Weaponizing data to gain a competitive edge

A male coworker stands and gives a presentation to his team

Professional and financial services firms are inundated with data every day: new contact information, a target firm’s recent earnings announcement, how much a current client was invoiced in the last month, etc. It can be difficult for firms to properly track and analyze these varied categories of data — and even more difficult to unlock the key intelligence hidden within them. But without the ability to connect and analyze their data, firms can miss key trends and insights such as whether an acquisition is worth pursuing, if a client might be interested in a new service, or if a new opportunity comes with too much risk.

To uncover some best practices in unlocking intelligence in knowledge-based firms, I turned to two of our clients who have mastered the ability to leverage data to drive profitability and efficiency at their firms: Dan Surowiec, Global Chief Information Officer at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and Phil Olson, Partner and Head of Business Development at Waud Capital Partners. Both leaders stressed the need to understand and take advantage of critical firm data.

“Data is critical to everything we do,” Surowiec said. “We make better decisions when we’re able to leverage our data at scale.”

Olson agreed, sharing his vision to “weaponize the data.” Olson is currently working to connect data across his firm so that partners and staff can collaborate and work more efficiently and effectively.

Surowiec and Olson shared three key tips that have helped them successfully unlock intelligence and gain a competitive edge for their firms.

1. Choose a configurable solution

When Olson first joined Waud Capital Partners, the firm was using a traditional CRM system. “It was just an expensive Rolodex,” Olson said. “You couldn’t do anything with it. It was super expensive to do reporting off it and to manipulate the backend to use the data efficiently.”

To address that gaping need while also keeping costs down, Olson invested in a new, configurable, low-code solution. The software has given Olson and his firm’s capital professionals much greater visibility into their data.

For example, when the firm’s investors relations team talks to a potential fund investor, the team uses the solution to see how many deals the investor has closed. And when they need to find the best CEO within a specific industry, they view all the touch points their firm has had with companies or investment banks in that industry, as well as with their leadership teams. Best of all, this information can be clearly viewed on a centralized dashboard, so teams can quickly and easily access it.

The low-code software allows Olson to create new reports on his own as new needs arise. “If you know Microsoft Excel, you can do it yourself,” Olson said.

2. Streamline data integrations

As the CIO of a global law firm, one of Surowiec’s top goals is to “simplify the lived experience” of his firm’s partners and staff. To achieve that, he looks for suites of tools that are built to work together like those that are integrated. By investing in industry-specific solutions that integrate with his firm’s critical internal systems and key third-party databases, client data flows in a meaningful way to partners without Surowiec’s team having to intervene.

“Everything we do is very complex,” Surowiec explained. “Any little bit you can do to minimize that complexity leads to better outcomes. By introducing a level of simplification, you get better productivity, you gain support and morale, and you overcome some change management challenges because users can see the benefits.” 

3. Get ready for AI

With recent advancements in large language models and enhancements to the Q&A experience, generative AI programs like ChatGPT are catching the attention of knowledge-based firms. From researching financial information to drafting standard contracts and other documents, use cases for this emerging technology are growing exponentially. But for the promise of AI to become reality, the models need to be trained on good data.

“Data can’t be used for predictive analytics unless it’s compartmentalized, cleansed, and consistent,” Olson explained. Now that his firm has achieved this with their new client information system, Olson is planning to run AI simulations on past data to analyze margin growth. The firm can then compare a new opportunity against the historical data models to predict whether a client will be a good investment or if the firm should pass on it.

Update your technology to gain a competitive edge

In today’s challenging environment, professional and financial firms need every advantage they can get. With sound data strategies and the right technology tools, your firm can unlock and weaponize your data to gain a competitive edge.

Modern connected firm technology provides real-time visibility into data across the client journey, allowing your firm to make better decisions faster than your competitors. You can use your connected data and AI-driven insights to determine how to increase client satisfaction, improve internal processes, drive revenue growth, and much more. The possibilities are endless.

Discover how Intapp can help your firm unlock the power of data.