So, by the end of the meeting that I had with John, which went for longer than a half an hour, in the end, because he got so excited looking at the interactive reports detailing the law firm’s performance numbers for the quarter. But he said don’t send the hard copies to James. He is very computer literate. Send him an electronic copy. I’ll send him in an email and tell him to expect it. He’ll get it straightaway.
He was just blown away by the whole thing, and so was I. I just hadn’t expected that, to see a change in the guy that I know quite well. And he’s a really good guy. And for him to go from hard copy to clicking with a mouse, that was just amazing. And I ran downstairs and told the guy who had been developing the BI system. And I told the story a few times because it really was amazing.
I guess you had to be there to see the change in the guy. And it’s been really interesting to see the adoption across the whole firm. The partners have not typically been hands-on managers. They have viewed it as someone else’s problem to run the business or to be worried about the profit. And now all of a sudden, I think, because the performance reporting is so easy to get to, they have a new attitude. It has also helped that we’ve structurally divided the firm into smaller more manageable groups.
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Mark: It’s been interesting to see how those reports work in your environment. Can you step back a little now and share some of the lessons you’ve learned having done all this. What advice you might want to share with other people?
Ron: The main piece of advice is to focus on outcomes and plan to be successful. And it sounds a bit like a text book type of advice. But that’s why it’s been exciting for us to be involved with it. I think one of the first objectives of the BI project was to increase the profitability of the firm. The second was making this BI reporting solution scalable We knew the merger was coming up.
We wanted to have a structure that we could take out to our firm but also use that same sort of structure in place across the future merged entity. We had a need. Senior management was driving that. I would definitely emphasize the importance of having senior management involvement.
I think the next piece of advice is just get it out there. We knew we wouldn’t have a perfect solution the first time, but we pushed it out there and got it out there and got feedback and start to improve it. The other smart things we did was workshop it in advance. We had planned out what the reports needed to show very thoroughly. Also by involving all the new partners in that workshop we had champions that could speak to their different KPIs and the structure and clarify that with the other partners.
That was really powerful to have partners speaking to partners, particularly in a law firm or a professional services firm. It’s just really important that they hear from their peers, rather than just from IT. What else was successful? Limit the dashboard to a few KPI’s. We ended up with only ten. We expected 10 to 12. It’s really tempting for the lawyers to want more. But we’ve stuck to those.
They can still drill down into these 10 to get further insights, but it still seems very simple. We’ve kept it clean deliberately. We knew we had other reports that could get into the details so we tried to keep the main dashboard pages very clean and limit the number of metrics for them to see. From these they can make decisions on the way to go look for more information.
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Another helpful thing was involving the desktop publishing team in some of the designs. They helped us with choice of colors and some of the layout. And we’ve had several people commented they did the same thing. The idea is to make the look and feel of it as a clean as possible, and as friendly as possible. Another good thing was we used averages for our benchmarking.
We didn’t set out to be the world’s best practice. We didn’t go to budget. Typically in our organization anyway, the budget is seen as something that senior management forces people to write down and put in a target that they sometimes feel they’re never going to achieve or earn. So, by using averages as the goals we could say, well, we only want you to get to the averages.
How can you get to the average? Here you are currently on eight, and how do you get to 10. And it was very hard for them to say well, oh, we can’t get to averages. Sometimes it’s hard for them to say we can’t get to top. Or, they can’t get to budget.