More than ever, law firms are focused on identifying ways to run and grow more profitably. With the days of year-over-year rate increases far behind us, firms need to be strategic about decisions that affect the bottom line. Finance executives are turning to data analysis to support these decisions – and there’s an increasing number of analytics solutions available to support these efforts. But which solution is best for your firm? How can you make the best choice when considering your options? Here are some suggestions on what to look for in a business analytics solution – and why.

1. Built specifically for law firms

When you consider law firm operations, people are the cornerstone. The majority of revenue comes from attorneys doing their work. Legal performance management is therefore focused on people – optimizing partner performance and the partner’s book of business. So while there may be a fantastic business analytics tool available commercially in the market, if it’s not built for law firms, it most likely won’t have the most important features that a law firm needs.

Commercially available business analytics tools don’t analyze the aspects of performance most important to law firms. You need to analyze profitability at a partner level, a client level, and a matter level. Adapting software to monitor and analyze these elements adds cost and complexity to your overall technology investment. It makes more sense to adopt a solution with these key performance indicators built in.

2. Supports a large audience across device types

At large law firms, each partner is a decision maker who needs actionable information at his or her fingertips. This analysis is typically generated by the finance department whose time is spent on many tasks, only one of which is analysis. You need a tool that allows you to generate analysis and distribute it across the firm securely – across desktop and mobile devices – with a minimum of time and effort.

Many mainstream business analytics tools are not practical for large law firms. These tools are designed for full-time business analysts whose primary function is generating analysis. At most firms, partners do not typically have their own dedicated business analyst.

3. Avoids conflicts of interest

Law firms expend a great deal of energy managing conflicts of interest. Your analytics solutions must uphold these boundaries so partners are not exposed to data sets that they’re legally not allowed to see. To customize software to create these boundaries requires an epic development effort. It’s therefore in your firm’s best interest to adopt an analytics solution that maintains your conflict of interest rules automatically. Ideally, your solution will have ethical wall integration with row-level security built in that has both inclusive and exclusive rules. If these types of security features are not built into your solution, you could be exposing your firm to undue cost and risk.

4. Works with all types of data, regardless of the source

Technology change is accelerating at unprecedented rates. To get the greatest return on your technology investment, any business analytics solution must be considered with longevity in mind. Your business analytics solution should work with data generated from any source – not one that will no longer work should you choose to upgrade or implement new practice management software. It should also allow you to integrate different types of data so you can add context to your analysis to support data-driven decisions.

5. Goes beyond analysis and monitoring

Analytics solutions support your firm’s efforts to set goals and analyze performance, and see visual representations of performance in dashboards. They help you understand what happened and why. But the most powerful analytics solutions go beyond analysis and monitoring and enable you to take action.

Consider viewing a dashboard that alerts you to a business situation. But instead of just viewing the information, you can then launch an integrated workflow to execute a task based on that information. For example, say the dashboard indicates that accounts receivable are high. With an integrated workflow, you can send a reminder to clients that are overdue right from the business analytics solution. Or, say the dashboard shows that WIP for an attorney is high. You could then launch a workflow to generate a pro forma. So rather than just giving you information, the most powerful tools will enable you to take action in real time to help drive real and profitable change.

Work with a trusted technology advisor

There are many other traits to consider when choosing a business analytics solution. Work with a trusted solution provider to get answers to all of your questions before making the investment. Your decision can have a tremendous impact on performance and profitability.

Learn more about Wilson Ideate software and see how you can gain a 360° view of your firm using interactive dashboards, configurable inquiries, and ad hoc analyses.