I used to mow my lawn with a weedwacker. It was a small lawn and I couldn’t really afford a lawn mower. But the weedwacker served its purpose just fine and in the end it really didn’t take much more time to cut the grass in my parking-spot-size lawn with a weedwacker than it did with a lawn mower.
Then I moved. The house was the same size but the lawn in the new place was many times bigger. So naturally I bought a lawnmower. This is the story that I’m reminded of over and over these days implementing CRM systems for fund managers. There’s certainly a time in every fund’s lifecycle when the weedwacker version of a CRM system serves its purpose and is the most affordable solution. In this case, there are likely just a couple of people sharing data and they can keep track of fundraising and deal tracking in a spreadsheet. Their Outlook addressbooks, meanwhile, keep track of their contacts.
But every fund manager aspires to move into that house with the bigger lawn and the question becomes “how do you know when your operations require an upgrade?” In fund management, unfortunately, its not as easy as buying a new lawnmower. Your system of spreadsheets gets more and more complicated as your firm grows and if you wait too long to get your data into a manageable database, you end up with a tangled mess of data that requires hours and hours to straighten out. At this point, the simple migration of data that you could have signed on for 3 years ago becomes an expensive project that will likely take your team away from your core operations.
Getting data straightened out is a critical step in CRM implementation. I guess you could always just throw everyone’s data into a database but the quality of that database is going to depend on the quality of data so if you’re putting junk in, you’ll get junk out.
Of course its easy for me to recommend that firms upgrade to a fancy new CRM system (we’re the guys selling the CRM, afterall), but there are easy ways to get started with a simple CRM system that you can grow into and I can promise you the amount of hours it takes to consolidate and clean up your data grows exponentially the longer you wait. Meanwhile, the grass is growing. I’m going out to mow.