[Ed. Note: Welcome guest blog post writer David Kamien, Founder and CEO of Mind-Alliance System. – GL]
To produce company profiles and intelligence reports (aka business intelligence or competitive intelligence reports) that help partners and Business Development (BD) managers prepare for meetings and respond to RFPs, law firms should keep five core principles in mind. Deploying technology at the nexus of BD and Research Services is a core focus for Mind-Alliance, and we’ve learned these best practices over the years.
1) Deliver Tailored Reports Quickly
The fastest way to produce company reports is to complete templates automatically using API-driven feeds from multiple data sources. When partners and BD managers have templates set up for different use cases—something they can do themselves or have research teams do for them—they can get most of a report completed in seconds, leaving analysts time to focus on writing executive summaries and completing report sections that require substantial research and analysis. Partners benefit greatly from having time to absorb the information in a report and to ask colleagues deep questions. When analysts must painstakingly complete templates by searching data sources and manually pasting the information they retrieve, they typically can only produce 5–7 reports per week. That number can potentially increase by an order of magnitude when API automation is introduced.
Understanding your internal client’s context and why a partner requests a report at this particular time is key to tailoring a report’s data, structure, and format and delivering it at the right time. For example, partners may need very different information depending on their practice group, the industry of the target company, recent events, the issues and work to be discussed, and other factors.
Analysts who create company report templates in Word struggle to maintain custom template versions for all the partners and BD managers across the firm. Semi-automated report template creation enables research teams to create and manage ten times more report templates.
Producing company reports manually is a massive drain on Research Services teams and comes at the expense of anticipating and deeply clarifying requester needs. With effective automation, firms can provide every partner with profiles about their clients and prospects on-demand and facilitate BD collaboration.
2) Use High-Quality Data Sources
Using high-quality data sources and delivering reports with current information is key to earning and maintaining the reader’s trust. At leading firms, the research and information professionals buy data feeds delivered via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to supplement desktop subscriptions that must be searched manually via Graphical User Interfaces. Experienced research analysts know which companies and products supply the highest-quality data for each field used in a report and when it is wise to compare answers from different sources. That knowledge should get documented in thoughtfully-designed report template setups, instead of existing only in the analysts’ minds or notes.
3) Foster Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
Increasingly, law firms recognize that building effective collaboration and knowledge sharing between teams involved in BD is vital to spotting and seizing opportunities in a well-coordinated manner. While interacting with each other, partners, BD managers, and research analysts should be able to comment directly on report content, suggest edits, engage in Q&A exchanges, and discuss BD next steps. Research analysts should be able to divide and conquer the work required to complete a company report, something that is not easy to do in real time with legacy approaches.
Most law firms lack this capability because they produce company profile reports as static PDF, Word and PPT documents, which they distribute as email attachments. Email is an inefficient medium for interacting with other readers in the firm and does not lend itself to discussing report content with colleagues, which should ideally be supported both asynchronously and synchronously. Dynamically updated company profiles serve as a single source of truth. With legacy approaches, static document reports are short-lived, as each time an update occurs, they need to be exported as PDFs again.
4) Leverage Analytics and Reporting
With analytics and reporting about company profile report production and consumption, Research directors and BD teams can
- Spend money strategically and wisely on data. They can know which data they use most frequently in reports and other requests and adjust their purchases accordingly.
- Know how much of their analysts’ time is spent on manual copy-paste work when producing reports rather than on higher-value analysis and engagement with internal clients.
- More easily collect feedback from report consumers and determine which people, company reports, and BD guidance contributed to winning new business.
Large law firms already spend millions of dollars per year to license data from external providers. Their Finance, Knowledge Management, and Marketing departments spend extensive resources managing internal financial, relationship, and experience data. Yet most firms struggle to bring this data together in useful ways for partners and BD professionals.
5) Leverage Artificial Intelligence and NLP
Storing the information in reports in a knowledge graph makes the content from all past reports significantly more findable and reusable. Think of a knowledge graph as a database where the meaning and relationships of the data are unambiguously defined, connected, and tagged based on ontologies that use formal semantics to support reasoning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications such as chatbots. Leading firms are using taxonomies and ontologies such as the SALI Alliance LMSS and the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) in tandem with Natural Language Processing technology to tag unstructured text with metadata.
With a knowledge graph, users can get direct answers to natural language questions, as one does on Google with a query such as, “Where are Apple headquarters?” that receives the answer, “Cupertino, CA” in a knowledge panel. If research reports are stored in document management systems as Word or PDF documents, the content is rarely reused and cannot be used to answer natural language questions.
Recommender systems can leverage knowledge graphs to suggest data fields and natural language questions to include in reports, taking into account the user’s recent activity and interest profile. Knowledge graphs can also lower the cost of data management by facilitating data integration and alignment, breaking down traditional data silos across various systems more easily.
Where to go from here?
Law firms that can’t provide all lawyers with high-value, on-demand reports about all clients and prospects are increasingly at a disadvantage. You might be wondering if your Research and BD teams follow these principles when producing company profile reports. Mind-Alliance can conduct an audit of your current capabilities against these five core principles. We will evaluate your processes and technology against our assessment framework and provide you with a report highlighting gaps and suggesting how you can make improvements. Reach out if this is of interest.
Mind-Alliance’s MindPeer BD platform facilitates report design and integrates data from APIs so research analysts produce higher-value custom reports at scale and get more value from data resources. Sign up here for a no-strings-attached demo to see it in action.