Briefing webcast: building blocks of business intelligence

Cheryl Ashman|Senior program manager, business intelligence group, White & Case

Gareth Powell|Group data officer, Irwin Mitchell

CJ Anderson|Director, Iron Carrot

Suzanna Hayek|Deputy editor, Briefing

Last year’s Briefing Frontiers research into the intersection of technology choices and business strategy at the UK’s top law firms found only three-fifths of leaders confident they had a “business-wide data strategy” in place — 14% did not even know for sure.

In the coming weeks we’ll see whether there’s been any movement in these numbers for 2024 — but in the meantime Briefing recently spoke to some data governance specialists about specifics of the state of play at their respective firms.

One key theme to emerge from the conversation was getting the buy-in of different groups in order to help them see the benefits for themselves. Cheryl Ashman at White & Case says her business intelligence group has become the “torch bearers” for helping the firm as a whole to understand different data dependencies — and ultimately that you’re all in together.

“Law firms are keepers of secrets,” she explains. Client and people data is rightly carefully guarded because of what’s often severe risk if it escapes — but this can mean the default is to see it as a barrier that’s best avoided. Firms need to lead people to engage with data as a field of great opportunity as well.

Ashman recommends an agile project approach to build communities of common interest fast, establish trust at the same time, and “work closely with end users to ensure it’s clear how developments help to meet their needs”.

The firm has also implemented a new tool in part to support this effort, raising “data literacy levels” across the organisation with more transparency about how it’s structured, and helping people to understand how future technology changes and transformation will have an impact.

Gareth Powell, group data officer at Irwin Mitchell, says his firm set out a new three-year vision in 2023 — with the ultimate mission of making it easier for people to provide better client service through easier-to-access, trusted information.

He too points to understanding the impact of introducing new technology into the mix, as well as integrating or retiring older systems and processes. Measurement is important — painting a picture of the firm’s relative data maturity — and the firm has put a ‘Net Promoter Score’ internal feedback system in place. “Ultimately you need a vision and buy-in to it,” says Powell.

CJ Anderson at data governance specialists Iron Carrot says: “Too many firms still try to manage their data in silos. IT may have a good idea of the systems in play, but don’t necessarily have the overall insight into the business rationales.”

She also recommends that law firms try to break free from some traditional hierarchies when mapping out projects and progress here — for example, identifying the best subject matter experts with knowledge of pain-points on the ground. These might not be the most senior people you could possibly approach.

Specific wins these future-focused firms have already enjoyed — on what are inevitably “journeys” up the maturity scale — include dashboards that empower people with more focused or personalised displays and automating aspects of certain processes like collection.

Artificial intelligence is another interesting opportunity to grasp — reliant on good data governance if firms want reliable outcomes that can lead to new process, but also potentially giving the disciplines and dependencies involved more internal airtime to build a more promisingly broad-based platform for change.

Anderson concludes: “People who were less than supportive — perhaps seeing data more as an area of admin than strategy — are definitely more onboard with the mission.”

You can also watch this conversation in its entirety on the Briefing channel on Youtube.


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