The problem with data, according to Quiss Technology

Jess Carey Posted By Jess Carey
from Burlington Media

Without accurate data all you have is opinion. The problem with data is that it is everywhere and nowhere. While most businesses recognise its growing importance and real value, knowing what data is important and how it can be used to shape future strategies is crucial.

What is now needed are analytics tools that deliver deep insights across your business, connect all the relevant data sources, turn the data into useful information, and allow valuable dashboards and reports to be created and shared with colleagues.

Wheat from the chaff
Managing data effectively is not a unique issue for law firms, but knowing what data is important and what is needed to help the decision-making process is a challenge. Getting at the data, analysing it and presenting it quickly is another challenge entirely.

Currently, this can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but business intelligence (BI) dashboards offer a cost-effective solution without the need for proprietary software. Most of what is likely to be needed is available on subscription from Microsoft and the technical expertise is available on a project-by-project basis.

If you are a current Microsoft Office 365 subscriber, you have access to Power BI as an out-of-the-box solution and it could help you unlock the power and profitability of your data. If you are not currently a subscriber, it is another reason to consider making the transition. And quickly.

Power BI can be used to connect to any relevant data source, including case management tools, HR systems, finance and payroll systems, bespoke legal sector apps and your own website data.

Once you understand what you want to see, Power BI helps to accelerate the tasks required to transform the complex data into easy to understand graphs and dashboards, available to anyone you choose to share them with, on any device.

Power BI offers real insights that can be delivered in real time in a way that makes it easy to absorb complicated information and make better-informed decisions.

No special skills required
Power BI has an intuitive, familiar interface, which provides personalised dashboards that present complex data in an engaging format, can be easily manipulated by anyone within your firm – fee earners, marketing team, partner or compliance officer – to get the right view that you need; no specialist IT skills needed.

Importantly (once initial configuration is setup), you can interrogate Power BI in natural language – no developer coding wizardry is required. To find the data you need, simply type a question, like ‘how many visitors did we have on the real estate team page this month?’

Within seconds, you will see a current chart of the results on your dashboard, and you can pin it there to save and use again to build a picture of how the website is performing.

Once you build up your data streams, you can drill down into that data to see how many enquiries there were, who dealt with them, how long they took to respond, what the outcome was, time spent, fees billed, and so on.

Personalising the dashboard in this way creates a monitoring and reporting resource that everyone in your business will find increasingly valuable.

Share and inform
Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) is important, but understanding how every element of your business is performing in relation to them is critical to your success – you have a major problem if a client is the first to raise an issue.

Power BI allows you to create a proactive reporting structure. If any of your KPIs are out of tolerance, a notification highlighting the problem is immediately sent to those who can resolve it. 

It doesn’t just have to be a KPI, but can be any target, like hours against fees on a fixed fee matter. When a target is reached, predicted to breach or missed, a timely notification ensures the situation is managed before it becomes a difficult conversation with the client, or unrecovered fees.

Dashboards empower every member of staff, irrespective of their role at the firm, allowing them to view and manage their own performance in real time. This helps drive a positive culture of accountability and performance, resulting in increased billable hours, quicker billing and more effective collections.

IT and finance teams will have the ability to do ad hoc analysis, ensuring fast and accurate responses to questions being asked by partners – results based on data, not opinion. Role-based dashboards provide targeted information for management, partners, fee earners, and so on.

It's not all about you
Power BI–driven dashboards will significantly improve the way law firms handle client matters, enabling existing matters to be found more easily, with role-based dashboards ensuring partners are informed of actual performance against forecast outcome.

Matters that are overrunning or forecast to overrun can be easily identified, with time to resolve and protect the firm’s profitability. The dashboards will also help identify top-performing matters by revenue and time while showing matters in the context of overall firm, department, and team profitability targets.

The emphasis is now all about the client experience and ensuring longevity of the relationship. Dashboards offer the ability to quickly create accurate matter plans and proposals that improve the service provided to clients, which will help retain existing business and win more new clients. 

Forward with confidence
Dashboards are scalable, and the solution can be extended to include data from many separate systems, including external third-party systems like Oracle, Dynamics, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter, Sage, and so on. 
Making relevant, current and important data readily available to the people who need it ensures they have the insight and confidence to make the right decisions more quickly.

They can plan ahead, allow for busy periods and divert resources as appropriate to help improve the service the firm offers, increase utilisation and grow the business.

Recent months have seen big changes in how firms operate in relation to personal data, thanks in a large part to GDPR.

Building dashboards that reflect how that data is stored, used and shared allows firms to quickly assess their ongoing compliance and address any issues highlighted.

Getting the balance right
The benefits to the efficiency and profitability of any law firm are clear, but there remains one tricky obstacle to the successful implementation of a data-driven approach to the provision of legal services: who does the driving?

Typically, those who understand the potential of interrogating large volumes of data do not understand the problems that need to be solved, or the questions that need to be asked.

And those working with the problems know the questions they want to ask, but do not fully understand just what benefits a data-driven approach can deliver.

Big data is not an IT project. Similarly, it is not a subject to be approached without technical help or ignored for lack of support. Striking the right balance between a business and technology partnership is critical to the successful adoption of a data-driven approach in the future.

Law firms have to ensure that the people who understand the data and the people who understand the problems the firm is trying to overcome, or the objectives they are trying to achieve, are in the same room and share the responsibility of delivery – whether that’s in-house or external resources.

The sponsorship for big data starts at the top and trickles down. Senior management must buy in or lose clients and opportunities to leaner, more agile firms that have recognised the true potential of all the data they can consume – within their business and without.

Potential at your fingertips
Successful implementation of a data-driven approach will deliver new and exciting legal insights. Even small law firms will possess significant quantities of data, which can be accessed and analysed, from past cases and legislation to transactions and client contracts – to say nothing of email conversations and phone records.

This ability to review previous performance on matters and have important data visualised – like actual hours spent against predicted, or fees charged against cost – can all help to inform better, more accurate decisions on future matters of a similar nature.

Power BI allows this data to be retrieved and reviewed quickly, so firms can not only respond with more accurate pricing, but do so more quickly, in full confidence the data on which the response is based is entirely accurate. 

But remember: if a data-driven approach to the future of your law firm is a new concept, then it is important to not try running before walking has been mastered.
It is critical to a successful implementation of a data analytics strategy to focus on developing it first in specific areas of your business that directly impact revenues. This will deliver quick, high-profile wins that demonstrate potential future success and ensure buy-in from across the firm.

This article appeared in LPM magazine. Download the full issue of LPM July: Who are you? here.

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