Almost every firm that Pinnacle is working with is looking to put in place automation, whether it is marketing automation, automation to speed up billing processes, integrating with external data feeds in the new business intake process, or using new technologies built into products, such as Intapp’s AI-assisted conflicts clearance. Whatever the process being automated, there are the obvious reduced time and effort benefits that firms expect and build their business cases around.
As I was preparing to write this To The Point column, I had just reviewed my colleague Michael Turner’s recent article about how to make business intelligence projects more successful. It struck me that there is an additional benefit to automation that many firms don’t consider. Indeed, we have been automating processes and hadn’t really called out these benefits in our justifications.
We have been on a drive to improve our reporting: specifically, to automate the production of our business reporting. Pinnacle has grown from half a dozen people seven years ago to almost 125 people, and from being largely based in the UK to spanning UK, North America and Europe. As a management team it was essential to know what was going on across this greatly expanded business. We also run each of our teams as its own P&L, and like most businesses expect monthly reporting.
Monthly reports have the financial results – budgets vs actuals as well as forecasts of utilisation by individual and more business development-driven pipeline and opportunity data. To report in this way requires pulling data from our finance system and our scheduling application, as well as from our CRM system. It required a small cottage industry to pull together a team’s report.
We have, over the last six months or so, focused on automating our monthly reporting. It has driven a series of behaviours and thinking, which are alluded to in Michael’s article. We have to use our core systems – you can’t have a separate spreadsheet on the side for your team. This is particularly true of our CRM system, Intapp’s OnePlace for Marketing, where we track opportunities. The report’s pipeline is drawn from here, and if it isn’t in the CRM, it isn’t in the report. The estimated work values and the closure dates are also automatically drawn into the reports.
Our scheduling data is automatically fed in to give us visibility of revenues for the next two to six months. While as a leader of the business this visibility can be more accurate in the case of some teams than others, on seeing the data the teams themselves are either correcting it before presenting reports, or taking actions – such as requesting permission to recruit, to redouble business development efforts to identify opportunities, or to close business that has been hanging around.
The point is that projects automating business insight at their core may very well be the best automation projects going. They may, by their very nature, be the best because they will do more than give you greater insight; they will drive adoption, improve data quality and make your business faster and more nimble. They will of course spawn sub-projects – such as reconfiguring the PMS to hold budgets, tweaking the CRM system to hold the needed opportunity data.
One thing that shouldn’t be needed, however, is to spawn a large data cleansing project – only the data being used day-to-day will be shown and teams will not begrudge ensuring it is up-to-date if that is how they are measured.
Article by Christopher Young, Principal Consultant and head of risk and BD practices