By Shamir Colloff, FRONTEO

When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, the addition of more hay does not alter your objective, only your approach. The same is true when searching for relevant information. Although we live in an era of exponentially increasing data volumes, the reality is that the material that matters most remains constant. This was true 10 years ago, when the FRCP changed to include electronically stored information as a codified information source, and it’s true today: Just because you have more documents doesn’t mean you have more relevant documents. Those with the tools to sort, compile, analyze and apply the details they gather, rather than simply review them, have a valuable competitive advantage.

For that reason, dynamic dashboards should be an essential component of any legal team’s arsenal. From actionable data that reveals utilization rates to key statistics that highlight review patterns, interacting with information on a centralized platform can help support and even define your strategy. It can also aid in assessing strengths or weaknesses to easily navigate between success and failure. Litigation support leaders who quickly identify which reviewers have logged in or tagged relevant documents, and at what rate, can make predictions on spend, provide completion estimates and advise client contacts with unprecedented speed and accuracy.

The Value of Visibility

A common challenge for law firm leaders is the need to compare the performance on a specific client matter with an entire portfolio of clients. Similarly, corporate legal department operations directors who are interested in identifying the average cost of a particular law firm handling a certain type of case want to do so seamlessly. The value of that visibility can differentiate a sufficient team from a successful one.

After all, analytics are important, but the application of those insights to identifiable challenges is what creates trust, enhances loyalty and enables organizations to exceed expectations, which are all essential in a competitive market. We have a vast amount of data at our disposal – we create it and store it every day in our normal course of business, and e-discovery, data processing and review activities are particularly rich in meaningful information. Extracting meaning and value from the vast amount of data is where the real work begins.

In a recent independent study conducted by FRONTEO, only 25 percent of responders said that they had been using analytic reporting applications for more than five years. That number moves to 47 percent for three years or more. This highlights the nascent stage of analytics in the legal market and the opportunity to gain further efficiencies through business intelligence.

The Power of Meaningful Project Management

Legal teams that interact with data can conduct a financial analysis to draft robust budgets that predict spending. Others can produce usage reports to support staffing changes. While too many legal professionals track a limited set of metrics, such as documents reviewed or total number of reviewers, and do so on Excel spreadsheets, those using a comprehensive dashboard employ these details as actionable intelligence. They apply these observations to heighten their project management skills to make better decisions, provide thorough advice and draw more logical conclusions that improve results, faster. Faster legal teams can identify what their goals are, and how they are moving toward – or away from – those goals. They can more quickly course correct, realize inefficiencies, and fundamentally save time and money.

The FRONTEO study also revealed that 63 percent of law firms were still using manual entries into spreadsheets to collect data and produce e-discovery metrics. Only 44 percent of responders leveraged a business intelligence tool, however, 91 percent of those that did were using standard reporting in law firms, and only 65 percent of corporations. Inversely, 70 percent of corporations were using dashboarding capabilities versus just 40 percent of law firms.

The Drive Toward Dashboards

It is those results that are fueling interest in the expanded use of information to enhance efficiency. As in-house legal teams assume greater responsibility for their dockets and remove that authority from their outside counsel, they need to find faster ways to improve their judgment. While data sets have risen dramatically in terms of size and volume, the value of that information is not contingent on its size or volume.

Dashboards provide insight into what is not readily available in an easily consumable format by aggregating databases, triangulating data points and summarizing an array of records to generate reports. A pricing calculator that spotlights spending offers more than simply financial figures. A pie chart indicating how much time users with a certain domain spend on each matter can reveal staffing inefficiencies at a single glance. Often, the decision makers on large legal projects are overwhelmed with information – so the work of consolidating a vast amount of data into a consumable metric, graphic or indicator is critical to get the buy-in and action from the relevant parties.

The FRONTEO study also revealed that 72 percent of responders ranked presentation or visualization of metrics as important or very important, though law firms stopped short of enabling their workforces with mobile-friendly dashboards. Of those surveyed, 95 percent of them said that they didn’t have mobile access to visualize e-discovery metrics and business intelligence from smartphones and tablet computers. That figure for corporations was 46 percent.

Data and Dashboard Best Practices

Take advantage of this process by adopting the following best practices:

  • Centralize your data with a single discovery provider to optimize utilization. Those using a variety of vendors receive random reports and erratic tracking, rather than seamless support.
  • Customize your data with a dashboard designed specifically to address the questions to which you want answers.
  • Translate your data so it is portable, downloadable and even mobile. While few end users will access the technology directly, every member of the legal team will want to review summaries of its contents in PDF or Excel, as well as on a wide variety of devices.
  • Interact with your data by manipulating its contents for planning and budgeting.
  • Integrate your data by importing information from different systems within your organization. With files typically stored in a myriad of systems, it is imperative to integrate and access them on a universal scale.

Everybody wants dashboards, but the FRONTEO study shows that the top three departments in an organization that would want to review dashboards to visualize business intelligence and e-discovery metrics are the IT department, executive officers and the litigation department. The e-discovery department was closer to fourth place.

Ultimately, using a dashboard for your data is like searching for a needle in a haystack with a metal detector that can immediately identify its size, weight and location. And that can only be a win for you!