Data is the enabling foundation of a digital transformation. Therefore, it is critical for companies to develop a data management strategy that the executive leadership team supports. Steve Agnoli, CIO of the global law firm Reed Smith, offers a recommended approach in his latest guest blog.

Like every industry, legal services is undergoing significant change as law firms begin to leverage digital technologies to transform operations and business models, automate how they provide service to clients, and create innovative new offerings that deliver increased value to clients. 

One thing is certain: data is the enabling foundation of these changes – not only in the legal field where I have spent many years as a CIO, but in all industries. How a company manages and analyzes data is essential to business transformation, so it is critical to develop a strategy for data governance and analytics that the entire executive leadership team understands and supports.

High performing organizations are committed to extracting maximum value from their data assets. Appropriately managed data will deliver benefits in the form of better, more informed decision-making and development of innovative new data-driven services for clients. 

In order to achieve these benefits, a two-pronged approach to data management is required:

  1. Data governance: what data do we have, where is it stored, who controls it, is it reliable, is it secure, is it maintained, how long do we keep it, how do we dispose of it?

  2. Data analytics: how do we use our data to improve business decisions and performance, uncover new insights and develop new services for clients?

Critical Data Strategy Questions

To convince the leadership team at virtually any organization of the need to develop and implement a holistic data strategy, ask and answer the following questions:

  • How committed are leaders of the organization to making better informed, prioritized decisions supported by data; to know which initiatives to pursue and what their business value will be?

  • How (and how much) will the organization benefit from a unified approach to identifying the strategic value of data?

  • What would be the benefits of a consistent method to minimize data risks?

  • What is the potential benefit to having an enhanced understanding of the data the organization currently has, and how it could be put to additional use?

It’s important to quantify the effort of building additional data management capabilities as well as the anticipated business enhancement gains. Your analysis should include realistic estimates of the number and scope of capabilities enhancement, implementation and on-going costs, and additional revenue attributable to improved decision making, and new products and services. 


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When identifying opportunities and validating the benefits of the new data strategy, relevant business groups should be consulted, including business development, sales and marketing, finance, operations, and legal. Like any other business investment, input from varied business stakeholders helps to provide a complete picture of the benefits, costs, risks, and time-to-value expectations of a data management strategy.

The Costs of Avoiding a Data Strategy

Questions about the risks of not proceeding with a holistic data strategy approach can be part of the discussion as well, such as:   

  • Are we comfortable not making an organized effort to leverage data to increase the value we deliver to clients? (And, potentially falling behind competitors who do?)

  • Are we comfortable having multiple, duplicate data sources that create inconsistent reporting?

  • What is our tolerance level for the regulatory and system risk that comes with postponing a holistic data strategy?

  • What is our tolerance for the inefficiencies that the result from data that is not reliable or readily available?

Approaching the discussion on enhancing an organization’s data management strategy from both an active and passive perspective can assist in making the case for funding and resourcing this important, and often differentiating, initiative. 

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