The Road to Becoming Data-Driven: Q&A With Industry Leader Adam Stock

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"Becoming data-driven requires a more holistic approach to how firm intelligence is collected, profiled, and served..."

Foundation Software Group, developer of a leading law firm intelligence platform, recently announced the appointment of the inimitable Adam Stock as Vice President of Product Strategy. Prior to joining Foundation, Adam held a range of technical and marketing roles, including Chief Marketing Officer at both Dorsey & Whitney and Allen Matkins, and Chief Information Officer at Allen Matkins.

We consider Adam an industry leader and a friend; we sat down with him to discuss his tech-driven career path, the role of intelligence in the successful business of law, and why the move to Foundation.

Q: There seems to be this common thread of data running throughout your career. Why is that?

When I transitioned from working outside law firms into a lead firm marketing position, it was immediately apparent to me how data could play a bigger role in making our marketing and BD efforts more efficient and help yield better results.

In Silicon Valley, where I had been leading marketing for tech companies, metrics and integrated data sources were already beginning to influence everything from marketing campaigns to continuous process improvement. I wanted to bring that mentality and capability first to law firm marketing, and then firmwide.

Now, I’ve come full circle, and am back at a software company that has data at its core, a passion that aligns with mine. Foundation Software Group provides a firm intelligence platform that enables law firms to leverage their data to improve the business and practice of law.

How did you end up moving from being a CMO to CIO at Allen Matkins?

As a CMO, I was able to build out an infrastructure to operate in a more data driven way. And, while we made significant progress within our own department, we ran into roadblocks familiar to many law firms, most notably silos of data.

To build transformative systems, we needed access to data from across the firm, including Finance, HR and individual practices. In my position as CIO, I was able to help break down these silos, by using both technology and new data standards to bring information together, and implementing governance rules to ensure that shared data was protected and secured with the proper permissions in place.

To build transformative systems, we needed access to data from across the firm...

As CIO, I collaborated very closely with the new CMO to help the team leverage newly integrated data to grow business at Matkins and better serve our clients.

In my view, having these two law firm departments working hand in hand to solve challenges and take advantage of new opportunities is key for the successful implementation and evolution of data-based systems.

What does it mean to you to be data-driven?

Being data-driven means having a unified view of information in your firm. It includes matters, personnel, clients, and third-party contacts, which requires aggregating information from all key systems like time and billing, HR, CRM, experience, conflicts, and external sources.

...the sum becomes great than its parts

When you bring all these sources of data together, clean it, normalize, and enrich it, the sum becomes great than its parts. You end up with firm intelligence that can be used for everything from helping manage engagements with clients to streamlining lateral integration, and ensuring that the most qualified, available people are assigned to critical work. It also helps inform client communications, who themselves are data driven, and usually a few steps ahead of the law firms in this area.

What do you see as the biggest impact of having easy access to firm intelligence?

Once you readily have access to firm intelligence, you will find that you solve problems differently. This is a major shift in the way that work is done. Think back to how you did research before Google search and how you do it now.

Once you have easily accessible data that is accurate and properly managed, you can spend less time searching for answers and more time doing higher impact work like creating visualizations so that the findings are more easily understood by practice teams, or planning and executing the programs driven by the data.

Are there some examples of what you’ve done in this regard, in the past?

At Allen Matkins, we worked with various stakeholders to develop simple dashboards that helped them do their jobs better. These included:

  • Client Facing Dashboards – to better communicate with clients and help explain the value that we were delivering.
  • Practice Management Dashboards – to help attorneys understand the availability of associates and manage fixed fee matters.
  • Marketing and Business Development Dashboards - to provide more accurate reporting for Practice Groups, Industry Groups, and Key Client Teams.
  • Budgeting Dashboards - to help all parties working on a matter understand where the matter is with respect to budget.

How can a firm intelligence platform enable a data-driven firm?

Becoming data-driven requires a more holistic approach to how firm intelligence is collected, profiled, and served up to the firm. A firm intelligence platform can be that accessible, reliable source of data in that it is:

  • Accurate/Current - Without an intelligent platform, the reports you look at are often out of date. You can better trust your data if there are automated processes in place that are continuously updating that data from other firm systems. That way, whenever you run a report, you know it’s pulling from the most current and complete sources available.
  • Immediate/Easily Accessible - People will use data if it is a click away. Before my firm implemented our homegrown solution, we would often have to ask different departments for reports that we’d get a few days later. The need to go to another department was an impediment to using data because the act of asking for it was an imposition. The perception must be that getting data is easy and free.
  • Managed/Governed - Your organization will likely become more liberal in sharing information as it understands the benefits of doing so. But there are important questions to ask up front, including who has access, why do they have access, who approved it, and the like.

If you don’t have a robust system in place for managing and governing access, you can’t even get started. Working with your CIO to get your governance right at the start is critical to the success of a firm intelligence platform.

  • Operational/Open - Unlike a data warehouse, a firm intelligence platform includes the built-in reporting and content generation tools to immediately use the data in myriad ways from biography management to proposal generation and dashboards. It can also feed enterprise search, intranet portals, firm websites, data warehouses, and data lakes with its current and enriched dataset.

Why did you decide to make the move now to Foundation Software Group?

While we were out front at Allen Matkins building the kind of system that brings together all this firm data, it takes a lot of manpower to keep these systems operating, not to mention improving. Law firms are not software companies, and we didn’t have unlimited tech resources. There were many things on our wish list that we either didn’t have the bandwidth or expertise to build.

In Foundation, I saw a holistic firm intelligence platform with passive data collection and built-in enrichment, including tools and integrations for Marketing, KM, and other firm stakeholders to easily make use of that data. Unlike a homegrown firm system, it takes the responsibility for maintenance and ongoing enhancement off the shoulders of a firm IT department. As firms use more data, the need to integrate multiple systems will outstrip firm resources.

People who know me and my roles in creating the Legal Marketing Technology Conference and the SALI Legal Matter Specification Standard, know that I have been committed in my career to helping the industry use technology and develop standards to help us do our jobs better.

When I moved from CMO to CIO, it helped expand my impact from a department to the entire firm. Moving to Foundation enables me to now help other firms use their data and intelligence more effectively. Moreover, at Foundation I’ll have the opportunity to influence the direction of their firm intelligence platform based on my experience at Allen Matkins, as well as input from other CMOs and CIOs I’ve been close with over the last 20 years.

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Connect with Adam on LinkedIn.

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