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How the service industry is turning to digital technologies

Rebecca Merrett | May 4, 2015
Real estate agents, legal firms and professional consultants are using digital technologies and data to meet the needs of ever-more demanding and connected clients.

For many professional services firms, which live and die by the services they deliver to clients, there's no question technology is essential to staying in business today.

Digital channels and data are becoming vital tools for connecting with the always-connected customer, and they're also providing new product and services opportunities for those switched on enough to innovate.

Here, we look at how several legal, accounting and real estate firms are embracing the digital world to better engage with their target markets.

Intelligent services through data

IT director of law firm Clayton Utz, Garry Clarke, says data is key to delivering against modern client expectations. That's why he is piloting data analysis tool, Cael, and working with partners in the US to tap into Clayton's rich database of legal matters in order to learn how to better project manage and provide accurate quotes.

"One of the issues our clients have is our ability to determine the exact length, cost and time it's going to take to run a matter, because there are particularly large transactions or large court matters," Clarke tells CIO.

"Estimating fees is a big issue at the moment, because clients want a good solid estimation, and they want to know what they are going to spend to do a matter."

The tool learns how to accurately quote and project manage particular types of matters by analysing past matters. Among the data analysed is how many lawyers worked on a matter, how many hours each lawyer spent, how many partner hours were involved, what year level each lawyer is at, the tasks involved, how long each task and phase took, and what are the specific project variables.

"It even helps us understand our profitability of matters — we know how much time people spend on matters, so we are able to quote effectively," Clarke says.

"Clients want more accuracy for their quoting and different fee arrangements. Instead of time billing, they may want a fixed fee arrangement, for instance. If we understand exactly what's involved in the matter, we can work out our profitability and we can offer clients different billing options."

Thanks to the technology, lawyers are also alerted if a matter is going over time and budget.

"Partners will get updates on those projects and can report on the overall matter so they understand where potential for overruns exists," Clarke says. "They can then brief the client in an up-to-date way so they know exactly what's going on at that point in time."

At Ernst and Young Australia, telco, media and technology (TMT) partners, David McGregor and Tom Kennedy, are also tapping into the professional services firm's vast amount of data for client engagement.


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