6/16/11

Elephant Post: Is It Time To Outsource Your CRM to LinkedIn?

Image (CC) by ecreyes 
Almost without fail, whenever I bring up the issue of Client Relationship Management (CRM) tools with others in the legal industry, the conversation ends up talking about what an overall failure the CRM resource ended up being, but because the firm invested so much time, money and people into the project, they aren't willing to admit   that they need to cut their losses and move on to something else.

The whole internal CRM tool project is a lesson in insanity - doing the same thing over and over, yet somehow expecting a different result this time around. Lawyers don't like sharing their information (contacts), they don't like doing administrative tasks (entering contact information into the CRM), and most will fight you if you want to set up something to automate those tasks. Most law firms with CRM tools have gone down the path of "Data Stewards" to try to make sense of all of the mis-matched CRM information (multiple entries, misspellings, company names entered twenty different ways, etc.), but after a couple of years, these Data Stewards are usually let go or reassigned to other work because the CRM tools are just too unwieldy and the data is just too disorganized.

So why are firms still hanging on to these money pits? Should we jettison the idea of building an internal CRM tool and start leveraging external products such as LinkedIn to help us better understand the relationships between our lawyers and our clients? That's the questions we posed this week. Although we only received a couple perspectives this time around, you can still chime in with your comments on where you stand on the whole CRM issue.

For the next Elephant Post, we ask you to let us know what legal product (database, legal platform, collaboration tool, book, etc.) over the past year or two do you think is something others should check out.) Scroll on down and let us know what you think is worth a look.


Simon Ellison-Bunce
IT

I think it's undeniable that the rise of social networking will significantly change how firms approach CRM - but there are some fundamental tensions at the heart of the issue.

One is the difference between the interests of the firm as a whole and the interests of individual lawyers. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for individuals, but from the enterprise perspective it presents a number of challenges currently, in areas such as brand management and relationship risk for example.

Another tension is around control of the data on social networking platforms. To start with, not everyone who a firm might want to engage with is on LinkedIn; and of those that are, not all of them will be actively using it or keeping their information up to date. Of course there's no way to add or "correct" someone else's profile because that information isn't in your control! Also, there's no obvious way currently to combine information from your LinkedIn network with other information you might have about those people or their companies in your own systems, which rather limits it's usefulness for business development.

This is clearly an ongoing debate. I believe the way forward is a new approach that combines the best of both worlds, effectively putting a social networking wrapper around a more traditional CRM core. If you'll forgive the plug, look about for more about this on our blog at http://blog.fellsoft.com or follow us @fellsoft.


Law Librarian

CRM's are a waste of time and money (at least the way most are set up.)

I'm able to pull more relevant information from my LinkedIn connections than I am from the CRM on almost all of our contacts. I would rather the lawyers connect via LinkedIn (or something that ties into LinkedIn) and allow us to monitor any changes in the contact's profile. The CRM data is almost always 'dirty' and many times is so out-of-date that it is not only useless, sometimes it actually causes more problems than if we didn't have the data in there at all.

What New Legal Industry Product Do You Think Others Should Take a Look At?
We've touted a few products on 3 Geeks over the past couple of years, but we're always looking for other perspectives on great products released for the legal industry that we should check out. Just off the top of my head I can think of a few products that I think are worthwhile… Kiiac is a great product (and one that we've talked about a lot), the book Typography for Lawyers is one of those rare products that takes a basic process (writing legal documents) and explains it in a way that helps you understand why certain writing and typographical processes are the way they are. 
So, think about something you've started using in the past year or two and let us know why you like it, and why we should take a look at it. Fill out the form below and share your perspective.

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1 comments:

Timothy B. Corcoran said...

The challenges raised here are real and it is insane to keep trying to force CRM into law firm cultures that aren't ready for it. But change is afoot.

With increased business acumen in rising law firm leaders, and increased top-down management over all-consensus management, and improved financial analysis indicating that silos are less effective than collaborative cultures, it's become marginally easier to implement CRM than it was some years ago. But some of these changes will take years to take root, and in some firms it may never happen.

The key takeaway is that the technology of CRM should follow a culture of CRM. In other words, start first with adopting a business model that rewards (or at least doesn't disincent) collaboration, foster a culture of collaboration, share success stories of collaboration, particularly the financial benefits... and once this culture gains momentum, this is a good time to look at improving the process with technology.

Alas, too many of us start with the technology as if seeing the vast new capabilities available to us will drive the culture change. It won't.

Full disclosure: I represent a vendor of law firm CRM and ERM solutions so I have a vested interest in a positive outcome. However, I would much rather spend time working on usage & adoption within a culture of collaboration than sell a product to a firm where I knew it was a waste of money.

 

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