Customizing Salesforce for Fund Managers Using AIM
By Kevin Kelly, Altvia
Salesforce provides many viable solutions for fund managers wishing to streamline fundraising, improve portfolio management and garner a competitive edge among competition. Because Salesforce offers out-of-the-box, industry-specific and customizable solutions, deciding which solution is best-fitted for a fund manager’s situation can be challenging. Taking a holistic look at each solution possibility, its features, customization possibilities, support and costs can ensure the best fund management software investment is made from the beginning.
Common Challenges Fund Managers Face with Out-of-the-Box Salesforce Solutions
The biggest caveat fund managers face when electing out-of-the-box or specialized Salesforce solutions is that of licensure costs. Often, fund managers pay for licenses that are inapplicable to their industry. For example, the Salesforce Sales Cloud is designed for organizations built on a traditional sales model. This platform comes with sales and support features that are not a value-add for Private Equity and Venture Capital fund managers. So why pay for features without value?
While Salesforce is a flexible solution, buyers, particularly in the fund and venture capital management segment, should consider whether cost-savings can be achieved through elective, rather than full-service licensing. If a client determines Salesforce to be the best solution, consider platform licenses rather than full Sales Cloud or Support Cloud licensing; these are expensive licenses that Private Equity and Venture Capital fund managers do not need.
Common Challenges with the Salesforce Private Equity/Venture Capital Template
Salesforce does offer a template for Alternative Asset Managers who prefer the Salesforce platform but want functionality designed for their industry: Salesforce Private Equity/Venture Capital. Salesforce Private Equity software solutions are far more useful for Private Equity and Venture Capital Fund managers; however, it is not a scalable solution, making it an investment without long-term potential.
Salesforce doesn’t provide adequate product support or enhancements, which leads to users relying on their own enhancements, support and maintenance. So far, Salesforce has yet to demonstrate a desire to make this template more scalable. While it’s a good example of how customization can benefit the Salesforce platform, it leaves managers with growing, evolving portfolios with the challenge of little support and growth potential.
The Risks of Using Salesforce to Build a Custom Database
Salesforce’s flexibility gives users the opportunity to customize its database and structure to accommodate the needs of fund managers. Some of these workflow specificities include fundraising, LP administration, investor management, deal tracking, and portfolio management features. Advanced users can use Apex code and Visualforce to create fully customized solutions that fully automate common fund management processes. Custom solutions provide a far more useful platform for fund and asset managers than out-of-the-box Salesforce solutions.
However, customization does not come without challenges. The biggest challenge is determining the best strategy for organizing data. It’s pertinent this organization challenge is determined before building a custom database. It’s necessary to have a clear understanding of your a) business model and b) how to design tables/charts within the database to reflect that business model.
Common scenarios where this consideration is crucial include organizations with single capital streams vs. those with multiple capital streams; organizations who make single investments vs. those who make follow-on investments; and, organizations who use prior fundraising rounds for valuations round over round. Modeling this database after the actual business model is critical to optimizing the software to its full potential–and to reduce unnecessary system modifications and enhancements down the road.
This may be a challenge for fundraisers, but it’s not impossible. However, building a truly extensible relational model will require an understanding of how databases operate and having a concise idea of how that data will translate into user interface and reports.
Build vs. Buy: IT Spending Decisions
Salesforce is a widely selected platform because of its flexibility, scalability and user-friendliness. Furthermore, technical expertise isn’t necessary to build a database within the platform. If time and resources can be dedicated to a custom database, an extremely viable fund management CRM software can be developed on the Salesforce platform.
Keeping the necessary questions in mind before deciding whether to build or buy is important, however. Generally, these questions include:
- Who will support the system?
- Who will maintain the system?
- How will the solution continue to grow and evolve?
- What happens if the employee who supports and maintains the system leaves the organization?
Similarly to the total cost of ownership calculations often used in on-premise vs. hosted solutions, fund managers should keep in mind that initial inexpensive licenses have the potential to become quite costly down the road, especially if there is no set plan for supporting and maintaining a solution. Total cost of ownership with prospective licenses should be considered and calculated when comparing options.
The Benefits of AIM for Fund Management
Designed by Application Experts (App-X), AIM is a solution built on the Salesforce platform that has been implemented by hundreds of fund managers. The number of users has allowed App-X to continually refine its products based on specific client feedback. Relying on feedback from investors, private equity, fund and asset managers. AIM continues to reflect client input by streamlining the solution to match common challenges. Once the feedback can be converted into a product enhancement, all AIM users can access the updates, improving system functionality and minimizing downtime.
Core AIM Benefits
- Manage contacts and interactions
- Streamline fundraising
- Organize investing opportunities
- Improve investor correspondence
Because AIM requires little ongoing support as fund management organizations evolve, it’s often less expensive to maintain over time than custom solutions. Its basis on the Salesforce platform makes changes simple to implement. AIM, fund management software, also provides scalability so the product can grow alongside an organization. And because Application Experts has long-served the Alternative Asset Management industry, it’s become a leader in the segment with an increasing knowledge in software, technology and industry challenges. The minds behind the software are industry experts and industry-specific technology experts.