Archive: February, 2009

Sales is hard enough

Over the past 20 years or so CRM has exploded on the scene, from GoldMine to ACT! to Siebel and now and its SaaS brethren.

CRM has done wonders for automating the sales process and helping sales people execute on a cadence of sales activities, follow a standard process and keep up with customers. Unfortunately, this is only half the battle in creating a truly efficient prospect-to-pay process.

Most sales cycles require a number of sometimes complex and burdensome documents to proceed to closure.  And, if our experience is any guide, it is the creation of these documents that causes immense pain for most salespeople and can delay and even lose sales in some cases.

The #1 way to boost productivity this year

Last week Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, released The Telstra Productivity Indicator which outlines key findings from a survey they commissioned of “300 leaders of business and government organisations and their perspectives on productivity.”


The survey found that respondents’ top priority for ICT (information and communications technology) investment to improve productivity in the next 12 months is automating more processes and forms online.

Their second priority is to enhance their organisation’s e-commerce capabilities by providing customers with online, self-service facilities.

Below is a list of the respondents’ top 12 priorities (orderered according to the previous year’s experience, as opposed to the coming year’s priorities).

Priorities(Click image to enlarge)

As summarised in the report:

“Australia’s largest organisations attach greatest importance to improving their web and online capabilities, both internally and externally. Organisations are looking to automate more processes and forms online and to enhance their e-commerce capabilities, increasing the number of core business functions carried out online to improving productivity.”

The report also found that early adopters of technology see much higher increases in productivity than late adopters.

Early-Adopters(Click image to enlarge)


What does this mean for Exari customers?  The three take-aways for me are:
  1. They don’t adopt leading-edge technologies like Exari simply for technology’s sake.  It is clear that the implementation of these systems provides real competitive advantage.
  2. They’re ahead of the game in terms of the efficiency improvements that they have managed to achieve by automating core business processes and moving them online.
  3. Their competitors are claiming to be waking up to the opportunity.

2009 is shaping up as an interesting year.

Alternatives to the billable hour… revisited

The debate about whether the legal industry should move away from hourly billing has existed ever since the business model took hold in the 1960s.  Over the years the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel and all manner of legal industry commentators have railed against the perverse incentives that this approach to billing creates.  The Exari blog last covered the issue 18 months ago in Alternative Fees are Like Teenage Sex.

clockWell, the billable hour’s back in the firing line.  But this time it’s the most senior partner at one of America’s most prestigious law firms who’s taking aim.  Evan Chesler, Presiding Partner of Cravath, has written an article in Forbes (entitled Kill the Billable Hour) about why the “billable hour makes no sense, not even for lawyers.”

Now, I’m a big advocate of alternative fees.  But, for mine, Mr Chesler’s claims fail to acknowledge the fact that both the provision of legal services and the way they are charged for is continually evolving.  Sausage factory work – such as commercial leasing and company incorporations – has been done on a fixed-fee basis for years.  And, even with more complex legal work, many clients have arrangements in place with their outside counsel specifying that an initial estimate be provided before work commences on a transaction, with the scope to be revisited if and when necessary.

I can’t see hourly billing being removed from the mix any time soon.  I agree with Bruce MacEwen when he says “the primary source of life-support I would cite is clients, not law firms”.  Clients have the purchasing power to force change.  What they don’t have is the desire.  They understand the billable hour, and have decided that for many situations it’s good enough.