July 25, 2011, 1:29 PM — Minter Ellison, an Australian law firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions and telecommunications law, has been grappling with a question facing many enterprises.
How to get its worldwide staff to communicate and share knowledge more efficiently, and thereby better serve clients?
With 2,500 total staff, 290 partners and 1,000 lawyers working in Australia (six offices), Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Minter Ellison has a far-flung workforce.
The firm instills a strategy it calls "One Firm", a commitment that clients will get the best lawyers at hand with the appropriate expertise wherever in the world they may be. To that end, Minter Ellison has invested heavily in Cisco technologies -- including the new social networking site Quad -- so that its staff can form groups and quickly tap into each other's expertise across industries and time zones via Web teleconferences and social networking.
Cisco Quad, which merges Facebook-like profile pages and real-time communication features with business apps and document and content management systems, will be an adjustment for Minter Ellison's workforce, says CIO Peter Westerveld.
"Social networking in a business setting is fairly new for most employees," he says.
But it's a transition that will be aided by the fact that most people use Facebook, Twitter and Skype in their personal lives.
"People are familiar with these technologies and how they work. So the take-up is mostly seamless. There's not a need for much training or explanation of the concepts."
While Minter Ellison has been a Cisco VoIP (voice over IP) customer for many years, the firm has recently turned up the dial on its investment in Cisco's unified communications products to facilitate worldwide employee collaboration.
The UC technologies in Minter Ellison's stable include:
Cisco Telepresence for high-definition video and audio for virtual meetings.
Cisco WebEx meetings to connect employees and clients with live, interactive audio, data and video conferencing.
Cisco Unified Computing System data center platform for networking and storage access, where the firm has virtualized 85% of its business, legal and CRM applications and has also used it to roll out UC services such as Cisco WebEx live meetings.