In last month’s article, I discussed the core elements of a strategic technology plan. One element described was establishing a vision for the use of technology including identification of critical outputs, namely metrics, reports and dashboards. As a consultant, I often find that law departments purchase technology to improve management information, but neglect to specify what information is required. Not surprisingly, current tool sets fall short of expectations, thereby requiring additional investments. In this month’s article, I describe the process for outlining the vision for department management information and analytics to ensure that the strategic technology plan incorporates the necessary tools:
1. Identify metrics to measure current department initiatives. Leadership should conduct a working session to go through the department’s most current strategic planning materials. For major initiatives, consider what to measure. Find a metric (or metrics) that leaders understand, and that will indicate if the department is progressing toward its goals. The best metrics are actionable, meaning that they can help leadership identify when to take corrective action (or demonstrate that no action is needed). For example, departments focused on cutting outside costs might look at total outside spend as well as ratios such as outside spend as a percent of revenue. When metrics start to deviate from plan, management should look at factors which impact spend, such as number of new matters and matter budget-to-actuals. Since it may not be obvious what the best metrics are, it is advisable to use external sources (peers, published resources, conferences, industry groups and outside experts) to help identify meaningful and useful metrics.
4. Determine the technology required. If the department does not have the data, then the next step is to consider what new data will be needed. Does the department have the systems to collect, store and access the new data? If yes, can the department configure the current technology as needed? If no, what new technology is needed?