In the previous blog in this series about Keeping Data Simple, I talked about the need to implement methods for measuring data quality. As firms de-centralise the management of data from data stewards to others then data quality might be impacted and so measuring data quality becomes more important.

In this, the third in the series of these blogs, I will look at some of the ways that data can be maintained dynamically by exploiting existing processes. The accepted wisdom for deploying CRM systems in professional services firms has been to create a role for data stewards to verify and validate the data.   I believe that this approach is falling out of favour for a number of reasons.

  1. Firstly, as the volume of data increases but the budget for managing it does not, then there is going to be a decrease in data quality as stewards will not be able to maintain everything.
  2. Secondly data stewards from one office do not have the necessary knowledge to manage an increasingly international data set.
  3. Firms are starting to require their professionals to be more proactive when it comes to business development and client relationship management and so there is an increasing requirement for them to use the technology that the firm has invested in for the purpose. Why pay someone to re-check their work?
  4. Technology itself has moved on dramatically. The emergence of ERM tools that automatically update contacts from email signatures (gwabbit, Introhive, Contact Net and InterAction IQ) almost entirely removes the need for re-validating basic data. There will still always be a role for re-verifying critical data e.g. client names.
  5. Firms have recognised that most of the data that they will ever need already exists in the firm they just haven’t considered how to use it for CRM purposes, for example new client take-on.

It is for these reasons that the model that most firms have used is changing. The data steward model doesn’t really exist in many other industries. Senior executives in commercial organisations would be expected to enter and use information from their CRM systems and I believe that expectation is starting to take hold in professional services firms.

Assuming that this will continue and that firms will choose to implement systems specifically because of their integration, automation and workflow capabilities, then project teams must start to consider how to access, transform and use data from existing business processes and from other systems.

Technology has started to emerge that works on this assumption and that firms will have chosen best of breed systems that don’t naturally talk to each other, for example InTapp Integration Builder. However, as usual, having technology in place is only part of the answer. There is a need to have an understanding of the process for capturing data and to identify which processes and systems own the different elements of information. The key to implementing an effective information management strategy is to understand the following 3 steps for each process.

The example above is a perfect illustration of the challenges that firms are now trying to address. Almost every firm has an objective to grow new revenue streams from existing clients. To be able to do this it is essential to have an effective referral management process and to underpin that it is necessary to know what work you currently have and what are the best mechanisms for obtaining new work. This requires the combination of data from the practice management system (which will identify the current work and who is currently working for the client) and the CRM system which should identify the activities taking place and the potential relationships that could be exploited to win new work.

Most of the business objectives that firms will have require an integration between the practice management system and the CRM system. If that’s the case, then it’s surprising how few firms have this in place.   In the next blog I’m specifically going to talk about the approaches to integrating these 2 business critical systems and some of the challenges that you might need to address.

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