Enterprise Resource Planning

This resource was also featured as a Industry Analysis in the June 2014 issue of LPM magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.  

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What if you could use a powerful, comprehensive and fully integrated suite of software applications to manage and complete your work instead of multiple, separate ones? The idea of a holistic software solution is tied to the concept of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), a system designed to serve the needs of all departments and areas across a business – from admin to accounts to fee earning in the case of a law firm.

Such ‘holistic’ software applications have been utilised for years by big business including larger law firms who have been well aware of their advantages. From streamlining providers and systems for greater ease of use, to getting more meaningful data, to removing the complexity of managing several disparate systems, the benefits that could be derived from using such a solution are numerous and obvious.

The reason that ERP, and the systems that can deliver it, has been almost exclusively the reserve of the ‘Top 100’ is that those were the firms that could afford to invest significant financial and human resources in the management and integration of their different IT systems. However, this is no longer the case as technology providers have begun the drive to enable businesses within the SME sector to enjoy the benefits of integrated business software without undergoing the expense usually associated with designing and implementing it.

What exactly then could this approach to software applications offer your firm?

VISIBILITY AND BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE

We like to describe our One Office package as a practice management solution, as it has been designed to assist law firm management in their decisionmaking processes by providing them with the relevant management information, collated from various integrated systems in use within their business.

For example, the data offered by fully integrated case management and accounts systems establishes and highlights the relationships between fee-earning work and the actual revenue generated. It reveals the profitability of different cases and fee earners, enabling managers to identify problems and/or areas of improvements and make more informed choices with regards to the allocation of resources.

Because the same information is made available to staff from different departments, the system contributes to the creation of a transparent way of working, an environment in which data is accessible to all the relevant parties at the click of a button.

INCREASED EFFICIENCY THROUGH KNOWLEDGE SHARING

As information is held within a system used by all staff and the appropriate functions made available to them automatically, data is transferred across functions and departments smoothly and effortlessly. This improved availability of information along with real-time updates strengthens workflows which in turn results in quicker matter progression, as staff will no longer have to make phone calls or send emails to obtain the necessary information from colleagues or clients.

A practice-wide, inter-departmental software application can connect staff otherwise isolated from their colleagues be it due to geographical, departmental or role-based barriers. Whether you have segmented departments, numerous branches or even operate a ‘virtual’ law firm without a physical office, a truly integrated system can unite your staff and join up the work they do, making it easier for them to collaborate effectively.

LESS ADMIN WORK – LETTING THE SYSTEM WORK FOR YOU

The ‘joined-up’ systems approach of ERP also allows the automation of certain key tasks that will no longer have to be performed by your staff. For example, our One Office solution saves all incoming and outgoing emails, dictations and any other relevant documents and assigns them to the right case or matter, creating a smoother, error-free process.

Integrated digital dictation platforms allow dictations to be recorded directly from a fee earner’s case management system (CMS) and then picked up instantly for transcription into documents prepopulated with data held in the CMS.

Then there’s the notoriously difficult task of creating a relationship between fee earners and the accounts department. Integrated systems bring these often insular functions together with an easy-to-use digital platform for payments and billing creating a transparent view of the inputs, outputs and overall financial position for all concerned.

FLEXIBILITY AND RELIABILITY

As this approach relies on different software applications that perform specific functions yet work together, you can choose which ones you want or need to use. Whatever your firm’s priority is behind the implementation of new office systems, a solution is achievable through specialist yet compatible software applications operating on shared platforms.

This type of architecture also provides for a far more reliable and straightforward experience when it comes to the support of these systems. Built to work together, sometimes from the same provider or by providers between whom cooperation is assured, these solutions can also reduce the IT management burden on firms desperately seeking to focus their resources on revenue-generating work.

Technology that helps employees become more productive should always be embraced and exploited. ERP software caters to the needs of staff at all levels, eliminating the complexities associated with using disparate software solutions and bringing colleagues closer together in order to perform better as a business. By being a facilitator rather than ‘the solution’ in itself, this sustainable technology could help you solve a multitude of problems – from slow case progression to poor client service; from lack of communication to cash flow issues.

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