We are indeed deep into the Information Age and business intelligence (BI) tools, reporting and analytics are all the rage! Why? Because data is everywhere and it will help you make informed decisions, but it will only do so if you have that data organized and in a system that makes it easier to understand. When done right, BI can help the increase the speed of decision making, identify new revenue opportunities, discover areas of improvement, and more.
Providing the attorneys with the ability to find their own information and key metrics has freed up the finance team, who usually spent many hours a day answering their questions and reporting back.
-Manager of Financial Analysis
With the ever-growing need for law firms to have a Business Intelligence solution in place to run their firm effectively, using reporting or "BI" tools that come with your time and billing software is no longer sufficient (read more about why your time and billing system is not enough in this article). If you are thinking of buying new BI software or reevaluating your current tools, regardless of your firm's agenda, there are some features you should insist upon no matter what. There are many options available when it comes to BI, but finding something specific to the legal industry is vital! Legal Business Intelligence tools are no longer a nice to have, but a need to have (read more in this article). These key features to look out for will set you ahead of your competition and expedite your tool evaluation process!
Self service has increased in various areas: hours management and staffing, billings and collections, partner compensation data, data points for discussions with clients, and historical figures for pricing.
- Cloud Based
As we have learned in 2020, fast and uninterrupted access to business analytics is mission-critical. You want to be sure that your BI tool is cloud based so you are never waiting for your reports again.
In addition to your BI tool being cloud based, you may want to look into these other legal tech tools to help with remote work!
- Mobile Ready
This goes hand in hand with a cloud based solution. The ability to access your BI application through a browser, tablet, or phone is absolutely necessary with many people working remote. Every dashboard should be fully responsive and adapt to any size screen.
- Real-time data feeds
The most valuable BI tools connect to your data and provide insights in real time or near-real-time. Old data doesn't help and by today's standards, "old" could be just a few days! We live in a world where customers expect products, services, information and response times to be quick.
- Easy to use
If it's not easy it won't get used, simple as that.
- Custom alerting options
This is one reason you should rule out any BI platforms that are NOT legal specific first. Every business and industry has unique KPI's that need tracked. Once you zone in on the legal BI tools then you can more easily customize the legal specific KPI options available. Your BI tool should also allow you to set custom alerts so any user will get immediate notifications of the triggers they specifically need to see.
- Personalized views/user specific security
Every person within your firm will want to (and need to) look at different information. You should be able to display data per department/practice group, office, user, etc. so that every user is looking at data specific to them.
- Ranking Reports
This easily allows you to order specific categories of information across multiple dimensions and view the best and worst performing aspects of your firm. For example you could look at your top 10 clients or top 10 timekeepers.
- Management options
A good BI tool allows management to have specific views of the entire firm to make well informed decisions with the ability to also drill into granular details. They should also allow management to easily make administrative changes without needing extensive expertise.
- Reporting and cube functionality
Your BI tool should provide you 90% of what you need in regards to reporting, but there will always be a need for additional reporting.
- Drag and drop customization
Be sure your tool has drag and drop capabilities so you can customize that live dashboards with just a few clicks. You should not need the vendor to created custom views for your system. Housing something like this in the management options allows the firm to monitor what each person is looking at, but still gives the flexibility to change a view as necessary.
And... one more "bonus feature" that ANY software you are looking at should have:
- Case Studies
Documentation beats conversation. Encouragement is great, but proof is better. Nothing is more powerful than hearing directly from your peers on how it has truly impacted their firm. Real life stories and authentic "testimonials" give validation and confidence to you and your staff that you are dealing with an authority in the Legal Business Intelligence space, and not an amateur practicing on your staff.
Match up these key features with your BI requirements to ensure you are researching and selecting the ideal business intelligence platform for your law firm. No doubt your firm needs to find faster, better, smarter ways to create actionable intelligence from your data!
BigSquare is the leading provider of Business Intelligence for law firms and professional service organizations. We focus exclusively on law firm reporting, law firm BI, law firm profitability and law firm analytics.