What a year…
Back in the quiet of an unsettling April I planned this series of blog posts. I wanted to highlight the myriad of ways that Power BI (and business intelligence tools in general) could be useful for modern law firms. Particularly in a time of uncertainty and change.
The post lock-down lull has definitely passed and now we’re in December. Every firm I know is frantically busy. Including us at Verlata. Despite the race to end of year, I really wanted to continue with these posts. I passionately believe in the power of data and its impact on good decision making. I passionately believe that law firms have an untapped asset in their data.
If you’ve read one or all posts, I hope you’ve found them useful and they have helped expanded your understanding of what’s possible with Power BI.
You might be asking what’s next? How do I make Power BI happen from a practical perspective in my firm?
Firstly, let’s think about the problems you might be able to solve with Power BI. If you identify with a number of these statements, Power BI might be the tool for you.
Is Power BI a good fit for your firm?
- Do you, or your accounting team, spend hours every month running reports from your Practice Management System (PMS), exporting them into excel and manipulating the data?
- Does it take you or your team a lot of time to prepare easy to understand financial information for partner and board meetings?
- Is it difficult for your team to ascertain how they are tracking against KPIs? Do they need to rely on another party to get this information?
- Can your decision makers easily find the data they want or do they need to ask someone in the finance team? For example, who are my top referrers – I want to send them a Christmas present.
- Does it take a long time to prepare KPI information for the purpose of fee earner reviews?
- Are you struggling to customise the reports you already have? Maybe due to lack of expertise, cost of consultants or lack of system flexibility. Or all three.
- Are you spending a long time preparing reports in a specific format for your clients?
- Do you use excel for complex reporting and formula calculation? For instance, around bonus and incentive structures?
- Do you want to identify trends around time invested, write offs and workload to assist in the setting of fixed fee quotes and capacity planning, but can’t do that easily with your current system?
If that sounds like you and your firm, Power BI can offer time savings and improve the accuracy and delivery of your reporting. It can help with strategic decision making and trend identification.
Power BI Pre-requisites
Firstly, you need a way to connect to your Practice Management System (PMS) data.
If you have a cloud based practice management system this might be through APIs or some kind of overnight export of data. You would need to contact your PMS provider to understand what’s available to you and any costs involved. That data you access via the export or the APIs then needs to be stored in a database that Power BI can access. We store the data within Azure SQL databases.
If you have an on premises system, then a Power BI Gateway needs to be installed on your network. You must have access to credentials that are allowed access to the PMS database.
Not every PMS can be connected to Power BI. Not all cloud PMS systems will give you access to the data and not all on-premise solutions allow a direct connection to the underlying database. If you’re selecting a new PMS, keep that in mind!
Once you’ve figured out if and how you can connect to your data, you need to look at licensing.
The Power BI platform has several parts. The key ones we utilise are Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service. Desktop allows you to create reports and is free to download. Power BI Service is what allows you to publish and share reports in your firm.
Power BI Service is a cloud based application that allows users to engage with reports via a browser or mobile application. It requires monthly Power BI Pro licensing. The monthly licensing attaches to each Azure AD user requiring access to reports. That license cost is currently $13.70AUD per user per month. You purchase this from Microsoft. Either through your IT department or your IT service provider.
How Verlata can help
Once you have those two pieces in play – data access and licensing – you can start utilising Power BI.
If you want some support in your Power BI journey, we would be happy to help.
We work exclusively with law firms and legal departments. Our Power BI team works with clients from all over the world. We can help you connect to your practice management system, whether it’s on premise or in the cloud. If we are connecting to a data source we haven’t before, then we can talk about a no obligation proof of concept.
Once the data connection is established, we can create a series of custom reports for you or we can set you up to create your own or a combination thereof.
For Actionstep clients we have our pre-packaged report subscription called Viewpoint. You can learn more here. We also build custom reports.
We spend a lot of time scoping the reports with our clients, ensuring the reports are exactly what’s needed before giving a fixed fee quote. Because our Power BI team has had extensive experience in legal management, we also offer ideas and insights as to how the reports could look and what metrics might be helpful.
It’s important to us to work alongside our clients and develop improvements to the reports as we go. As our client’s strategies and goals change, reports evolve to support that.
In the words of one of our clients:
We are a boutique law firm that has worked with Verlata for number of years. Putting in place a highly customised set of Power BI reports to track the ‘pulse’ of the business has been an absolute game changer for us and our staff. Over the journey, the Verlata team have adjusted reports and added new reports as the business evolves. 11/10!Velocity Legal
If you are ready to explore Power BI within your firm, please get in touch with me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Join me as I explore more about how Power BI can super-charge your reporting and give you valuable business insights
About the Author
Robyna May is part of our Power BI team, her role sees her taking raw data and developing it into clear visual representations that can be used to inform strategic decisions.
Robyna has over twenty years’ experience in the Australian legal sector, both working within firms and supporting firms. She has worked as a project manager, IT manager, knowledge director, legal firm practice manager, technical consultant and software developer. This broad range of experience allows her to see both the technical and practical sides of any project. In each of these roles, she has had a keen interest in pulling data from various sources and presenting it in such a way that allows decision makers to have a clear, birds eye view of their practice.
With degrees in both IT and Law, she has a deep understanding of how law firms work and how technology can support them. She regularly writes and presents on topics associated with the intersection of IT and law.
- Posted by Verlata Administrator
- On December 15, 2020
- 0 Comments