The pressure on legal organizations for alignment with the needs of the businesses they serve fuels an appetite for data, in the form of operational metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other actionable intelligence. That, in turn, drives the quests for how best to consume that data—and is progressively more conveyed by increasingly popular dashboarding solutions.
At the most basic level, dashboards offer a sleek, glanceable user experience through which to digest data. Using exaggerated graphical inflection points and categorization, bright colors and visualized aggregation, all of the dashboard’s key points should be apparent immediately. Yet there’s more to developing dashboards than pretty colors and nifty dials. Hyperion benchmarking shows that nearly a quarter of the market sees the quality of a system’s user interface as the major driver of user adoption, and 1 in 10 law department managers consider embedded analytics/reporting to be crucial to their business operations. Dashboards, it stands to reason, serve a greater purpose in achieving operational excellence.
We recently expanded our performance benchmarking to survey how legal operations professionals derive value from their dashboards. They articulated a number of leading value propositions that reveal important insights about their organizational goals (Fig. 1 below).
Fig. 1 Most significant value propositions for interactive operational dashboarding
Managing to Outcomes
The leading value drivers identified in our research, Performance Management (26 percent) and C-Level Accessibility (25 percent), evidence a desire for the information distilled into an organization’s dashboards to mean something for the long-term health of the business. The prevalence of these options – driving factors for a little more than half of the market – is perhaps unsurprising.
In both cases—measuring against targeted goals and informing decision-making at the highest level—the dashboard’s user is, in effect, managing to outcomes. In this context, outcomes refer to more than merely the results of transactions, litigation and activities to limit liability/exposure, but more meaningfully to the operational efforts to enhance business value, work more efficiency and to improve the quality of work product.
Hyperion benchmarking from earlier this year shows that at least a quarter of corporate law departments have begun to measure operational performance on the basis of these outcome and quality-focused metrics. While not as prevalent as spend and budgeting metrics – long the horse trade of legal operations —they represent (finally!) the interpretation of legal work product by the measure value derived from it. This is, arguably, the beacon of operational maturity.
Reach and Actionability
Thirty-five (35) percent of the market identify Data Democratization (15 percent) and Increased Efficiency (20 percent) as their leading value drivers for dashboarding, an emphasis on the simplicity and velocity of data analysis that dashboarding promotes. The process of planning for the use of metrics and KPIs as operational tools can be arduous. While the adage that you can’t master what you measure holds true, many performance management programs fail to launch over the hurdle of defining what you want to measure, why you want to measure it, and how best to create the models to measure what you seek. Careful planning of an inviting dashboard allows stakeholders to analyze data quickly with better focus and with more confidence. By delivering easily accessible and easy-to-digest visualizations (of complex and voluminous raw data), more actors—management, administrators, general counsel, business managers, billing analysts and others—can easily be looped into common information paradigms and collaborative operational coordination.
Transparency and Analytical Richness
With dashboarding, those background complexities of data ownership can be rolled up effectively into a glanceable index. Additionally, while standalone financial data itself can be compelling, metrics that cut across departments and databases— 12-month client revenue vs. annualized billable hours, or outside legal spend vs internal headcount, for instance—make dashboards a potentially powerful operational analysis tool. This is the key differentiator between reviewing “reporting” and using dynamic data for informed decision-making.