by Jenny Staight, member of ILFM Executive Council and Associate Director, Hazlewoods
When it comes to legal accounting and management reporting solutions, should you consider a CPM that keeps everyone happy?
Are budgets and forecasts in a legal firm’s accounts department causing headaches between the compliance officers, project managers and the senior partner? Managing expectations while ensuring you have cost-effective solutions for reporting, together with ensuring your firm is cyber-safe, is vital for the future of legal firms.
Legal finance and management professionals need safe, secure, accurate and reliable systems and processes in place to report to fee earners and senior partners. Simplifying budgets and forecasts has never been so easy. In this modern, technological age of business intelligence, investing in cost-effective CPM should negate human error.
But as any legal finance and management professional knows, particularly if they have entered the sector from elsewhere, legal software can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. This has become even more apparent recently, with the introduction of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative. Without an accurate and reliable performance management tool to process information, data and statistics, mistakes can be made and valuable time is often wasted.
Quite often, packages are selected based on the case management elements, which partners and other fee earners will use more frequently, rather than the accounts side. This often leaves finance teams struggling to extract useful data to provide meaningful management information. The ILFM has published a FREE software guide to help all legal finance and management professionals with research, showing company overviews, products and target market. The software guide lists by size and area of law, and includes some of the key functionalities and areas of compliance of ILM’s products.
Anyone with experience of non-legal packages would be shocked and dismayed at the level of functionality and reporting options available. Larger firms, who have their own in-house IT departments, may have developers who can create the reports required, but approaching software providers to design bespoke reports tailored to your firm’s needs can be extremely costly.
There is the added issue of certain software systems being unable to neatly export their reports directly to Excel, not to mention the packages that will not let you run reports retrospectively. Too often we have seen a delay in the production of management information prevent partners from successfully monitoring fee earner targets, cash flow and working capital.
There are so many inexpensive reporting tools available at the moment, including many that come with Microsoft Office, that would mean your monthly management information takes minutes to update, is easy to understand, and outputs key performance indicators in real time.
It is possible to solve a lot of reporting problems in Excel, as the 2016 version comes with a few smart tools that make exporting data directly from the database, tidying and combining it a whole lot easier.
By taking this a step further, you can also make use of Power BI, which is available with Microsoft 365, and can output specific key performance information or workflow updates to department heads via many platforms, including their mobile phones.
Many small to medium-sized firms now have the tools to harvest the same range of data as their larger competitors, which levels the playing field quite considerably.
Investigating how much time your finance team can save is definitely worth a little bit of yours.