The decision to invest in management information was fairly straightforward in that I was taken on as a non-lawyer to run the business of the law firm but above all things taking over from the then managing partner who was a lawyer. The firm had undertaken a merger, and it was clear that management control was not as effective as it should have been so it was fairly straightforward for me to go in and propose that investment.
If you're looking at it as a single lump-sum at the beginning of the project it would be difficult to justify but because it's spread over say an eight to 10-year period it doesn't seem so onerous.
The systems we've covered have been comprehensive and embraced all aspects of the business:
- the practice management system;
- accounting systems;
- expense recovery systems;
- HR function systems; and
- we’ve recently put in place an online appraisal system.
The management information project is never complete because it’s ongoing and changes as the business evolves. By way of example, putting in place a new practice management system which will probably take two and a half years to complete and will require an investment of, in the region of £800,000.
The management information system has allowed us to measure the global performance of the business, its individual profit centres and performance of individuals within the business.
The main benefit of the management information project has been transparency of information in all aspects of the business in terms of performance for time management, billing, debt recovery, work in progress, etc. Having accurate information gives you greater confidence in decision-making so if the information is accurate the decision making is much better supported.
The advice I'd give to firms looking to make an investment in management information systems would be, not to be afraid of making the investment, but a critical thing is to have the right team in place to undertake the project. Getting it wrong can be really costly, if you get it right it can add huge benefits, so it's essential to invest in your management team.