Connect CRM

Shepherd and Wedderburn has long realised the need for a centralised integrated client relationship management tool to complement existing CRM strategies and processes however the current economic downturn is bringing co-ordinated business development activities into sharper focus. With little appetite for a large capital expenditure project but a highly skilled and talented IT team, the firm decided to build in-house.

Over the last 12 months, our development team has designed, built and implemented a CRM tool – Connect – that has been explicitly tailored for Shepherd and Wedderburn. Existing server resources have been used incurring no capital expense.

Goals

The goals of this project at the outset were to:

  1. Combine individual Outlook contacts into a central database
  2. Provide a mechanism for sharing information about contacts
  3. Create greater transparency of existing knowledge and connections within the firm
  4. Improve the speed of access to information and knowledge about contacts
  5. Support and enhance existing CRM strategies and processes
  6. Better facilitate and support our planned, targeted marketing campaigns and activities

Platform

Acknowledging that it is unusual to build such a key system in-house, a thorough research and scoping exercise was performed to identify not only the current data requirements but also anticipating future demand and usage. In addition a review of products and best practice currently being used elsewhere in the legal market was carried out. This informed the design of the system.

Connect is built using PHP for the application code, Microsoft SQL Server for the data storage and business logic and AJAX and jQuery to enhance the user interface. For more comprehensive integration and to increase user familiarity with the data, client and user information is pulled from the firm’s practice management system, allowing CRM data to be easily combined with financial information to aid targeting, segmentation and account management.

Given the volume and complexity of much of the data involved, ease of use was a key driver in building the user interface. Several iterations of the design were tested and this process has led to a clean, simple interface that has required minimal training to perform the majority of functions within the system.

Access to contacts is through Outlook with which Connect integrates. The Connect contacts within Outlook provide direct links to further information about each contact, such has who within the firm knows this contact, recent marketing activities, meetings and contact notes. Also in-built is the facility to subscribe to other users’ contacts that enables PAs access to their lawyers’ contacts. This “business as usual” approach has proved very successful in gaining buy-in and has been enthusiastically adopted.

By building Connect around the way Shepherd and Wedderburn works, we have found that we had the ability to understand deeply the data and integrate it with our existing enterprise systems. By using Aderant Expert as the driver for user and client information, we are able to provide reports combining information from the two systems, further removing the silo effect so often created by implementing new systems.

Gaining buy-in

Connect has been operational since February 2009 and we have recently completed importing data which has been done on a team-by-team basis following extensive data cleaning. Much of the effort in this project has been less technical and more process oriented, ensuring buy-in from each team, culling individual contacts and grouping contacts by team prior to migration into Connect.

One of the main barriers to projects of this nature is often the unwillingness of users to accept changes to their working practices. The project team was fortunate to include a member of the firm’s board whose role it was to be an ambassador for the project. In addition extensive consultation was carried out with all stakeholders throughout the firm to ensure that their concerns and input were recorded and accounted for. Whilst it is impossible to win over all 67 of our partners instantly, our attention was focused on several influential figures with whose support we could make significant progress.

It was also appreciated that one of the most important groups to engage with was PAs who had to be convinced of the project’s worth and long-term benefits. The ability to tailor an in-house system to the degree that we were able to, in a collaborative way with users, undoubtedly contributed to the successful and universal adoption of the system in a relatively short space of time.

The benefit to the end-user

Fee earners

The transparency of data in one central repository has enlightened many of our fee earners. There are many examples of those who were initially sceptical and their transformation has been significant as the information once held in ‘silos’ is exposed and they are able to appreciate connections across the firm and within client organisations. Awareness of these connections is enabling far more structured account management, targeting and cross selling.

Sharing information about contacts and their organisations has improved markedly by enabling contact notes to be stored against individuals within Connect. This has benefited from senior management reinforcing the need to share contact activity information using Connect as the mechanism. The increased levels of activity logged in Connect have allowed a number of customised reports to be created to disseminate information on a weekly or monthly basis covering practice groups, sectors and client activity. This has dramatically increased awareness of activity around the firm that previously was only available on an ad hoc basis.

Many of our lawyers use BlackBerrys to continue working when out of the office. It is essential that they be able to access their contacts on the move. Connect allows access to contacts and the ability to record a contact note through the BlackBerry while travelling back from a meeting which ensures that people in the office have the latest information available to them. This has been invaluable when it comes to increasing responsiveness to clients, and productivity as updates can be made instantly.

Partners

Partners within the firm have realised the need for a centralised system to manage contacts and spot new, or enhance existing opportunities. Connect has spurred many of them on to encourage their teams to log all activity with contacts for the benefit of the firm. Mobdro Download This drive has led to increased adoption as people receive reports that are relevant to people they know and improve their knowledge of their own contacts.

The Board

The firm’s board invested in the talents of the IT team to deliver a solution that met the needs of all parts of the business. There is confidence that this has indeed been achieved – and at no capital cost.

PAs and secretaries

Feedback from this group has been overwhelmingly positive despite initial reservations about the level of work in making ready the data for rollout. The resultant improvements have helped to increase productivity through ease of access to relevant information.rental mobil jakarta

Marketing and BD team

The MBD team now has the infrastructure to enable it to leverage the work that has been done in recent years to change the focus of the lawyers’ relationship with their clients. They have seen a renewed enthusiasm for the key account programme now that there is transparency and clear accountability for client management.

Marketing campaigns and mailings are now more accurate in reaching the correct individuals and can be more sophisticated in their targeting, with significant cost savings in reduced numbers. Each contact within Connect has been assigned a primary contact, an individual within Shepherd and Wedderburn whose responsibility it is to maintain and develop the relationship with the contact. The increased visibility has driven them to keep in touch with their contacts and to ensure that the information we hold is up to date.

Testimonial

James Will, Partner and member of the Partnership Board comments “One of the great advantages of building Connect in-house is the development of our products has very much been a combined involvement between legal staff and IT in order to ensure the firm’s objectives are met. Without the skill of our IT development team, this is something that we could simply not have undertaken”.

Usage of Connect measured by page views has increased month-on-month as more teams are migrated in. However, the number of activities tracked through contact notes has been increasing at a faster rate (about 30% per month) although some teams are still to get fully involved.

Conclusion

Although Connect has not been operational for long, benefits have already been seen throughout the firm in terms of increased awareness and knowledge. However, it is the buy-in from all levels of staff measured through continual increase in usage that signals a culture change in the way the firm manages relationships with its contacts a in much more cohesive and strategic way than previously.