Gamification can be a strategic business tool for law firms, says Nigel Williams, Lexis Visualfiles Product Manager, LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions.
The concept of gamification – the use of gaming mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increasing peoples’ individual contributions – is starting to be used by organisations across sectors to improve business performance, stimulate innovation, enhance customer engagement and where needed drive transformational change in the way they operate. Today there are examples of gamification use for employee wellness initiatives, timely project completion, customer loyalty and many others. In the legal sector – an industry that is undergoing substantial change in the way it now needs to operate; and where efficiency, productivity and technology are crucial to business health, there is a strong case for adoption of this concept.
Gamification an intuitive approach for law firms
Law firms must actively think about adopting gamification as a business strategy to help meet business goals. In reality the concept isn’t that far removed from their current way of thinking. Consider league tables, which are seen as the definitive indicator of how well a law firm is doing. Firms also deploy analytics tools to identify which aspects of the business are working well and where there may be scope for improvement. Similarly, workflow technology is well-ensconced and proven for the benefits it offers law firms, but has so far primarily been used to deliver efficiency improvements. It does however offer the potential to facilitate a ‘gamification’ approach to business in law firms.
How? The simplest method for law firms is to further exploit their existing workflow technology to provide real-time, business metrics-related league tables. Leveraging the inherent competitive human nature, visible performance can improve some employee engagement and compel some individuals to actively participate to help achieve their own goals and those of their organisation. Whilst not revolutionary, it doesn’t rely on a major shift in current practice. Curiously many law firms have historically shied away from publishing such data and furore around English school league tables would suggest that such monitoring is not without its difficulties, but surely it’s a step in the right direction?
Encouraging innovation is key in business, and anything that can highlight areas of opportunity should be explored. For example, nowadays it’s imperative that firms keep a close eye on revenue projections. A dynamic league table in the core technology/business management system that tracks and compares the revenue generation plans of all practice areas can be useful. The table could list all the firm’s customers by practice area, current revenue levels of each customer along with projected revenue streams. Aside from flagging up the gaps between actual and projected revenue levels, such insight could potentially throw up ideas for cross-selling and even for developing new and innovative business offerings to help achieve the revenue targets.
Measuring client management
In the current competitive market landscape, one of the biggest risks to law firms is losing a client, which can often be the result of poor client engagement. Using the concept of gamification within CRM, key client management can be quantified, measured (based on individual employee personal development and performance goals), and dynamic risk analysis tables created (drawing data from the CRM, practice management, HR and other business systems) to monitor customer engagement and satisfaction in real-time. This process would create an automatic mechanism whereby the bar of acceptable client communication and interaction is continuously raised.
Human resource management is fast being recognised as business critical function in law firms. Both attracting and retaining talent is crucial, especially in an era where the remuneration is not the only motivational issue for today’s sophisticated and savvy new generation of lawyers that are joining the industry. Gamification can be used to positively promote a culture of what we call in LexisNexis as ‘boundarylessness’ to showcase individual achievements of employees who bring in new business, cross-sell services, proactively deliver ideas for service improvements, participate in firm-wide initiatives and such – all measured against their personal development goals and ambitions. Going a step further, the personal goals can be aligned to the business objectives of the firm thus ensuring that the career development roadmap of employees is tightly linked to the strategic targets of the firm – making the annual appraisal process more engaging and dynamic.
The possibilities are endless and ultimately, the idea can be extended to monitor any kind of metric or business function using workflow technology and analytics. This kind of ‘live’ methodology for tracking business performance can enable firms to be proactive across all facets of their business operation. Crucially, it can facilitate early risk identification – be it related to key client relationships, talent and skills available (or lack of), revenue projections and the overall business performance.
But it’s not all about definitive workflow and analytics. Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it” and the benefits of open monitoring and measurement are clear; it’s important to remember that effort must also be focused on the qualitative side of the business. Gamification that addresses all aspects of the business is the objective. So perhaps the overly simplistic league tables, whilst easy to implement, must be adapted. Consider a new type of case management system with the following type of ‘game mechanics’ where the ‘player’ – who can be the case handler, supervisor, secretary, etc. – is automatically awarded points and badges for:
• recognition for best practice within specific cases
• sharing insight with colleagues
• obtaining qualitative feedback from clients
• successfully completing training and education courses
• beating ‘high scores’ for qualitative targets, and so on.
This is a softer scenario than the stark league tables, and allows customisation of ideas to incorporate qualitative benefits in a more holistic gaming-style solution.
Ultimately the objective and value of a gamification approach to business is continuous incremental improvement, not in creating an unduly competitive environment within the firm – but enabling the organisation to constantly push up the minimum acceptable level of performance – by serving as a supportive tool that alerts the firm to doing things better. It helps identify new areas of improvement, ascertain opportunities for innovation and devise new ways of working – ideally using real time data, as a matter of course. It also facilitates a strategic approach to business in tune with the most current requirements of clients and the wider market landscape.