Migrating Data to AIM Fund Management Software or to Salesforce.com

Moving your organization from an Excel-based deal and fundraising log and Outlook-based CRM to software for private equity or venture capital system is a big project. Certainly, we’ve made a living out of guiding clients through this process that can include everything from setup, to change management, to training. Aside from this setup necessary to make the system match your business processes, you need to load it with the data you are already using today. When this data is already stored in Excel or Outlook, the process is not always easy, but it is relatively straightforward.

When things get much more complicated is when you’re moving from one software system to another rather than simply moving data from Excel. In this case, there is the added complexity of getting data from one system into, in our case, AIM or any other Salesforce. com-based system.

Luckily, we’ve had quite a bit of experience performing these types of data migrations and we’ve had good success using this (highly simplified and admittedly geeky) process:

First off, if you are using some other CRM solution, then you have a bit of an advantage over Excel and Outlook because the data is already stored in structured data in a database. If this underlying database is a relatively robust one such as Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, or similar, then it’s not difficult to do a little digging and query the database to tell you exactly where and how your data is being stored.

We’ve written routines for MS SQL Server (links to SQL and VBA source code is below) that run through a database table and tell us thing such as:

  • The name and type (number, text, etc.) of each field
  • The longest data stored in each field
  • How many times the field is blank
  • How many records exist
  • Where any relationships go

 

The next step is to poke around to see what is stored in each table so we understand generally where the things we want are stored. Once we have a good understanding of how things are mapped out, we typically use MS Access to build export queries that unload the data and do any rudimentary cleaning. During this process, we love to dump excess white space (blank lines and such) in big text fields using a custom VBA function (again, source code is below). We also build smart multi-line addresses and merge together fields using other custom VBA.

From Access, we take the time to name the output fields matching the exact API names of the fields in Salesforce.com.  This allows the Salesforce.com Data Loader to automatically map and load the export files we create. Perhaps the best tip we can offer during this entire process is to look at the RSSBus connector for Salesforce.com.  This little ODBC beauty allows you to retrieve Salesforce.com IDs and create tables in Access.  But use caution doing much more with the connector–the Salesforce.com API and RSSBus has a hard time with bulk updates and any complicated queries.

After each export from Access -> Import to Salesforce -> Create ID Map in Access cycle, you will have the keys you need to build the next Export and have it link together records properly.

Perfectly simple and easy, right? If you are a private equity or venture capital fund manager and looking for a fund management CRM system, we think AIM is the best there is. And we’d be happy to help you move over all your data.

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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