Real Time Practice Management
The rapid progress of Information Technology has seen us speed through the technology era and into the “information era”. As various technologies get better and more efficient, so your business should become better and more efficient. This is not always the case though and it is only through the intelligent application of these intuitive systems that you will see the true benefits. This is where GhostPractice excels!
Historical Systems Defined
In any sales demonstration there are various Practice Management Systems that will appear impressive. Full of features, that in isolation, promise to deliver incredible benefits to your business. The devil, however, is always in the detail and we believe that there are subtle design constructs that will make or break a system when it comes time for that system to bridge the gap from theoretical (i.e. system demonstration) to practical (i.e. staff having to use the system daily in their practice). When we designed and built GhostPractice we identified that legacy systems were under-utilised by most firms due to the following factors:
- End Point Administration: Most users in a legal firm use Microsoft Outlook (email) and Microsoft Word (word processing). In addition to this they spend the majority of their time on the phone. On analysing many of the prevalent legacy systems, we observed:
- Lack of user friendliness: Either the interface itself was confusing or cryptic to the average user or there were too many buttons to click. In many cases the user had to complete or close one screen in order to get to the next screen and it was noticeable that search facilities were not easy to use when users were in a rush to find information. Fee codes were confusing and difficult to access under pressure.
- Disconnection: In all cases it was clear that users would do their work using the phone; email and word processing tools and then have to remember to go and capture what they had done into the practice management system (for fee billing purposes). There was also no inherent Document Management capability so that any emails or documents (letters or faxes) could easily be linked or integrated into the practice management system. This creates more work for users who have to save all work for a matter in a series of complex folder structures (which is then difficult to find later on!)
The above points clearly define what Historical Systems are about and I am sure you will begin to identify how great technology applied poorly to the task at hand, ultimately results in a failed or partly successful system implementation. If you have attempted to implement a practice management system in the last 10 years, then you will know the frustration of not getting an acceptable return on your investment.
The good news is that we are turning the above scenario around and we have the references to prove it (feel free to read these at www.ghostpractice.co.za ).
Real Time Systems Defined
Naturally one has to be realistic when assessing whether a system is “real time” or not. Certain transactions across the legal practice simply cannot be captured or updated as they happen. The goal is to capture all transactions either as they happen or as soon after they happened as is humanly possible. Speed and efficiency is everything in business today and if you can achieve greater speed and efficiency, without compromising accuracy and control, then you will have the perfect real time system. So how has GhostPractice helped our customers go from a “historical based” system to a “real time” system? :
- Productivity Partner: Our goal is to make sure that whatever staff need to do on any matter, GhostPractice is assisting and enabling them every step of the way. This enables staff to easily capture what they are doing, once! The system now reflects a real time status on any matter.
- User Friendly Interface: We have produced an interface that will allow users to work with information under pressure. There are intuitive right click menu’s and less buttons to click. More information is available per screen and the information is always context sensitive. GhostPractice is a “matter centric” system which means that when you work on a particular matter it is easy to see anything related to that matter. You do not have to finish one task to start another which means that you never need to get flustered when you are busy and it will be harder or even impossible to forget things!
- Connection: We have connected the daily productivity tools (email and word processing) to GhostPractice.
- When you do an email for a matter, you will do the email/letter from GhostPractice. The system will help you construct the email/letter, attach a copy of the email/letter to the matter for you and prompt you to bill for it.
- Likewise when you are spending the day on the telephone, GhostPractice has refined a specific interface to allow users to easily find matter information and record multiple attendances simultaneously. When the pressure is on, users may just want to note that they are working on a matter for the day and come back and finalise when they have a free moment, or when they have completed the task at hand. The system saves and records all the matters where you have made phone calls to or received phone calls from. You will not forget and the matter will be updated in relative real time.
- Automation: In many cases, we have engineered automations to assist with batch tasks. So while we acknowledge that in some cases “historical processing” is unavoidable, we have innovated to ensure that a minimum of time elapses between the transaction occurring and those transactions being processed into the system:
- One example is our ability to import the Bank Statement from your Internet Banking site and have the system match transactions automatically wherever possible. This could enable your accounts department to reconcile to the bank on a daily basis.
- Another example is our “Bulk Import” facilities. We can import data from cost recovery systems (photocopies and faxes) as well as import debt collection debtors from clients (making it faster and easier to open hundreds or even thousands of files).
- A third example is the ease with which you can process Trust Transfers on a daily basis in the full knowledge that all aspects of the trust to business transfer are managed with the appropriate controls in place. This will have a direct financial benefit in reducing your overdraft or increasing interest earned on your Business Bank account.
- Accounting and Management Control: The overall aim of creating a “Real Time” system, is for the managers of the business to be able to look at reports on a regular (we would advise daily) basis. The fact that your matters and your financial transactions are as up to date as current technology allows, means that you have better control and can make accurate decisions about your business on an on-going basis.
Now ask yourself if you have real time control over your business. The best test for this is to ask the following questions:
- How often do you transfer trust money? How do you know it is the correct amount?
- When do you pay your creditors, how much is due now?
- How many matters do you have, and what is the value?(Conveyancing; Collections ; Litigation; Commercial; other)
- How do you know if each matter has been profitable?
- When last did you review your financial reports, and how long did it take to get them?
- When did you last review your ageing of Business/trust/unbilled/pending disbursements? Did you note the lost opportunities and inefficiencies?
- Are your bank accounts reconciled every day? What are the reconciling items and what is causing them?
- Do you have daily, weekly and annual targets and budgets?
- Do you know what your staff is doing and are they efficient/profitable?
- Are you using your system to market and communicate with your current customers?
In summary – we believe GhostPractice is the most “real time” Practice Management System available today. With GhostPractice in place YOU will be able to answer the questions above without having to rely totally on your faithful bookkeeper.