Hinge Marketing recently released the results of its Employer Brand Study. Given some of my previous research, one question in the study was particularly interesting to me: what’s most important to prospective employees of professional services firms?
The figure below shows the percentage of respondents who rated the relevant scenario as a 9 or 10 out of 10 for importance.
Look at that! What’s most important is working with a growing firm. Given my own professional situation, I can see the attraction of crafting the future of a growing business, providing some of the necessities to help a living thing develop. A lot of people want to help their organisation grow, but many – partners and staff - don’t know how.
To put their findings into wider context, Hinge asked professional services firms to list their top business challenges. The top three challenges were: (i) attracting new clients / business opportunities; (ii) attracting top talent / recruiting; and (iii) effective use of technology.
If a growing organisation is such a challenge for employers, and so attractive to employees, how can organisations achieve it?
It’s clearly not easy, and I don’t have the track record to talk about everything that does and doesn’t work. As a document automation specialist, however, what I can speak about is how distinctive use of technology can help organisations grow by attracting new clients.
At LawHawk, we’ve seen it in action with document automation. For example, earlier this year one of our professional services customers was offered a chance to pitch alongside four other firms for a big chunk of quality work from a significant prospective client. They felt their chances were slim because they were not the client’s preferred supplier (they didn’t even work them currently) and they are not located in the same city. They had to show benefits that the client had not seen from its incumbents. Their point of difference? In this case, document automation! The client’s key focus was on the preparation of a lot of property documents, which automation is perfect for. The firm included LawHawk in their pitch and we provided them with a working proof of concept to help demonstrate how the firm and the client would work together to generate the documents very quickly and cost effectively, and that it was something that was available for use immediately. Did it work? Yes! Nobody else was offering anything like it, and they are now the advisors to a new client, in a new industry, and planning to acquire more clients in the same sector. Getting in the door seemed unachievable at the beginning, but using document automation to unlock that first door has opened up many others.
How easy is this approach to replicate? To me, it depends on three things: (i) choosing the right technology (or combination of technology) for the core problem; (ii) the effectiveness of the technology (remember, it is the “effective use” of technology that is the third biggest challenge for professional services firms); and (iii) timing.
Choosing the right technology
The example above was a document automation play, because that was the core issue the client was focussed on. In other scenarios, different solutions will be required. The client might be more interested in document review and data extraction capabilities, perhaps coupled with a contracts database. M&A clients might be more interested in how you will manage transactions. You have to focus on the underlying problem and the best way to solve it.
Most technologies are specialist solutions, designed to do a few things very well. Be wary of one system that claims to be able to do it all. If you need a broader solution, you can usually combine best of breed solutions to deliver your overall outcome.
It’s not enough to say you’ve got technology – you have to be able to show how you use it effectively. For example, there are many online products with basic document automation functionality, and you can often ask an existing systems provider to add a “document automation” module. Both of these will allow you to say you’ve got document automation. However, implementing a document automation solution, for the sake of being able to say you’ve got one, is a very short-term game.
As Gene touched on in his recent blog on 7 things to consider when considering document automaton modules, there are many providers of document automation (many of which we have experience using), but how many of them are powerful enough to give a degree of time and cost savings to make a real difference? How many of them can replicate how documents need to be generated in real world transactions of the complexity that people come to lawyers for?
At LawHawk, our customers ask us to automate even the most complex documents. While there are gains in automating simple documents and processes, we see that as a given which can often be easily done as part of the wider project. Every organisation should have some level of document automation to achieve that. However, in order to achieve significant and enduring growth, basic automation is not enough to create a distinctive and enduring advantage.
Now, how does timing fit it? While presenting document automation or other technologies as part of your arsenal might be a positive point of difference for now (and help growth), once this becomes more common (and becomes the expectation), it will be lack of document automation capability that will be the surprise. Clients can only be lost when that happens. It’s impossible to say when the tipping point will be. It might be several years away, or it might be tomorrow when someone else approaches your client with a new solution, or the client just does it themselves.
The important point is this: the technology to achieve great outcomes is here now. It’s about spending the time to see what is out there, and working out how to unlock that technology to its full potential. If you don’t have the time, skills or inclination to do it yourself, there are people who can help.
If you’d like to see how document automation could help you to win new clients, or defend your existing ones, please get in touch. We’d love to be part of your growth!