At its most basic, a pipeline is simply a way to track and report on business development efforts. Initially, when law firms began tracking business development opportunities, the original tool of choice was Excel. Even at some of the largest firms, lawyers often tended to gravitate to spreadsheets to track just about everything. There are several reasons: they are easy to use, they’re on the desktop, they allow you to enter almost unlimited information, and they can even be used to print detailed lists and colorful charts and graphs. As a result, for many firms, Excel was a good place to start building a basic business development pipeline.
The problem with spreadsheets, however, is that they have limitations. First off, they’re “flat.” Spreadsheets were designed for quick and easy entry of large amounts of basic, linear data such as the contact names and information for people or companies as well as other key details, which are the basic building blocks of a pipeline. But because spreadsheets are flat, they don’t allow for ongoing tracking of important activities related to an opportunity or for capturing historical information such as last steps and next steps. This type of information can be incredibly important when trying to move opportunities forward or determine the best process for bringing in business….