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The Dirty Data Domino Effect: It’s Not Just a CRM Problem – Part 2


Bad data in professional services firms often transcends the CRM. Time and billing data can often be the worst. In many firms, the information in the financial systems is often entered haphazardly by assistants whose primary objective is to get a matter open as quickly as possible so the billing can begin. While this hasty business process is understandable, it also represents a missed opportunity to enter relevant data about Clients such as their company, key contacts and industries.

Compensation systems can compound the problem with companies entered multiple times to facilitate sharing credit. For a firm’s top Clients, it’s not uncommon to see masses of multiple entries for the same organizations. Add to this that many companies may have a number of subsidiaries and alternate addresses or offices. As a result, it can be a struggle just to get content out to key contacts at companies with headquarters in one state but additional locations in other places.

Pieces of the Puzzle

While in the past firms acquired CRM systems to do the blocking and tackling of marketing such as list management and relationship identification, now marketing departments are being asked to support the firm in a number of new efforts such as alternative pricing and project management. Some firms are also being required to respond to an ever-increasing number of RFPs and to efficiently track information on activities such as events and sponsorships to show real return on marketing and technology investments.

To be able to respond to these new requests, marketing and business development teams have to be able to rely on their data. Preparing a pitch requires tapping into the expansive experience of our firms, practices and professionals. To promote the firm’s pricing strategies requires an understanding of past profitable (and unprofitable) matters. All of this requires accurate data. But often matter or engagement closing and cost evaluation practices are informal at best, when they exist at all. Perhaps if there were processes put in place to gather relevant data, it would be easier to come up with pricing alternatives that are preferable to the billable hour minus a percentage.

It’s also impossible to identify how many business development opportunities we are missing out on due to data discrepancies. How can we determine where to cross-sell if we can’t even get a view into the work we are doing for Clients in order to identify where they may be underserved currently? Even more painful, how much time and effort are wasted on pitches that the firm should never have responded to in the first place because they haven’t tracked data related to win/loss rates?

Disconnected Data

Consider another, more insidious data issue: some of the information we would love to have access to – that could really improve our marketing and business development efforts – resides in repositories that can be incredibly hard to tap into: the heads of our professionals. Information about key business development interactions and activities is often missing because our business developers are too busy – or not motivated – to share it.

Similarly, we struggle with spreadsheets. Don’t discount this particular data dilemma; the struggle is real! Even in firms with the best contact management systems and processes, it’s not uncommon to find the professionals (and yes, even the marketers) entering diverse data into disconnected spreadsheets. A global firm that we recently performed a CRM Success Assessment for had more than 20 spreadsheets where they were tracking everything from sponsorships to referrals to experience to opportunities. It doesn’t matter what the name of the software is . . . it’s next to impossible to ‘Excel’ at anything when you can’t even figure out where all your data is kept!

– At CLIENTSFirst, our team of almost 100 consultants and data quality professionals has spent more than a decade helping hundreds of professional services firms assess and address their data quality challenges. If you need help with strategies for winning the data quality domino game, feel free to contact us at 404-249-9914 or We have helped hundreds of organizations improve data quality, and we are always happy to share information, ideas and best practices for success.

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