Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preventing Data Quality Depression - and Rolodex Rejection

So how big a problem is data quality depression really?

In the past, some firms neglected CRM data quality as a minor issue – to their detriment. In fact, poor data quality can become a serious problem, especially during an initial rollout because the attorneys can quickly lose confidence in the system if the data is a mess. After all, attorneys are trained to find fault – and when they do, they may jump to the conclusion that if the data is bad, the system is not trustworthy. Then adoption and usage will stall.

Additionally, until the data is properly cleaned and deduplicated, the value of your CRM cannot be fully recognized. Until the entire firm is rolled out, the attorneys can't leverage relationship intelligence to identify ‘who knows who’ relationships. Until comprehensive contact information is collected and compiled and contacts are categorized (how’s that for alliteration?), it’s almost impossible to accurately distribute mailings, invitations or other communications. 

As a result, the longer the data cleanup process takes, the more marketing and business development opportunities are lost - and the more time and money are wasted. So ultimately, if you don’t focus on data quality, you could end up with what many firms refer to their CRM system as: a glorified, overpriced rolodex. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shotgun Business Development - Ready, Fire...Aim!

Effective business development starts with a plan. Without a plan, business development can become unstructured, unproductive and expensive – with limited or no return on investment.

We commit random acts of golf or lunch – inviting the same people who have never given us business. We spend weeks preparing for presentations for groups of attorneys – who are competitors instead of potential Clients. We spend hours writing long-winded white papers – for obscure, scholarly publications instead of industry or trade periodicals. We pay thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for sports and event tickets – that end up unused or used by our associates and their friends. We give ‘til it hurts – to charities and causes with no ties to our strategic business development objectives. We don't prepare before the meeting or measure results afterwards. In short, we fail to plan, which is a plan for failure.

Without a plan to follow, it’s just too easy to fall into the habit of doing what we've always done or what we are comfortable with and hoping we might be successful. Doing what we have always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. And hope is not a strategy. And this scattershot approach is not a good way to develop business.

For successful business development, the ‘shotgun’ is not the weapon of choice. Instead you want a rifle with laser focus in your arsenal. Stop settling for doing the same things. You need to focus on the right things. The key is to make your business development efforts as effective as possible and get the highest possible return on the time you invest. Take the time to set your sights and really aim. But before you aim, you have to have the right target...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Getting the Help You Need for Data Quality Depression

Ultimately, at some point, you may realize that getting help for data quality depression is essential. Once a firm reaches a certain size, often around 100 users, a part-time data steward just can't keep up with the volume of data changes in most cases. Larger firms will likely require a full-time data steward. And as a firm reaches the 250 user mark, even one dedicated data steward might not be able to do the job alone.

The reason that data quality resources are necessary is that, no matter what you do, keeping up with data changes from hundreds of CRM users is a challenging - and ongoing - job. One reason is that an estimated 25 to 30 percent of data degrades each year. Think about it, people move, get promoted, change companies, get married – and a few die. All this leads to bad data.

Additionally, during an initial CRM rollout, having extra data quality resources will be imperative. If you consider that the average attorney has approximately 500 contacts - some senior partners may have thousands while new associates may only have a few - it’s not uncommon for a CRM rollout for a firm with 100 attorneys to quickly build a database of over 50,000 records. Of those, conservatively 25 percent or more may be duplicates. That means there could be more than 12,000 records that need to be standardized, cleaned and merged. If you assume that a skilled data steward can deal with about 250 records a day, it could easily take months to get the data in order, which is essential to get the professionals to trust - and use the system. This is assuming you have the internal resources... 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your Business Development Plan - A Blueprint for Success

Like most things that are challenging – but can also be rewarding – business development success starts with a plan. To be really effective, you have to put together a strategy and plan that you can execute and measure success against. Without a plan, you will likely end up wasting the one resource that is the most precious - time.

Because time is limited, it's also important not to spend too much of it creating the plan either. Of course you need to spend enough time to prepare a well-thought-out plan, but remember, you aren't writing a sequel to war and peace. I've seen many a professional business development plan in filled with exacting detail, professionally bound, divided into sections and even annotated with a table of contents. The place you most often find that kind of plan is on a bookshelf gathering dust. Instead your goal should be to create a plan that is realistic, flexible and achievable... 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dealing with Data Quality Depression - Don't Do It Alone

When it comes to data quality depression, it's important to know that you aren’t alone. There are literally hundreds of firms struggling with the same frustrations and issues. Often, the best thing you can do is to reach out for assistance.

Frequently, help is closer than you think. In fact, you can often find relief within your own firm. There are plenty of people with the right skills and, more importantly, some additional bandwidth, who may be able to assist you with recurring data quality tasks. Good potential candidates include secretaries, records clerks, word processors, paralegals or even your receptionist. Having a qualified pool of candidates is important because when it comes to enhancing data quality, the more helping hands - and eyes - the better.

You may also benefit from the ideas and best practices of other firms. You may want to consider joining – or creating – a data quality “support group.” Start a discussion group, arrange meetings, or just get together for coffee with people in your area in similar positions who have the same data quality challenges and headaches. Before making a decision about how to address your own firm’s data quality issues, find out what has worked for them, as well as what hasn’t.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going Up - Taking Your Personal Value Proposition to a New Level

Finally, to take your personal value proposition up a level – to really connect with a potential Client – articulate characteristics that may be of particular interest to them. Discuss things that differentiate you or your practice. Describe a niche area of expertise. Mention unique skills or knowledge. Talk about your Client focus and how you help people avoid risks or solve problems.

Your personal value proposition should be compelling and memorable, something that would make a potential Client want to hear more – and remember you after your initial meeting. It should also be interesting and engaging, since the idea is to spark a continuing conversation. You could discuss areas outside of work that you are passionate about but that make you better at what you do. This will humanize you and make you seem approachable. You could even use a little humor or even or tell a story. People love a good story – and they often remember them.

Most importantly, you should demonstrate some element of enthusiasm or for your profession because your personal value proposition also gives the listener an initial impression of what it would be like to work with you – and first impressions can be powerful. Remember, all things being equal, in most cases people hire people they like and trust, and your personal value proposition is often your first opportunity to convey these characteristics to a prospective Client.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alternative Treatments for Data Quality Depression

If your data quality depression doesn’t seem to be responding to conventional treatments, fortunately there are now some alternative treatments available. One treatment that has been particularly effective for some firms is outsourcing your data quality.

If you aren’t able to hire full-time or permanent data quality resources, there are now outsourced data quality professionals available who can help you to get a handle on your data on a part-time or even full-time basis. For a very reasonable hourly rate, these professionals can assist your firm with individual data quality projects – or even serve as full-time permanent data stewards.

These trained data quality professionals will serve as members of your firm’s data quality team. They are knowledgeable about multiple CRM systems, and they are supervised by consultants or companies who are experts in data quality and CRM success. Your data quality team members will communicate with you on a regular basis and will also provide you with regular reports regarding data quality progress. And, because they are outsourced, you won't have to deal with the headaches associated with finding, hiring, firing or supervising them.

Ultimately, using these alternative data quality professionals can be an effective and affordable way to reduce your data quality headaches – and the return on your investment can be significant. If you’d like more information about data quality outsourcing options, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help relieve your pain.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Opening Doors with Your Personal Value Proposition – Targeting Client Needs

To really elevate your personal value proposition, begin by trying to articulate it in terms of Client needs. These needs can often open the door to new business. But remember that Clients typically have a hierarchy of needs – and some are more pressing than others.

The goal is to identify and find potential solutions for the ‘big’ needs, the ones that are the most imperative, because these are the ones that are most likely to drive a hiring decision. Some of these needs include:

  • Increasing revenue and profitability 
  • Reducing costs, losses, inefficiency, pressure, stress, downtime, uncertainty or risk 
  • Avoiding conflict, litigation, fines, fees, bad publicity or negative consequences 
  • Saving time, effort or resources 
  • Improving processes, procedures or production 
  • Enhancing or protecting and reputations, images or credibility 
  • Meeting connections and deadlines 

Once you have focused your personal value proposition on the Client’s needs, you are ready to take it to the next level…

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just What the Doctor Ordered for Data Quality Depression

While the bad news is that data quality depression may seem to be an epidemic, the good news is that it is treatable – and it's rarely contagious. The treatments for data quality depression vary depending on the symptoms and the causes. As a result, your data quality specialist should diagnose your specific issue in order to prescribe a course of treatment specific to your firm’s unique needs.

For instance, if your symptoms include delirium caused by end users who do not seem to follow instructions or take responsibility for their own data maintenance, your data quality consultant may recommend a course of training (also known as a training course.) The focus of the training should be not only therapeutic, to alleviate the current issues by teaching users to best ways to prevent data quality problems, but also preventative, in order to avoid future relapses by emphasizing the reasons that long-term data maintenance is important to the firm.

On the other hand, if you are presenting with symptoms of stress and fatigue that seem to have been induced by a lack of adequate resources to do your data quality job, the consultant may first work together with you to create a compelling business case to take to firm management in order to secure additional monetary or human resources. 

If this initial treatment is unsuccessful, another equally effective treatment to consider would be to involve employees in other positions or departments to assist with data quality tasks part-time. Assistants, paralegals, word processors, records personnel, receptionists or even summer interns could be recruited to help prevent the spread or growth of data quality issues.

You should be aware that the selection of individuals responsible for data quality can be challenging and proper screening is crucial. Ideally, good candidates should have excellent attention to detail, a strong work ethic and some institutional knowledge of your firm and Clients. If the right individuals can be identified, their assistance can have an excellent prophylactic effect on future data quality problems.

While most cases of data quality depression often respond positively to one of these treatments, some cases seem to be resistant to these methods. In such cases, we often recommend an alternative therapy…