Private Equity Solutions: Focusing on Data to Fuel Your Business

There are several challenges faced by firms looking to implement a data management strategy in order to improve their operations. Two of the biggest are determining which data to focus on and getting team members to start using the private equity solutions that support the strategy. 

Data isn’t just for statisticians—it’s a valuable resource that everyone in a firm can and should take advantage of.. But before they can, decision-makers have to look at the big picture regarding the data that’s needed to support better, faster decisions. What information is available? How much of it is available? How will obtaining it help our teams work more efficiently and/or effectively?

The good news is that contrary to what many firms think, you don’t need a data scientist on staff or an internal IT department to effectively leverage data. You just need private equity solutions designed for that purpose.

It’s also helpful to have answers to a few key questions:

What are some roadblocks, pitfalls, or strategies to avoid when looking for private equity solutions?

One problem that firms encounter when looking for private equity solutions is simply implementing a tool to create charts. Charts and dashboards are important, no doubt about it, but ensuring that you can produce them is just one aspect of a comprehensive data strategy. You need a robust solution that enables you to collect, manage, and prepare the data that’s used to generate charts and other visuals.

When an organization finds that it may have a data problem, how does it determine which data could help users work more effectively?

When it becomes clear that your firm’s lack of data management tools and strategy is a problem, it’s important to step back before making any decisions about private equity solutions and ask the question, “What data do we need?”—paying special attention to how you define “need.” If your answer to the question is, “We need every type of data that’s available,” you’re likely to end up burning a significant amount of time and effort in the pursuit of data that doesn’t produce a good return on your investment.

To define your specific needs, first identify the types of problems you’re having: Procedural? Systemic? Operational? The more clarity you get on your pain points, the easier it is to identify the data that can help you alleviate them.

 

“What data don’t we have yet?” is another important question to ask. You may actually have more information than you realize, and simply aren’t capitalizing on it. An effective data strategy rarely is focused entirely on getting data you don’t have—it’s about maximizing the value of what you do have and supplementing that data by capturing or obtaining additional information.

You’ve invested in private equity solutions: How do you get your team to use them?

The most powerful, purpose-built, private equity solutions do your firm no good if nobody is using them or if they’re being used half-heartedly or ineffectively. And the answer isn’t to provide more dashboards and other visuals.

Again, those kinds of things are very important, but both your users and outside stakeholders are smart people—they quickly recognize shallow, valueless visuals when presented with them. You’ve got to create a solid foundation for your data-driven strategy by making wise decisions about how you’ll obtain, warehouse, normalize, and transform your data. Then the visuals you generate will be highly impactful. 

One of the best ways to solve the adoption problems that are common with private equity solutions is to make your system the one-stop-shop for all your firm’s data needs. When you make it easy for authorized users to get to your centralized data source, and ensure that accessing it is worth their time and effort, you’ll start to see them going back to it again and again.

Solutions like Altvia Answers, for example, reward users by providing them with real-time, self-service access to the information they need to work more efficiently and effectively. When you save someone time and help them achieve their objectives with more clarity and less stress, you can bet they’ll keep coming back!

Using Private Equity Solutions to Power You Toward Your Goals

Ultimately, the hurdles you face in finding the right solutions to support your data strategy are easier to get over than they may seem. And once you do, your path is clear and you can accelerate toward each of the finish lines out in front of you!

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.

code