Iridium BI Case Study

The Partnership between Iridium and Snell & Wilmer

The Firm

Snell & Wilmer is a 450-lawyer law firm with 15 locations, headquartered in Phoenix. Clients include major national and multinational corporations, educational and research institutions, municipalities and government agencies, nonprofits, charitable organizations, industry executives, and high-net-worth individuals.

The Situation

In late 2016 Snell & Wilmer started evaluating new business intelligence tools. They recognized that putting relevant information into the hands of its practice leaders and individual attorneys and timekeepers would drive financial performance firmwide.

Choosing Iridium

The firm’s lead for this project was their Chief Financial Officer, Kyle Day, who had recently joined Snell & Wilmer from a Big Four accounting firm. He looked at many other tools, but was impressed by Iridium’s rapid implementation capabilities, which he believed would provide a high chance of success, and its monthly subscription pricing model, which made the product much easier to integrate into the budget.

After evaluation of several different BI tools form various vendors, Day and the firm selected the Iridium BI Revenue, Profit, and GL+Expense modules which fully covered all three of the firm’s main objectives.

Snell & Wilmer had the following priorities in a new BI tool:

Better visualizations to drive attorney adoption and insight

Better profitability modeling and on-demand reporting

More powerful financial tools for analytics around the firm's general ledger

Kyle Day's Points of Value

    1. The system is the bridge between finance/accounting and our attorneys. Previously to the dashboards, the finance team’s role was largely a “report production” function. Now, the team has strong relationships with practice leaders and billing attorneys and have valued tools and conversations around the efficient and cost-effective delivery of client services 
    2. By displaying and focusing on metrics to drive improved results on each attorney’s individual dashboard, the average number of days it takes timekeepers to enter their time has favorably dropped from 7.7 days in 2016 to 3.8 days in 2020. All we had to do is show the data to the timekeepers on dashboards and explain how important improving these metrics were to client and firm financial needs. Getting these metrics in the hands of our attorneys has changed the firm for the better.
    3. Practice Group leaders and individual attorneys now have a much better understanding of profitability at all levels. Using the profitability module, we are able to better understand both Cash-basis and Accrual-basis profitability and drill-down to client and matter profitability across time periods. 
    4. Financial planning and analysis is now significantly easier and more robust using the Revenue and GL modules. We have improved all of our month-end, quarter-end, year-end, and regular budgeting and forecasting models to use the built-in dimensions and measures in the cubes. What used to take days or hours can now be done in minutes by the team. In order to understand the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team is able to easily update our models and projections to help daily inform firm leadership on areas around time to bill, time to collect, cash flow, headcount, hours, and more. This would be nearly impossible without Iridium’s Revenue and GL cubes. We believe strongly these tools are offering granular, actionable data on a real-time basis that helps our firm make the right decisions at the right time. 

Implementation

The firm has now implemented all three Iridium BI modules and was able to rely on Iridium’s knowledgeable implementation team during the process. “We have been really happy with implementation timeframe, plan, and execution,” adds Day. “To the extent we’ve had any speedbumps, they’ve usually been related to issues related to our own data or policies. For example, we had to spend time thinking about how to design our profitability reports in order to provide insight to our attorneys and allow data-driven decisions by leadership at all levels. My advice to anyone is that Iridium’s team is great, but if you want to drive adoption and fit their solutions to your unique firm needs and culture, you have to be an active participant in the implementation in order to end up with a firm understanding of decision points and capabilities.  The time invested at implementation will pay huge dividends as you use the tools later.”

The Solutions

“Iridium nailed all three objectives,” says Day. “We rolled the attorney dashboards out with a roadshow to all our practice groups. We demonstrated our new dashboards at several retreats where we were able to display them on a big screen and discuss ‘The five things you should care about’ with the attorneys. Over time, we’ve developed a great partnership with practice leaders and individual attorneys.”

The finance team has been able to use Iridium’s profitability module to create on-demand reports and dashboards, revolutionizing the way it tracks and reports profitability.  The reports provide individualized insight for each billing and working attorney. Day’s team knew that capitalizing on this information meant they would need to meet one-on-one with practice leaders and billing attorneys in order to help drive adoption and empower decision-makers.  So far, the finance team has met with more than 70% of the firm’s partners to review their dashboards and discuss areas for opportunity. “Our lawyers have a better understanding of the financial impacts of their efforts; this ultimately helps them better serve their clients’ needs,” adds Day.  In fact, all of the firm’s lawyers now are familiar with their dashboards, and more than 50% of the lawyers have looked to the dashboards to answer questions about their business in the last 60 days.

The key is that the lawyers have confidence in the data provided and are empowered with actionable insight.  Day is noticing meaningful impacts in the way the firm is able to profitably manage work through leveraging work at the right levels to meet and exceed client expectations.

Lessons from the Big Four

Previous to joining Snell, Kyle Day was a manager in a Big Four tax practice as part of the firm’s internal software development shop, where he helped build tax software for the firm’s largest clients and sectors. In that role, he spent time with practice leaders, partners, and clients from all across the country in designing next-generation software to help clients meet their tax and reporting obligations.

Day’s role at Snell & Wilmer is similar: “The goal is to bring acumen to each business unit in the firm—to provide actionable data and easy insight – so that attorneys can serve our clients in an efficient, cost-effective, and profitable manner.”

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