When I joined the legal marketing industry, I would often hear law firm marketing leaders lament that their client relationship management system (“CRM”) was nothing more than a holiday card mailing list, while some whispered in defeat about the number of dead people still listed in the database.  This client database had become stale and ineffective.

There is no lack of CRM technology providers in the marketplace.  But it is not the tech that is failing, it is the lack of process. All too often in a sea of technology solutions, people confuse the technology with the solution.  This often leaves legal marketers frustrated when their vision of user experience does not match their reality.

Technology resources provide us business intelligence and visualization tools that drive everything from a business development strategy to predictive analytics.  But before investing in a technology solution, we must clearly define what our end goal is — what problem do we hope the technology will solve?

At the 2016 Legal Marketing Association annual conference, attendees were buzzing about a session that unveiled a knowledge management (KM) software platform that made it easy for law firms to leverage their collective work experience and the expertise of their lawyers.  This technology was developed for a specific objective – to track law firms’ experience and categorize it in a functional manner for the marketing and business development team to use on a variety of projects.  This platform was designed in a partnership with an Am Law firm so that the technology deliverable was the culmination of implementing tech into a business development process and created a valuable project management solution for the firm.

I recently spoke with Luke Ferrandino, the CMO at Paul Weiss, who shares my philosophy on the value of infusing technology and business intelligence in the business development process.  Don’t look for a technology solution to solve a process problem,” said Ferrandino.  “You need to have good data collection processes in place and a degree of buy-in from key stakeholders involved before you will be in a position to evaluate which technology solutions are best.”

Before seeking a technology solution, you must assess the reality at your firm and create processes for which the technology can provide a solution. Ask questions and document the steps to how information is collected, including what information you need and who can provide it within the firm.  This is an investigative process and calls for human capital.

Marketing leaders may put together an internal team to facilitate this process or they may engage a consultant who will deliver business processes based on best practices.  Once you gather the information, only then can you make a well-informed process map and implement a corrective process.

Additionally, process mapping helps communicate to law firm management what is happening, how it can be resolved and serves to engage the stakeholders, which, in turn, helps with change management when the time comes to implement the process and technology solution.  The value of the technology is that it allows us to automate the process.

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