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Canned reports, dashboards, and data analytics – different levels of insight

Matter management and e-billing systems come with built-in reports, sometimes called “canned reports.” They and the more sophisticated capabilities of report writers can tell users quite a bit. For example, they can show the law firms paid the most during a specific period of time.

A dashboard advances data analysis to another level because it collects on one screen key metrics that a user wants to track. As an example of a legal spend dashboard, doeLEGAL provides one on their website. Like it, a dashboard might report total fees paid year to date, plus the number of new matters opened, plus the average elapsed open time of certain cases.

Data analysis goes further than reports and dashboards. It strives to correlate more than two metrics with each other. An example might be the size of law firms and their effective billing rates. Another might link numbers of timekeepers to monthly burn rates or settlements paid to external fees.

Let’s review these three capabilities. Reports from tracking software collect and present single items of data, usually in tables. Dashboards bring together those reports that are judged to be most important to track, usually using graphics like dials, red lights or column charts. Data analytics digs even deeper by trying to show relationships between figures, thereby allowing better management decisions.