A guest post from Richard Mabey, CEO and co-founder of Juro, the contract collaboration platform.

Is anyone not sold on the benefits of becoming more data-driven? Data brings a wealth of benefits, enabling a world where intuition, gut-feel and conjecture give way to hypotheses validated by concrete information. But even if data is the new oil, finding an effective way of extracting it is easier said than done – just like oil, it’s liable to spills, hard to refine and difficult to manage.

What makes a dashboard useful?

In the early stages of Juro, we had ideas around customers we needed to serve, problems we needed to solve, and resources we needed to deploy. We built dashboards early on to empower us to validate this data and solidify our ideas, using them to monitor sales, marketing, and customer success in real time. It was easy to understand and digest, gave an accurate overview of our strengths and weaknesses, and let us focus on the areas that needed it most.

But although Juro works with legal teams every day, the use of dashboards isn’t yet ubiquitous within legal teams, despite their drive to be data-driven. Lawyers historically live in Word and PDFs, and while the legal operations revolution is changing this, getting lawyers to adopt dashboards isn’t easy. To ensure adoption, legal teams need a solution that is:

  • Customizable. Not all data is relevant to all people. Legal teams need to pinpoint the metrics that matter to them, to create an accurate representation of the goals everyone needs to chase
  • Easy to navigate. Most dashboard providers offer regular support and resources to help drive adoption. A no-code, user-friendly dashboard is much more likely to be maintained and used
  • A way of uniting teams. In a distributed team working across different jurisdictions, one of the biggest challenges to overcome is the siloing of information. A unified dashboard ensures teams are properly aligned, regardless of their location
  • Actionable. Relevant data is important, but it’s not enough – legal teams need to be able to understand what to do with that data in order to get the most out of it. Dashboards can’t be created and left to wither on the vine – information must be monitored, adjusted and acted upon regularly

The legal teams we work with are increasingly committed to becoming data-driven, but everything to do with legal and technology suffers from plenty of noise and hype, which can obscure the purpose of the project itself. For legal teams thinking about upgrading their data capabilities, it’s important to remember that:

  • Data is necessary, but not sufficient. As a business you need to understand what questions you want to answer and what problems you’re looking to solve through data, as well as how to gather it
  • Getting data doesn’t necessarily mean new tech. You can use the solutions and systems you already have in place. If you want faster adopters, and happier teams then technology can speed up the process, but it can’t solve everything
  • Not all data is useful data. It’s important to filter in the early stages so you can find and store data that is relevant to your team and the business overall. Less heat, more light
  • Having data isn’t the same as being data-driven. Actually getting there might mean training people on how to handle data, making it highly visible and instilling a culture in the organization that challenges people to use it

Smart legal teams are already tracking the metrics that drive their department’s success – whether they relate to outside spend, contract management, time allocations or any other KPIs. Here are some common metrics that we see successful teams featuring on their dashboards:

  • Incoming Work classified by date/time and type of project. This gives both the legal team and their budget controllers a clear view of what’s actually in their pipeline – and the results can be surprising
  • Time and Cost Per Matter. These can be rough calculations rather than minute-by-minute increments, but this kind of data highlights bottlenecks immediately and can help make the case for additional resource
  • Outside Spend. Reducing this is often a key objective for pretty much any in-house lawyer, and with some simple no-code integration this is easy to track in a dashboard. You can take it a step further and categorize spend by the risk and complexity attached to the project, and visualize it in a meaningful way
  • Company Goals. Legal teams all want to be enablers rather than blockers, and a great way to achieve this is to align with and monitor the company’s commercial goals. If revenue is lagging because sales contracts take too long to sign, that might be a process you can influence and improve

There are a host of other metrics that might be appropriate for your business, but the important thing is to analyze and act on the data regularly. By doing this you can identify patterns of behavior, irregularities and weaknesses in your function. The ability to harness data from dashboards and apply it to drive better decisions within the team will really reflect on the success of the legal function as a whole.