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Why Can’t I Get the Report I Need (Part 2)

Recap of Part 1

· Your law firm is not able to get critical management reports directly from your Practice Management System.

· The firm is facing the additional expense of hiring consultants or internal development staff to write the required reports.

· Your Practice Management System contains hundreds of tables and millions of records, which complicates report writing and slows performance of those reports.

· It is easier to develop reports and performance is enhanced by employing summarized data in the form of a DataMart, Data Warehouse or Cube.

Ok, so you’ve got it. Report performance is greatly enhanced with access to summary data in the form of a DataMart, DataWarehouse or Cube. It is also much easier to write a report. Let’s tackle the report writing challenge now.

While there are many report writers available in the market for an added cost, most law firms choose to write their reports using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). This tool is the Microsoft standard and most firms are already licensed to use it via their SQL Server licensing agreements.  SSRS requires specific application and SQL knowledge but this is a skill set that is readily available in the marketplace. However, now that you have summarized data available for reporting, your SSRS developer does not need a deep knowledge of your Practice Management Database because most of the hard work to calculate totals has already been done.

Time to write a report

The Managing Partner wants to see an Aged Net Investment Report by Billing Attorney. This report will show the unbilled time, unbilled disbursements, and accounts receivable for each Billing Attorney and age it into six buckets, 0 to 30 days, 31 to 60, 61 to 90, 91 to 180, 181 to 365, 365+. Sounds complicated!

If your summary data is in the form of a DataMart, the report is quite simple to write. Without getting into too much detail, DataMarts are optimized for reporting because they organize your data into easy to understand subsets specific to the type of report you want to write. For example, you might have a DataMart that is specific to Timekeeper data; this DataMart would contain everything you would need to write a timekeeper report. It would include statistics like billable hours worked, fees billed, and fees collected as well as the office, department and title of the timekeeper.

To write the Aged Net Investment Report you could use an Aged Inventory DataMart. This DataMart would have the unbilled time, unbilled disbursements, and accounts receivable aging for every matter. Writing the SSRS report is a simple matter of calculating the total for each billing attorney!

The alternate way that some firms and even Practice Management System vendors choose to write these reports would require multiple SQL queries.  This would result in a report that takes much longer to run and the results would be prone to errors, resulting in a report that is plain wrong.  On top of everything, modifying or troubleshooting the report would take more time, more skill, and more work!

In Part 3 of this article we will explore the many things you can do with your newly developed SSRS report.

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