The Legal Performance Continuum: Putting Your Data to Work – Part 1

May 25, 2011
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An organization’s data can be among its chief assets, providing the intelligence to improve performance across the organization. Corporate legal departments are at the beginning stages of thinking in these terms. Some may be reluctant to establish a data performance management program, citing concerns about data quality, the resources required and disruptive change. However, the time has never been better for legal professionals to put their data to work.

An organization’s data can be among its chief assets, providing the intelligence to improve performance across the organization. Corporate legal departments are at the beginning stages of thinking in these terms. Some may be reluctant to establish a data performance management program, citing concerns about data quality, the resources required and disruptive change. However, the time has never been better for legal professionals to put their data to work. The digital age has made a proliferation of data available, and well-established business processes and advanced technologies exist to capture and use it.

With advanced technologies and internal and external data available to be leveraged, the time has never been better to put data to work. However, introducing a performance management program is often met with resistance. The three most common concerns are:

  • Data: Is there enough? Is it good quality?
  • People: Is special expertise required? What if staff resists?
  • Change: Are radical adjustments to the status quo necessary? Will it be disruptive?

In spite of some skeptics, the organization can truly be a different, better world after implementing a performance management program. Keep in mind that it is an evolutionary process and not an abrupt transformation.

The first step in putting data to work is to assess the organization’s data: Is it sufficient, is it accurate, and is it being captured correctly? Some companies never get beyond this step, deciding instead to postpone implementation to focus on cleaning the data. Vigilance about data management is important and organizations should always consider the impact of bad or missing data; however, quality is rarely as bad as they think and it is more important to get started.

One of the best ways to improve data quality is to put it to work. Seeing the information in reports and driving workflows gives staff a deeper appreciation of their role as stewards of good data. Using the data reinforces the importance of completing requested fields and capturing updates. As facts and issues change, staff can experience the benefit of their efforts in their enhanced decision making.

Putting data to work in an organization is not a one-time event nor does it happen overnight. It is an evolution which progresses as the organization achieves greater success and increased learning. It may range from introducing data mining in new departments or practice areas to leveraging new BI tools to better understand the data that drives better results. It is a journey that takes patience, intelligence and determination.

The good news is that all organizations started at stage one in their data analysis. Many are still there but can move forward rapidly with minimal effort. The technology and expertise is readily available to support progress through the stages. The organization simply needs to move one step at a time.

In this four-part series, I will introduce the Legal Performance Management Continuum in its three sections (The Core, Decisions & Operations and Automate & Systematize) and how an organization can discover the power of their data by following these stages.