Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP is a multidisciplinary law firm with more than 120 attorneys and offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The firm had been relying on WebView inquiry dashboards to provide its attorneys with insight into performance metrics.
Since the firm planned to transition from Enterprise to 3E, it needed to identify a reporting solution to replace WebView. That’s when J. Michael Sheridan, financial systems manager at Montgomery McCracken, became aware of the Wilson Ideate platform, which enables firms to access and analyze data originating from many sources, including Enterprise and 3E. “Wilson Ideate presented an opportunity to recreate our dashboards on a platform that is compatible with 3E to give our attorneys time to adjust before we transitioned to 3E,” Sheridan says. “Plus, we wanted to be able to generate reports and dashboards easily, which this platform enables.”
Wilson Allen’s technical consultants worked with Sheridan and colleagues to document the firm’s requirements for the dashboards. The attorneys use the dashboards to see their WIP and current-month year-to-date statistics, both from a client matter standpoint and their own statistics as a working attorney, billing attorney, or originating attorney. “We wanted to summarize that information on the main dashboard and then allow the attorneys to drill down to see more detail, such as which clients and matters,” he explains.
Next, the Wilson Allen team installed the Ideate components on Montgomery McCracken’s servers and provisioned and balanced their data warehouse and cubes. The cubes are used to surface data in the dashboards and through ad hoc queries and reports using standard tools such as Microsoft Excel. The data serves as a single source of truth that the firm can rely on regardless of the tool used to access it.
Provisioning the cubes
Wilson Allen set up an automatic data build once per day to pull all the firm’s content into the Ideate Warehouse structure. Data from the warehouse populates two cubes – a business analytics cube and a financial analytics cube. The business analytics cube includes people’s hours, utilization, and activity on matters. The financial analytics cube focuses on general ledger content and enables ad hoc slicing through the firm’s financial data.
After several rounds of development and testing, Montgomery McCracken accomplished what it had intended – and then some. It recreated the original dashboards to prepare for the transition to 3E and then enhanced the dashboards after the firm went live on 3E in June 2020. The migration to 3E did not affect the firm’s dashboards or cubes. They remained static, while only the underlying process that extracted data from Enterprise was replaced with one natively adapted to 3E. This methodology allowed the firm to continue to use the Wilson Ideate platform without having to update their reports or dashboards. Hence, end users were not aware that anything had changed, as their interface into the system remained constant.
All the data the finance team provides for reporting purposes is now sourced from its Wilson Ideate cubes. For example, each month, the finance team produces origination information for attorneys and department heads, working attorney statistics, and billing attorney statistics. Firm leadership can review this information to assess performance and identify improvements. “We produce a time report with a month-by-month graph that shows who’s recording time and who’s not, who’s billing the most, and so on,” Sheridan says. “This way, our partners can monitor productivity on a regular basis more easily, which is particularly helpful when everyone is working remotely.”
Sourcing data from the cubes saves the finance team a considerable amount of time. Before, the finance team produced reports through SQL statements, which were brought into and formatted in Excel. With Wilson Ideate, this process is automated. “You just set up a spreadsheet in Wilson Ideate. After refreshing the data in the cube, the spreadsheet will be up to date through the period you want; you don’t have to rebuild it each time,” Sheridan says.
Montgomery McCracken’s finance team has been pleased with the self-sufficiency Wilson Ideate enables. For example, the firm’s controller can go to the financial analytics cube and build a report or a custom Excel spreadsheet and access the data directly without waiting for help from the financial systems team.
Also, a member of Sheridan’s staff is now trained to do development work on the Wilson Ideate dashboards. For example, this resource created a custom view that shows daily receipts broken out by client matter and other reports that attorneys can readily access within Wilson Ideate. “Being able to develop dashboards, make changes, and build on them has been a real benefit to our team and was one of our original goals,” Sheridan adds.
Reliable technical expertise
Montgomery McCracken has positive things to say about many aspects of working with Wilson Allen. The firm has relied on Wilson Allen’s consulting services team for many years, including providing services to support its upgrade of Enterprise from 3.9 to 3.11. Then when the firm transitioned to 3E, several people from Wilson Allen supported that effort for training, creating billing templates, and providing database assistance. Wilson Allen’s support team is earning praise as well.
“Wilson Allen’s support organization has been very helpful. They’re responsive and get issues resolved quickly, which is important when you’re providing information to an attorney who needs help,” Sheridan adds.
Sheridan credits the Wilson Ideate team with clarifying and articulating the technical requirements for Montgomery McCracken’s Wilson Ideate configuration. “Their knowledge of the data law firms typically access and analyze was a big help in translating our business needs into a workable solution for our firm,” he says.
One key piece of advice Sheridan offers to others embarking on a business intelligence project is to make sure that the initial discovery and solution design process is thorough and detailed. He suggests taking more time up front to save time later.
“Be sure to double-check that everyone agrees about what information is needed and exactly how that information will be visualized – and not just at a high level. You don’t want to have to backtrack and tweak the design of a dashboard,” Sheridan offers. “And as with any technology project – test and retest to make sure everything works as expected.”
Montgomery McCracken is building new dashboards to support the firm’s process to evaluate equity partner compensation. The finance team prepares statistics to enable the evaluation and has previously printed and distributed binders with this information. The dashboards should allow the firm’s equity partners to access this information through Wilson Ideate. Other enhancements may be on the horizon if any current or new attorneys want to visualize and analyze data in a different way.