Fund Manager Software: Warning Signs Of Lagging Adoption

Previously, we wrote about the initial stages of a fund manager software implementation and how to ensure that process goes smoothly. And we’ve written about the middle stages and steps you can take to improve your effectiveness with the system. But what if things haven’t gone well?

What if you get to the middle stage and realize you didn’t execute the initial stage correctly? That can be a serious problem. And how do you even know if things went well or poorly?

These are important questions.

Let’s talk about when things go bad with a software rollout.

Assess Your Fund Manager Software Implementation

The first metric to look at when assessing how well you and your team are doing is system usage. If your system is Salesforce-based, any admin can see how often everyone is logging in and using the system. And other, non-Salesforce systems surely offer a similar feature. If you’re seeing significant or steady declines in the number of times people are logging in, it’s time to start digging into why that is the case.

It could be that after a period of frequent use while learning the system, activity has naturally dropped down to a lower baseline. However, there could be a more concerning explanation.

It might be that users are frustrated and not getting what they need from the system, and consequently aren’t logging in as often. Or maybe they don’t understand how the system can make them more efficient and productive.

Another bad sign is if people start storing data in places other than your system. One of the primary reasons that companies invest the time, effort, and capital to implement fund manager software in the first place is to move away from maintaining data in spreadsheets or other offline places where it quickly becomes outdated or redundant. They understand that centralized storage and simplified access to data is increasingly essential to success.

If you’ve been using a system for a year or so and notice that people are abandoning established processes and starting to store data elsewhere because “it’s easier” or “that’s just how I’ve always done it,” you likely have a problem that is going to be more and more costly and time-consuming to fix the longer it goes on.

Revisit Your Shared Commitment

What can you do if things are going poorly in the middle stage of a fund manager software rollout?

The first step is to revisit the business drivers that led you and your team to want software to begin with.

Reminding yourself about those pain points and how the system can solve them can be powerful motivation.

You surely understood before you ever kicked off the project that the efficiency and insight that you gain with the right fund manager software is only available after a significant amount of upfront effort. But you also realized that it would be worth it when you find that you’re a better-equipped and more effective fund manager, and that your skills can set you apart from your competition.

If you stress the gains that can be made with the right software and focus on the “why,” your team is more likely to persevere through the parts of the implementation and ramp-up that seem tedious.

Retrain Your Team (or Train Them for the First Time) on Your Fund Manager Software

Retraining can be another great way to hit pause, regroup, and get everyone back on track. Of course, most training takes place during implementation when lots of new information is being presented, so the likelihood that everyone could benefit from a refresher after a year or so is very high.

Also, there are likely to be new team members who never received the original training. Plus, they were not part of the initial decision to implement the fund manager software and may not clearly understand the shared commitment you’ve made. And finally, if you decided against doing training during implementation for reasons of cost or time, it’s never too late to provide your team with some helpful education.

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.

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