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Cisco Quad Makes Law Firm's World Smaller

With offices spread across Australia, Asia, and Europe, here's why one CIO needed more than just enterprise social media software.

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8 HR Collaboration Platforms In Action
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When CIO Peter Westerveld picked Cisco Quad as the social software for the international law firm Minter Ellison, he was thinking about more than enterprise social media. While Westerveld sees the potential for social collaboration to improve operations spread across Australia, as well as Asia and Europe, Cisco's voice and video collaboration products are part of that story, too.

"We certainly looked at other products," Westerveld said, but with Cisco "the advantage we saw was seamless integration of collaboration with videoconferencing, WebEx, and so on, which we felt was very important. You probably can achieve that with other products as well, but it's probably just a little bit harder."

Quad allows the lawyers to connect with each other in much the same way they connect with friends in their personal lives on Facebook, and Westerveld said many of them are interested in using that style of collaboration to ask questions and carry on discussions. But Minter Ellison is also an existing customer of Cisco voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems and is adding Cisco telepresence equipment, as well as the corporate version of WebEx for webconferencing and desktop video.

That combination of collaboration technologies is Cisco's strength in a market where it competes with pure-play vendors that have built their businesses around enterprise social collaboration such as Jive Software, Yammer, Socialtext, as well as Socialcast, which is now part of VMware. IBM is also a major player with its IBM Connections software.

Announced in June 2010, Quad is a relative newcomer, but Cisco is seeking to attract more enterprise customers with system integrator support from Capgemini and an application hosting option.

All modes of collaboration are important to Minter Ellison's strategy of functioning as one unified business, despite having a very spread-out workforce that includes more than 1,000 legal staffers, Westerveld said. Even apart from its international outposts, the business is stretched, he said. "Australia a fairly large country, so the distance between our offices even in Australia is fairly large as well." With electronic communication, he said, "Wherever our lawyers might be, we want to connect with whoever may have the right expertise."

Minter Ellison specializes in international business issues, including mergers and acquisitions and telecommunications law. The company has been investing for years in knowledge management, but there is still some fraction of institutional knowledge that never gets recorded in those formal systems, Westerveld said. Enterprise social networking provides the means to identify experts within the organization when the answer is not available from any database query.

Minster Ellison began a limited trial of Cisco Quad in December, and although all employees now have access, they are still just starting to adopt the technology. Westerveld said he believes the system will become more useful as he begins to integrate it with other enterprise applications, such as the firm's Autonomy iManage document management and search software.

"In my view, the collaboration will take root around the knowledge and expertise in the law firm," Westerveld said. "It's very difficult to capture all the knowledge we've got, which makes it important to let people connect with each other as easily as possible."

ERP is old news, but enhancing legacy software with mobile, analytics, and social apps can deliver substantial new value. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: SaaS can create new data silos unless companies follow best practices to make those apps work with on-premises systems and data sources. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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