When it comes to mobile timekeeping, are firms looking at the right measures of success?

When firms try to gauge the success of mobile timekeeping implementations, Peter Zver, President of Tikit North America, often finds that they’re looking at it in the wrong way. In this first blog of three on measuring the impact of mobile timekeeping, Peter explains that firms need to begin by understanding how and when attorneys actually use the technology, and then ask the right questions about its contribution to revenue.

Here’s something I’ve discovered about law firms that implement mobile timekeeping technology solutions. It’s that they’re quite often disappointed with the results.

It may surprise you to hear me – the President of a company that provides such solutions – say so. But actually, here’s the thing. It’s not because mobile timekeeping doesn’t make a tremendous contribution to these firms. It does. It’s just that they don’t know it.

This happens because firms habitually ask the wrong questions when they’re assessing the technology’s value. What they typically ask is: ‘How many of our attorneys are using it and how often?’ This is the wrong question. What they should be asking is: ‘What kind of difference is mobile timekeeping technology making to our bottom line?’

Using the wrong lens

As a general rule, firms find that about a third of the attorneys who are provisioned with mobile timekeeping are using it. This is the source of their disappointment. It seems disappointing that two thirds of the people who could have used mobile timekeeping in the period they analysed (say last month), didn’t do so. It feels as though they’re not getting the hoped-for return on their investment because mobile timekeeping isn’t being used enough.

It’s at this point that I explain that they’ve given their attorneys a capability. In other words, the potential to capture time using a mobile device. It may be that in any given time period they don’t have the opportunity to use that potential. But that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t worth having.

I liken it to carrying a spare tire. Do you have one? Did you use it last month? Chances are you do and you didn’t. Does that mean that carrying it around is a waste of time? Well, no. I think we can all agree it isn’t, because when you need a spare tire, you really need it.

A mobile timekeeping capability is kind of a similar thing. If you’re in the office all month long, you may not need it at all. But on those occasions when you’re not in the office, suddenly it becomes supremely useful.

It stands to reason that unless most of your attorneys are out of the office most of the time, the extent of use of mobile timekeeping technology will remain relatively low. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t making a contribution.

What in fact happens is something I call ‘rotational participation’. This is to say that people take turns using mobile timekeeping depending on their circumstances. When an attorney is at his or her desk for a month, they may never use it. But as soon as that individual has cause to, when they’re out of the office, they will use their mobile timekeeping capability straight away and often.

The point I’m making is that judging the success or failure of mobile timekeeping by how many people are on the system and how often they use it is a flawed measure. You do need to know the ROI of the technology. But to find this out, firms should look at it through a finance lens.

It’s better to assess the impact on revenue

At this point you may ask: ‘Why is it that firms use the wrong measures to assess the success of mobile timekeeping?’ Well, I think it’s because typically IT put the system in place, they are its ‘owners’, and they are looking at the evidence they can see: which is how much the system cost (they paid for it), against how much it’s being used (they see those usage figures).

What IT doesn’t see is the view finance gets of the difference mobile timekeeping makes to revenue. This impact is considerable.

Firms need to compare the before and after effect. When they do so, on every single occasion I find that a mobile timekeeping implementation that was previously labelled as ‘unsuccessful’, is instantly transformed into a huge success. Moreover it’s a success that is supported by objective metrics, quite rare in the technology world.

In my next blog I’m going explain where this impact comes from, how it’s (easily) measured, and give you hard numbers on the difference it makes.

For now, it’s just a question of accepting that not everyone will use the capability all of the time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t working. That insight is what begins to unlock the true impact of mobile timekeeping.

Click here to read Peter’s next blog; What is ‘new found time’ and why is it so important?