December 24, 2013

An Old(er) Piece of Software That's Producing New Dividends

Over the past few weeks we've been discussing some 2014 business initiatives which may prove beneficial to you and your practice. In the first blog on this issue, we talked about several free email subscriptions that canl help you stay informed on a variety of issues such as the economy, the financial markets, Social Security, and more. In last week’s blog, we discussed FRED, a very useful tool from the Federal Reserve which is an add-on to Microsoft Excel. In this post, we'll discuss a specific software solution from Adobe that I recently acquired and explain a few of its benefits. 

As an independent advisor and small business owner, making wise decisions on capital allocation is vital. It's also important to maximize ROI, which may require a cost-benefit analysis before any significant purchase or decision. However, in deciding to purchase this piece of software the decision was relatively easy. 

Software, or more broadly speaking, technology, may be classified in one of two ways. The first category is one that the client touches such as an interface between client and advisor. One example is an online, cloud-based, document storage system. The second category would be technology which works behind the scenes but which helps the advisor work more efficiently or become a better practitioner. An example of this would be a contact management system or a robust investment research/analysis tool.  Today, we'll discuss a piece of software which seems to fall into both categories. In short, it helps me become a more efficient practitioner and simplifies things for the client. 

PDF Enhancement

The software I've been alluding to is Adobe Acrobat Pro. I realize this is not a new piece of technology, but now that I have it and have spent some time climbing the learning curve, I've thought of several applications for it. Here's one example.   

Several years ago, I created a 23-page financial planning fact-finding questionnaire. At the onset of the planning relationship, I would typically print out the questionnaire, fill in the answers with a pencil and use the information when inputting the data into my financial planning software. However, because I update plans annually, after the first year, I would either have to fill out a new blank questionnaire or erase and re-write the updated information where applicable. In short, I've never found an efficient way to gather the information needed to update plans. Now, using Adobe Acrobat Pro, I will begin with a blank questionnaire in an editable PDF, populate it with all of the client data that I have, highlight all fields which indicate the information I lack, and email it to the client. The client will provide the information I need, typing in the necessary data themselves, save the PDF and email it back to me. To accomplish this, the client will need the free version of Adobe Reader which I will provide via a link to its download. Then in subsequent years I will use this PDF questionnaire to update their information. Here's the icing on the cake. I will store each client’s questionnaire in their private portal on the cloud. 

Adobe is fairly easy to use and contains a variety of field types such as: text boxes; drop-down lists; check marks; radial buttons; and more. You can also format the text boxes as a percentage, currency, date, etc. 

Summary

I plan to use Acrobat Pro for all client questionnaires, and as long as I "Save As," I will retain all past versions of each questionnaire. Why didn't I think of this sooner! Next week, I hope to write about my new career as a movie producer and director. Okay, that's a bit of a hyperbole. However, I have acquired some software to make a variety of videos. I'll keep you posted. In the interim, if you'd like to download the Adobe program, just follow this link.

 

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