May 30, 2012

Top 10 Technology Trends for Advisors and Their Partners: Pt. 5, Integration

In the previous post of our twelve-part blog series on the Top 10 Technology Trends for advisors and their partners, we discussed the integrated workstation and its role in providing efficiency to advisors. The fourth trend we will discuss in this post is integration itself.  

From email to word processing to marketing resources, in today’s integrated world, the expectation is that data will only need to be entered one time. For example, it’s becoming an expectation that a client letter written in a word processing program will automatically integrate with the client’s CRM system user record, automatically populating the client’s name and address, as well as storing the document in the client’s account history. 

The benefits of integration are clear: 

  • First, integration eliminates multiple instances of manual data entry which both saves time and eliminates errors.
     
  • Second, integration provides a better and more consistent user experience because the user does not have to go back and forth between different software to enter key data.
     
  • Third, integration can provide a cost-effective way to improve the experience a client has with his or her advisor. For example, preparing an in-depth snapshot of a client’s portfolio would be cost prohibitive if the advisor had to manually enter data from multiple systems, and then cut and paste data into a report creation tool or word processing program. True integration, however, allows an advisor to offer this type of information on a client-by-client basis with a button click.

In the last post in this series, we mentioned that one of the important elements that integration enables is for the advisor to “have their cake and eat it too.”  This means that with integration, an advisor can choose from a variety of best-in-class technologies that work seamlessly together instead of just purchasing an all-in-one solution that may not have the desired functionality. For example, the CRM functionalities of some all-in-one solutions are great but they may not provide the desired level of goal-based planning that comes with some of the better financial planning software solutions. With true integration, the advisor can separately purchase the CRM and the planning software that best fits the advisor’s objectives knowing that ultimately the two systems will share the same data. 

Most technology vendors in the advisory space have dedicated resources for integrating with other software applications. Unfortunately today, most advisors just tell their vendors to change the vendor’s technology in certain ways versus carefully explaining why the change can improve the advisor’s job. The opportunity for advisors is to work closely with technology vendors to scope out specific requirements and for the advisor to show the vendor how—by implementing a specific requirement—the vendor can actually grow their business.

For example, if an advisor wants a vendor’s CRM system to integrate with financial planning software, instead of just requesting the change, the advisor would be better served by working very closely with the vendor. By sharing with the vendor how making the change would improve the advisor’s business and could improve the vendor’s business (e.g., if the vendor made the change, they could market their CRM solution to all existing users of that specific planning software providing the CRM vendor with a competitive advantage), everybody wins. 

Advisors would be well served to think of their technology vendors as true business partners that can aid in full integration, ultimately helping both the advisor and vendor.  

View all the articles in this series at the Top Tech Trends home page.

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