By Michael Warren, VP, CRM Practice, Wilson Allen

It seems appropriate to debut my first column in Briefing at the start of a new decade by looking to the future. As firms think about their growth strategies for the next five years, many are doubtless considering how to face a number of business challenges. These include increased competition from both traditional law firm competitors and emerging competitors, as well as how to leverage experience and institutional relationships to innovate and exploit new opportunities. Many firms are also facing growing demands from clients, who are also now focusing more than ever on the value they can derive from advisers beyond pure legal advice.

Firms must respond to these challenges with greater urgency as the pace of change accelerates – those that don’t continually innovate and adapt are being left behind. In our increasingly digital world, one of the best enablers of change is the use of information and technology to support business decisions. Three key areas where both can be applied more strategically are: business development, business acceptance, and business intelligence processes.

‘Business development’ continues to be an area of significant focus. At Wilson Allen, we expect that firms will fall into three categories when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) technology. Whichever a firm falls into, return on investment will be front and centre:

  • Leavers – firms that realise their current system is not supporting the business adequately and must change platforms as soon as possible;
  • Remainers – firms that are content (or almost) with the performance of their current system but may need to reinvigorate their platform by connecting additional third-party software;
  • Undecided – those that either don’t fully understand the urgency of investing in CRM or are stuck in an evaluation loop while other firms move ahead.

‘Business acceptance’ will shift from a purely administrative task to become one step in the overall client journey. The most successful firms will connect intake to overall account planning processes to identify potential ‘white space’ areas, where as-yet unarticulated demands can be delineated, and to help ensure the relationship continues after a matter is closed. Client feedback will be used to measure performance against success criteria identified during intake, and this and other intelligence around entities and relationships will be fed back to marketing.

‘Business intelligence’ will become an ever more important discipline, albeit in different directions. Client/matter profitability are no longer the endgame but foundational. Firms will continue to feel the pressure to price matters nimbly and non-traditionally. CRM, business acceptance and client feedback data will need to be incorporated to paint a complete view of performance. The widget battle is behind us, and Microsoft Power BI has won. Content is king.

As the market changes, firms will need to adapt to the pressures that result, by innovating how they use their information, knowledge and technology if they are to achieve their strategic goals over the next five years.

See the article on page 11 of the Feb 2020 issue of Briefings magazine: COO your future.