Typically, the deployment of CRM systems in law firms is driven by the marketing and business development (BD) departments. It makes sense – a CRM system is an indispensable tool for these functions, holding all the intelligence the professionals need to foster and harness relationships for the business.
But of course, viewing and adopting CRM strictly within the siloed confines of its narrow remit can be counterproductive. Law firms deploy a variety of systems and it's essential that they take a broader and more holistic approach to technology in order to derive the most value from them as business enablers. There is a growing need for collaboration as well as smooth data flow across the organisation in order to ensure timely, consistent and accurate management information and business intelligence. CRM is essential to this.
To achieve this, a collaborative approach between IT and CRM is needed. CRM managers should consider their IT department as a friend, not a foe. Working together with them is to the advantage of CRM, marketing and BD teams – and indeed the business. I'm reminded of an instance where a Litigation team in a law firm manually added a 'list of experts' from a spreadsheet-based database every time they opened a matter in the finance system because it wasn't integrated with the CRM application. Commonly, CRM systems are managed by the marketing and BD teams, while the firm's practice management system is looked after by the IT department. There is business merit in collaborating with the IT department to integrate the two systems to have a single repository of data. It eliminates duplication of effort on the part of users too. For example, rather than lawyers onboarding a new matter in the practice management system, and marketing and BD professionals using the CRM system for their own activities; a central repository for the same data is a more efficient option.
Likewise, consider infrastructural upgrades. It's not unusual for broader IT infrastructural or single application upgrades to cause compatibility issues with other connected technology systems. CRM managers may identify with this situation – an upgrade of an eMarketing application causes a break in integration with the CRM system or vice versa. Working together with the IT department can pre-empt such issues.
Finally, with legislations such as the GDPR and broader security issues, it would be foolhardy not to work with the IT department. The IT departments take a much more rounded view of security and it is imperative that they have complete visibility of how all the technology applications are maintained and work together in the business. With CRM systems already supporting GDPR compliance, collaborating with IT further strengthens security for the entire organisation.
With this kind of 'hand in glove' approach between CRM and IT, CRM applications become 'sticky' in the firm. IT Directors and Chief Technology Officers are able to better understand and appreciate the value of CRM systems, viewing them as core business applications rather than 'nice to have' systems that only benefit the marketing and business development functions.