The High Cost of Messy Data and How Clean Up Can Be Easier Than You Think

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

Benjamin Franklin is the (alleged) source of this pithy aphorism, and like most of his quotes, it’s as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. For all but a few of us, the idea of spending time organizing is decidedly unappealing. Decluttering our homes for a move or spring cleaning can seem tedious, while efforts in the workplace are frequently deprioritized in opportunity-cost choices made to balance all the business’s competing priorities.

But the exponential effect of organization Franklin observed goes far beyond time gained. In fact, a study in the journal Psychological Science, reported that people who worked in a neat space were twice as likely to choose an apple over a chocolate bar than those whose workspace was messy. For many law firms, data is the “messiest” area of their workspace. From disparate systems to legacy data, getting things organized can be a daunting prospect. But clean, organized data can be the key catalyst to powerful insights and business intelligence.

Common data challenges

We often hear from our clients that their data challenges span across two broad categories. First, their data is spread across multiple, disparate systems that don’t talk to each other. Indeed, one international firm with more than 2,800 lawyers was maintaining nine different accounting systems to comply with local regulations. While smart teams and leaders found ways to connect these data sets, the effort required involved significant data re-entry and manual spreadsheet reporting. Firm leaders know that the most valuable insights come when technology empowers you to connect data points to answer complex questions.

The second common challenge firms face is their wealth of legacy data. From paper files to non-standard formatting and legacy software, simply assessing and managing this collection of data can be difficult. As one firm IT Director said of their conflict report process, “attorneys would have to comb through many pages of data to make meaningful connections.” Cleaning, standardizing, and connecting this data allows you to combine your firm’s years of experience with the latest software to unlock powerful insights.

Getting a handle on your data

Organizing data on your way to a larger technology upgrade is a significant undertaking, and one that likely seems like a project with few short-term benefits. However, transitional products and services for your existing Enterprise platform can help. With services like Legacy Data Review, Thomson Reuters can help you reduce your prep time by up to 40% by working with your teams to organize and test your Enterprise data to ensure everything is in order ahead of your 3E transition.

By combining these services with products like 3E Data Insights, you can tap into powerful data and visualization tools in your existing Enterprise platform. A self-service analytics tool, Data Insights enables you to leverage all your data points to create custom reports and dashboards. Easy-to-understand visualizations built from timely data empowers fee-earners as well as managers to make better, data-driven decisions.

Earning much more than an hour

The time and effort you spend organizing your data will pay off in several ways. Structured data supported by powerful, intuitive software allows your legal teams to make real-time decision with the confidence of data-driven insights. Similarly, financial teams can more easily create and share standardized reports to support communication and decision-making at the highest levels of the firm.

We could try to list all the ways these tools could advantage your firm, but the truth is that you understand the impact, financially and organizationally, that they would have on your bottom line. Instead, as you work through your plans for upgrading your business management system, consider whether a powerful, incremental change is the right step for your firm.


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