How Allen & Overy use HighQ for their extranet solution (updated)

Allen & Overy is evolving extranet use from collaboration to project management. Mark Dibble, Head of Online Services delivery and Ruth Ward, Head of Central KM explain why they chose HighQ.

With approximately 5,000 staff and 38 offices in 26 countries worldwide, Allen & Overy is one of the world’s largest law firms, providing legal advice in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

The challenge: developing an effective, user-friendly extranet solution

In 2009 Allen & Overy switched to HighQ’s deal room and extranet platform. Previously, the firm had deployed two consecutive in-house extranet solutions based around a bespoke SharePoint platform. However, these were proving complex to manage and use, so a decision was made to switch to an externally managed service.  Mark Dibble, Head of Online Services delivery and Ruth Ward, Head of Central KM explain why HighQ fitted the bill.

“We were looking for an enterprise solution which provided the control we needed at the right price together with the ability to open and close deal rooms depending on our requirements. Although a few suppliers offered the secure data rooms that Allen & Overy required for its financial sector clients, most were relatively expensive and focused on supporting huge M&A deals, whereas Allen & Overy was looking for a broader collaborative solution.”

Many of Allen & Overy’s clients are banks and financial institutions, so security and confidentiality are critical factors. HighQ’s close involvement with the financial sector, through their operation of the BLT Portal, and recognised industry expertise made it an obvious choice.

The solution: from document sharing to enterprise collaboration

For Allen & Overy, HighQ represented a different direction – moving from an in-house solution to a managed, cloud-based platform –

and its user-friendly next-generation extranets ticked all the boxes. Furthermore, HighQ’s cutting-edge social collaboration and project management features enabled Allen & Overy to move from just operating an online data room environment to investing in an enterprise-grade collaboration tool.

“It’s refreshing to work with a technology supplier whose management combine understanding the industry with deep expertise in social software” …Mark Dibble, Allen & Overy LLP

Dibble and Ward appreciate the fact that HighQ is amenable to clients helping to drive and shape its products. “HighQ is always learning from the industry and evolving its products to meet lawyers’ and clients’ changing requirements. Allen & Overy, as a long-term client and one that is deeply engaged with the financial sector, has worked closely with HighQ to achieve this.”

HighQ’s iSheets module illustrates this practical, collaborative approach. “We wanted to share more than just documents; we wanted to capture data and metadata – so that people could search for particular information as well as specific documents,” says Dibble, adding that these features were especially useful during the global financial crisis when lawyers used iSheets as a way of capturing the conclusions of various data analysis exercises.

HighQ, and in particular iSheets, has moved Allen & Overy’s extranet capability beyond document management and into project management. As Dibble explains, “iSheets work like an online Excel spreadsheet which can incorporate everything from simple knowledge management and project management to a comprehensive presentation of the entire lawyer-client relationship”.

The result: HighQ enhances client collaboration

Allen & Overy’s client collaboration and community sites have been particularly successful, and Ward attributes that partly to HighQ’s policy of involving clients at an early stage in the product development lifecycle – sufficiently early to incorporate their feedback and priorities.

Each site is tailored to a particular purpose, which could be a deal, project, client or a practice or project group, and can incorporate a selection of different modules depending on the purpose, such as blogs, wikis, tasks, events and activity streams. “The sites are built in a modular fashion and each module works independently and in different combinations, enabling us to select the best combination for each particular site,” explains Ward.

Ward highlights five ways in which HighQ social deal rooms benefit users and administrators:

• Ease of use – simple, straightforward user interface and functionality
• Ease of set up and configuration
• Absolute security and control over participants
• Flexibility – the ability to select and combine modules for different uses
• Seamless integration between different components

“All social media and collaboration tools stand or fall by how easy they are to use,” says Ward. “HighQ works for users with limited experience of social tools as it offers straightforward user management and visibility; it works for more experienced users as it meets all their expectations in terms of social software.”

HighQ was a good fit for Allen & Overy because it had developed long-term contacts and relationships across the financial sector. “HighQ is small enough to be focused on our particular requirements and those of the industry, but sufficiently sophisticated to develop effective products that deliver what we need,” says Ward.

“HighQ’s management is clearly committed to excellence and dedicated to ensuring that all their customers make the best possible use of their products.” Mark Dibble, Allen & Overy LLP

Ward and Dibble appreciate having ready access to HighQ’s senior management. “It’s refreshing to work with a technology supplier whose management combine understanding of the industry with deep expertise in social software,” says Dibble, who is impressed by the fact that although HighQ is growing at a healthy rate, it remains extremely close to its client base and is proactive in sharing ideas and experiences and applying them to the task in hand.

You can download a PDF of the case study here Case Study – Allen & Overy 2014