5 Must-Have Reporting Functions for Firm Financial Management Systems
Efficiency and productivity often go hand-in-hand to help produce growth in firms. But many tasks you do on a day-to-day basis are time-consuming and unnecessary if you have the right tools and processes in place. John Boitnott writes in his article 7 Tasks You Do Every Day That Waste Time and Cost Your Business Money that one of the biggest culprits in draining productivity and efficiency is the time spent generating, tweaking and distributing unnecessary reports.
In the legal industry, part of the problem is that you’re not only generating unnecessary reports, but that you’re manually creating reports because your legal management system doesn’t have the necessary feature functionality needed to do the work.
As your firm moves from paper-based manual processes to a paperless financial management system, it’s a good time to re-evaluate the types of reports being generated and to question whether they are actually still necessary. When reports are needed, firms can use the following five reporting functions to help cut the time spent generating reports in half, giving you back valuable time for other tasks. Here are 5 must-have reporting functions in your firm’s financial management system:
1. Custom Permissions
Custom systems permissions – the ability to control or restrict which employees can access certain records and other firm information – do more than just help with privacy and security controls.
Custom permissions can also help simplify reporting. When you establish and define permissions ahead of time, you can make sure that periodic reports get into the hands (or inboxes) of those who need to see them. Compare that to a manual process where you are working off a paper distribution list to ensure the report is distributed to specific partners, associates or support personnel.
When an employee’s role changes – for example, if an associate becomes a partner – a simple systems permission change can help make sure she receives partner reports going forward.
2. Custom Reports
Let’s face it: manual reports are cumbersome to produce and distribute, and they come with limited functionality. Yet, a 2016 Forbes article estimated that one in five businesses are still using spreadsheet-based reports for internal communications.
Employees in any industry want to be more “in the know” about what’s happening at their company, and that’s certainly true for attorneys and legal support professionals. When a firm is relying on spreadsheets or other manually-created reports to share information, key performance indicators can be difficult to discern, hidden among column upon column and row upon row of raw numbers.
When your firm uses a legal management system that includes custom reports, you will have the ability to create dynamic reports with just a few mouse clicks. Rather than sharing the same massive spreadsheet with everyone, you can create and save report templates designed to give different groups of employees the specific information they want and need to see.
3. Live Reporting
Legal management system reports have another major advantage over paper-based, manual processes: they offer the ability to see firm financial or client data in real time, rather than providing a simple snapshot that is obsolete as soon as it is created.
Rather than waiting for a weekly or monthly spreadsheet-based report, a partner in a firm using a legal financial management system with reporting capabilities can log on in the morning to see current, up-to-date information. He or she can then generate a dynamic report in moments.
In addition to a real-time reporting view, legal management system-based reports offer firms the ability to compare and contrast historical data easily and within minutes. As anyone who has ever had to compile a historical comparison report using spreadsheets can attest, doing so is an onerous and time-consuming process fraught with the potential for errors.
4. Automated Reporting
When your firm implements a tool with reporting functionality, you will be able to eliminate the wasted time that comes from generating reports.
If your firm is still creating and distributing reports automatically, someone has to remember to generate the report on a weekly or monthly basis, save a spreadsheet or other file and email it or print and manually distribute it to recipients.
Using a legal management system with reporting capabilities means you can truly set it and forget it. Once you have established the parameters (i.e. data to capture on the report, frequency of reporting, style of reporting and recipients), your reports will just show up in your recipients’ inboxes or on the printer. It’s not magic, but it might feel that way at first.
5. Shortcuts for Common Actions
Good software allows for custom shortcuts to speed the tasks you do most, and the same is true of reporting functionality in a legal management system.
For example, if you generate two sets of the same report every week, one showing month-to-date numbers and the other showing year-over-year numbers, you can set those parameters in the system so you don’t need to manually make those changes every time you run the report.
Like your reports formatted a certain way? Just tell the system when you are setting it up, and you’ll have professional, real-time reports that look the way you want them to look – every time.
The Benefit of Eliminating Manual Reporting
Time that is wasted on non-essential activities like creating and distributing unnecessary (and sometimes outdated) reports can create hidden overhead costs. Being deliberate and intentional about the reports your law firm uses is one way to help fight productivity drain.
Anything that can be automated to save time will be a boost to productivity – and profitability – for your firm.