon as we can.

Using Sharepoint to Collaborate Outside the Organization

Microsoft's Sharepoint is am amazingly powerful technology -- I don't even understand everything Sharepoint can do.  I'm familiar with using Sharepoint as a project management tool, both within an organization and outside the firewall with members of the ABA TECHSHOW board.  But did you know, for instance, that you can build a website using Sharepoint?  I didn't.  It's not a topic for today's post, but I mention this to demonstrate the incredible power of this software tool.

But companies that want to work better with their customers or clients can also use Sharepoint to enhance the business relationship.  For example, the insurance company Allied North America  created a "mySocrates portal" based on Sharepoint for its insurance customers.  Insureds can check on the status of interactions with the insurance company, review data about injuries that occur on the insureds' worksites, and hopefully improve their risk management as a result.

This is a great example not only of using technology to work smarter with your customers, but also a great way to offer extra value to your clients beyond the main services offered.

Collaboration is Global - Just One Example

Our recent article in Law Practice Magazine focused on how collaboration can happen around the corner or around the world. It's surprising how often collaboration on projects these days has a global dimension.

It should not be a surprise that the first article we wrote about collaboration technologies after we finished the book was for a publication outside the United States.

The article is called simply "Get Smart" and appeared in the Law Society of Ireland's Law Society Gazette. I noticed that a PDF version of the article (page 40) and the issue in which it appeared is now available on the Internet. We hope that you'll now find it a little easier to collaborate with your favorite Irish lawyers, but lawyers all over the world will benefit from some of the ideas and tips in the article.


Can You Trust Your Data to the Cloud?

Dennis and I use Google Docs frequently to collaborate on articles and other types of documents.  We advocate the use of these cloud computing tools as great ways to work with others.  But lawyers are concerned (and rightly so) about the security of handing over their data to someone else's computer.  Last month a number of Google users lost access to their Google Docs for about an hour one day, and just this past week a Google Apps subscriber was completely locked out of his Google account -- no Gmail, no Google Docs, no pictures, etc.  His account was ultimately restored, but not before panic, fear, and no doubt a queasy stomach set in.

What's a collaboration-minded person to do?  Strong service-level agreements (SLAs) may be one answer -- Google promises a 99.9% uptime level to its paying customers, but there are no SLAs for Google Calendar or Google Docs.  In Can You Trust Your Business to Google's Cloud?, Stephen Shankland reports that in addition to SLAs, many companies are offering more communications tools to their users, to help them feel more in control of the situation -- for example, some companies provide service "dashboards" where users can view the company's uptime, when problems occur, and what causes the problems.  Check out the rest of the article for more information.

Join Tom at ABA Annual Meeting Today

I'm in New York this week, attending the ABA Annual Meeting.  There are more than 30,000 lawyers in the city this week -- well, 30,000 more than usual.  I'm pleased to be presenting a CLE session titled "Working Together, From Wherever You Are:  The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools."  If you're attending the meeting and looking for some CLE, drop by -- we'll be discussing the latest in collaboration technologies.  The presentation will take place at the Sheraton New York, on the Lower Level in Conference Room D.

Human Factors in Collaboration Tools Efforts

The selection of software, web-based services and other collaboration tools is just one step in the process of a successful collaboration tools effort. The human element will play a gigantic role in determining the outcome of your projects.

In our new article on the local and global impact of collaboration tools," Collaborative Technologies: Working with Others Around the Corner or Around the World," in the July 2008 issue of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, we included a sidebar listing six key factors in developing a collaborative culture and environment that will enhance collaboration tools implementations in your organization. Technology does not play a role in any of the factors.

The sidebar is called "Tips for Creating a Culture of Collaboration" and starts with the following observation:

The human and cultural behavior between your collaborators will drive, dictate and ultimately determine the success of your collaboration projects. In other words, collaboration is a profoundly human endeavor, and if you ignore or downplay the human factors, you are setting up your project for failure.

We offer these six tips (check out the article for details):

1. Know thyself.
2. Know thy collaborators.
3. Build on what works.
4. Investigate team-building and collaboration strategies.
5. Consider incentives and penalties.
6. Remember that culture is a moving target.

Knowledge management expert Jack Vinson recently posted on a similar topic at "Robertson: Ten tips for succeeding at collaboration." In the post, Jack comments on a presentation by James Robertson (available here) and highlights and comments on Robertson's key points:

1. Recognize when collaboration will work.
2. Understand where collaboration fits in.
3. Establish a portfolio of tools.
4. One tool will NOT unite them all.
5. Identify an owner of collaboration.
6. Define boundaries and relationships.
7. Establish policies and support.
8. Start by 'gardening.'
9. Focus on business needs.
10. Don't forget it's all about the people!

The money quote from Jack's post:

"'Pilot in an area that people care about.' Don't bother piloting in IT or in the KM team. They aren't normal people!"

Researching and evaluating software and technology is fun and it's where the money gets spent, but you'll do well to think about the human element and the human factors that will make the difference between successful and not-so-successful collaboration tools projects. In the best projects, people took the time to consider the cultural issues and align the tools to the culture. Set aside some time to think about it.