I thought It’s about time that we wrote a case study on the work that we do installing and training on the LEAP Case Management System.
We are not involved in the sales process in the work that we do with LEAP. They bring us in to manage and deliver the project for installation and training. Basically, we take the client company/firm from the point after they have bought the LEAP Case Management System (CMS) to having it installed and the staff proficiently using it. (We can also help with extra training and document work.)
So, what happens in a typical LEAP project?
We hope that we can retain an ongoing relationship with firms we have helped through this project and are often contracted to come back into client firms to help further either with training and optimising use of the LEAP Case Management System or indeed to assist with other practice matters.
Any questions please ring Ingemar on 07887 524 507 or email on [email protected]
Are you ready for the electronic Bill of Costs?
After many many years in preparation, there will now be an electronic Bill of Costs. On 6th April the Bill will be compulsory to all firms when submitting costs claims. The new electronic Bill of Costs has the same phases as a Costs Budget but also incorporates the J Codes (Lite) which are already in the CPR.
If you want more info or help in preparing message me. I can put you in touch with someone who can help.
I am flying a bit of a kite here. What I write comes from my own experience in life, both in practice and in family and my own social life. It’s something I have raised in professional circles. Usually I’m met by blank faces! (Another one of Hunnings’ mad cap ideas I hear you groan!)
When I practiced as a solicitor, and indeed now when working as a consultant, possibly the biggest blockage to turning a potential job into a finished job with cash in the bank is communication – or rather the lack of it. When I ran my own department, I told my staff to ask their clients for their ‘preferred means of communication’, recognising that we could not assume that the most convenient method for us would be the one that the client would want to use and thus be the most effective. We were then talking about letters, emails or the phone (in some occasions, if we were radical, text – although my experience is that it is really only conveyancing that has adopted this as a practice area).
In my non-working life I cannot be so restricted. I had to join Instagram to be able to communicate remotely with my eldest son. I use Whats App to communicate with my wife’s family, although my wife and I tend to use Facebook Messenger most of the time. Some of my friends prefer text. I also use LinkedIn messenging for professional contacts and direct messaging through Twitter. I know what method my social contacts prefer to use and so I use that, as I want to get in touch/an answer ASAP. Of course there are other methods to direct message as well. So, this is what happens in my personal life. Why should we assume that our clients should prefer to use our selected methods (letter/phone/email or text), merely because it suits us. If the business imperative is to turn the prospect into cash ASAP and communication is one of the biggest constraints to achieving this, then shouldn’t we explore facilitating communication through our client’s optimal method ?
However, here we seem to come up against a number of problems. People say
From what I have seen of the Case, Practice and Document Management Systems in the market currently, it does not seem that this issue is being addressed. Most integrate with Microsoft Outlook and text, some offer deal rooms or apps for clients to upload data – but what I am suggesting would be somewhat different : facilitating what clients feel comfortable with rather than making them do what we think would be best (best suited to us). We all know that what works best is when people meet up where we are, rather than requiring us to do things that are not so convenient to us – that push us (the consumer/customer/paying client) out of our comfort zone. The closest I have seen is Peppermint – which is building it’s Practice Management System around CRM, but even this seems to be scratching the surface only.
Here are some thoughts on what to consider when looking to choose a Case or Practice Management System, beyond price.
Ingemar has been involved in many projects implementing case and practice management systems, both whilst in practice as a solicitor and afterwards when working for HCL.
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It’s a fact of life – normally people don’t like change. They might grumble about what they’ve got but that’s nothing to the complaints you get when change starts to happen. I’m directing these comments to a change in Case, Practice or Document Management System, but the same goes for almost any area of business, or indeed life outside of work!
If you are the person charged with making the change happen, then the task can be daunting, wear you down and can leave you scarred. So here are a few tips from my own experience.
A lot of these comments will apply to many IT projects, especially in the legal/professional services sector.
So the partners tell you that they want to buy a Case Management System or Practice Management System (let’s call it CMS for short). Perhaps they have decided what will be bought, or they leave it to you to decide what would be most appropriate.
Changing your CMS is a massive job, especially if the full benefits of the investment are to be harvested. That would inevitably require a review of
A CMS is a hugely powerful tool, but only a tool. The thinking needs to be done before hand and ‘buy-in’ from senior management essential.
A few things to consider when scoping such a project :
Here are a few comments on each of the above.
What does the firm want to achieve ?
Doing this preparatory thinking is essential. It will guide how you approach things and give you something to fall back on if later questioned on the project. You need a clear brief. On one project where I assisted the reason was that the existing CMS was unsupported, obsolete and was holding up other essential changes. The brief was to only carry out modifications sufficient to ensure that the firm could continue to function on ‘Go Live’. Bells and whistles could come later. That clarity enabled the team to be able to say ‘No’ with confidence to some change requests.
Is there ‘Buy-In’ at top level ?
Quite frankly, if this is not forthcoming then the investment has to be questioned. It is likely to be an expensive white elephant. Such a significant change to the systems of an organisation will affect how everyone works. Ultimately, although you can facilitate ‘buy-in’, it’s got to be led by the management - or someone needs to find a way to make blockers 'want to help' ...
How do you keep track of all the Change Requests ?
Inevitably you will want to make some changes, if nothing else because of changes in your commercial, organisational, legal and regulatory environment. Those changes should go through the following stages : conceptual, design, development, testing and release. It is so easy to lose track of them. Setting in place a robust, efficient system to track and manage them will save time and ensure better delivery.
Adapting the 'out-of-the-box' structure of the CMS
Think about the structure of your organisation. How will that work with what you get from your CMS provider ? Do you adapt the structure of the business or the CMS. If the latter, then I would suggest you consider making those changes before other changes to the software. If your business, then consider how that will affect the delivery and implementation of the project.
Embedding Regulatory Compliance within the system.
Regulatory Compliance Manager is one of the many hats I have worn in business. My aim was always to try to discern the purpose of the regulations and seek to benefit the business if I could as well as to ensure compliance. One needs to walk a balance between compliance and still being able to do the job and deliver to the organisational goals. So often I have seen this out of balance, with the resultant friction and sub-optimal relationships. The Holy Grail is for the process would be that staff have no option but to comply, without any extra effort for them. One can do this through the processes being embedded in the CMS. In one system I designed a new file opening process that embedded an initial risk assessment, with notifications to supervisors where the risk was high. That helped manage risk and also demonstrate an audit trail for the regulators with virtually no extra effort by staff – it took only seconds for the staff to complete the process.
Who tests the technical aspects ?
No matter how good you are, you will not be an expert in all areas of your business. If your business is divided up into specialist areas, you will need people within those areas to test the technical aspects – to ensure that the content and process is correct for achieving smooth operation and quality of service in that area. Try to ensure that the people chosen have adequate knowledge, skill, aptitude and the right attitude. Important also is to ensure that their line managers fully support them, give them clear instruction on policy decisions (see the section on ‘buy-in’ above) and provide them with the resources (including time and a relaxation of other targets) to allow then to do the job properly. You will need to manage this team and ensure that you have a good process for handling their change requests/suggestions (see the section on ‘Tracking Change Request’s above).
Data Mapping, Documents, Screens and Workflows
We are now into the guts of the project. How important each will be will depend upon each product and project, but each aspect needs to be carefully considered. Data mapping is particularly if you are migrating across data from an existing system. It is slow, laborious work where one has to be meticulous in getting things correct. Sadly there are no real short cuts; you just have to get it right. Typically this is dealt with centrally. Documents – it really depends upon the nature of your organisation and the project. The Legal Industry tends to use loads, others use very few. However, attention to this should not be overlooked, as usually this is your interface with your customers. A lot of this work can be dealt with by the team of testers you might have in specific departments/practice areas. Screens – the principal way in which data is input to the system to then be manipulated and used to run processes, populate documents and to be reported upon. They are like the windows into the database. Watch out for inconsistency in naming, positioning and structure, which may make it more difficult to work across areas. Work on these is likely to be a mixture to the testing team and central IT. Workflows – these can offer the greatest efficiency, risk management and profitability gains, but also be the most complex, as they embed processes into the system in the purest form. Watch against over-complicating them by trying to make them cover every eventuality. Two examples from work I have done are :
Do you have adequate resource/expertise for the project ?
It may sound a stupid question, but be under no illusion how big a change this is. Most business don’t do this more often than once a decade, if that. IT departments are normally resourced for the day to day issues and for planned infrastructure upgrades etc. They may well not have expertise of having done this before. The people with the longest tenure in the business will normally be the partners, senior management or in non-IT areas. They will seldom have the skills or inclination to assist you in the guts of the project. You may need to call in external expert assistance for the duration of the contract, during which you can build resource within the organisation upon which you can call (see ‘Training of Staff’ and ‘Future Developments’ below).
How well have you thought this through ? Have you asked such questions as :
It is worth while thinking this through at the start of the project and then backwards plan. I would suggest that you do not take what the software supplier tells you as gospel. Test it, challenge it. You are the customer. You will have more bargaining power at the beginning of the project, before you have signed, than when you are totally committed and need them as much as they need you.
Training of staff
This is part of the ‘Go-Live plan, I would suggest, but not exclusively. In one project I the IT Manager sent out little bits of advice on various areas during the course of the preparation so that staff would be aware of momentum, but could also absorb this information in small, bite-sized chunks. I have a series of Road Shows to introduce staff to the look, feel, structure and geography of the system and major screens so that when the more intense training took place just before ‘Go-Live’ they were already familiar with these aspects and could take in more of this training. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that training will stop on ‘Go-Live’. Indeed it would be good advice to plan follow-up/refresher training for a little time after ‘Go-Live’, once the initial excitement has settled down. This can help to embed good working practices, check bad practices that might have crept in and be a forum for picking up issues that have come to light once the system is being used for real. One final point : I would strongly advise that you try to develop ‘champions’ for the system in each practice area. They can act as your troops on the ground, to filter and deal with the low level issues and pass up to you the more major ones. The team of testers (referred to above in the section entitled ‘Who tests the technical aspects’) could well form the basis of this team of people. All the points made above about senior management ‘Buy-In’, authorisation and facilitation apply again.
I know the whole project of bringing in the new CMS will have been exhausting and the last thing you will be contemplating is to have to change things again, but any organisation that wants to flourish will have to keep adapting and reinventing itself. Hopefully your organisation will recognise this. So plan for it. If you have chosen the right CMS, it should assist your organisation in doing this. Having a robust system for documenting change requests (see the section above ‘How do you keep track of all the change requests?) will enable you to refer back to what was done when changes need to be made. It will also help your software suppliers if they need to do something, or when you need to implement their upgrades. You want to make the most out of the blood, sweat and tears you have invested in getting this system in and working.
I hope you have found this article helpful. Feel free to contact me. I am happy to answer questions. Good luck!
Which are most effective : Ethical or Ruthless managers ?
One will see examples of both about us – sometimes within the same organisation. The behaviours can be driven by character/personality or emotion (fear, greed, insecurity). If they do not match the culture of the organisation tension or conflict is likely to arise.
Research published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) concluded that ruthless leaders are bad for business, whereas those with strong ethics tended to make a more positive contribution to the long term performance of the organisation.
The key findings of the research are as follows :
The research concluded that these 7 steps should be followed to improve ethics and support better performance :
The report also contains tips for individual managers.
Here is a link to the report https://www.managers.org.uk/insights/research/current-research/2014/october/the-moraldna-of-performance
OK, so you’re running a business. There are so many things to focus on : marketing, sales, making the product or service, getting in your resources to make/deliver it, billing, for some service firms such as lawyers and accountants building up the WIP (Work in Progress) which you can then bill. I am sure you can add to the list.
Yet people say ‘CASH is KING’. It is lack of cash that normally kills a business.
So, having lots of orders, having lots of WIP, even having sent out lots of bills, good as they are in themselves and essential for the healthy business, mean nothing if you cannot get the cash in. You want to shorten the time from order to cash in the bank. Many firms will focus on either billable hours or bills delivered. They will set targets and rewards according to those. With respect, the focus is wrong. Those aspects are essential, but it’s the cash you need. If you focus on and reward ‘cash in the bank’ then attention to the other aspects will follow. If you don’t focus on the cash you end up with problems : bad debt, inflated WIP recording, inefficient working practices etc.
What is your process for gathering in cash? Do you have too much cash locked up in the business ? How do you turn your WIP more swiftly into cash ?
A common problem in law firms is that management are too heavily involved in production – in actually doing the work. That’s natural, when you consider that they trained as technical legal experts and that is where they are comfortable, where value is seen. However, is it the best thing for a business if the managers are also the principal production workers. It is not common in most businesses.
Do you have the time and focus to concentrate on making the processes for gathering cash as smooth, efficient and effective as possible ? Perhaps getting someone in from outside to review, advise and implement might be the most effective way to bring about improvement?
As I've gone through my life this has become clearer to me. Whilst you should be completely committed to serving your employer and their interests when employed by them you do need to look out for yourself. Every business should be focused on maximising its profit and developing the business. Part of that should be in developing its employees skills and abilities (I can, have and will write more on that subject). However, you cannot assume that you will always be employed by them. For a variety of reasons your paths may part. Then you will be in the market place again hoping that what you offer will be what another business wants.
So my advice would be to actively and consciously :