Most firms are still confused as to whether to fully integrate their back-office systems. Adam Westbrooke takes a look at the pros and cons
Practice Management: Weigh up the options
There are several reasons for having an integrated back-office system. The most compelling being that an integrated system can reduce the amount to of work caused by the entering in the same data into multiple systems. A single source of information also means a single interface, giving the attorney all the information he needs on inter alia finance, marketing or human resources quickly and from a single desktop.
Even if the applications are different, the information entered via them will be integrated into a single back-office "master" system, making it available to every user. As one reduces the number of times data has to be captured, so one reduces the number of potential mistakes. Also, because the data is re-used mistakes will be picked up more often.
Accessing information via the desktop must be as simplified as possible. This is done by either having an intranet portal or an open desktop application. Most firms now agree that the best way to enjoy the ability to view relevant information is with the matter centric view. Depending on the needs of the user such information can also be presented in a client centred, lawyer centred view.
Although most major back-office systems allow a certain degree of interaction with other systems, actually achieving it might cause problems. The key is to understand where it resides and how to provide a single linked view of all of it. One must also appreciate the difficulties in integrating existing with historical data.
Nevertheless once it is all up and running it is worth is especially if one considers the bonus of for example of correlating the total value of fees obtained from a client who attended a golf day without having to run multiple queries using different applications and data sources.
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