Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion during Pershing’s annual INSITE conference on how advisors can leverage internal and external data to make more informed decisions. Here are some of the key takeaways and best practices the panel shared to help advisors serve clients, grow their business and improve efficiency.

One of the first trends we discussed was how easy data reporting now is for all advisors and employees of a firm compared with just a couple of years ago. Hopefully, gone are the days where your firm would have a specific “data expert” whose primary role was to create and run reports, and deliver the results to the interested parties. Sometimes it would take days or weeks to get your request completed. With today’s technology, each person in your firm should be able to create and access a library of data reports and tools specific to their role without having to rely on other staff resources.

However, firms should encourage employees to share their report results with other employees. You might be surprised by the information and insights gained from data reports created by other departments. Similar to the back-up camera in your car, you don’t know how helpful it is until you use it for the first time — and then you can’t live without it!

Overall client engagement is another key takeaway as it relates to the evolution of data reporting. First, think about all the reporting that you currently deliver to your clients. How much of this information was driven by your firm’s ideas versus direct client requests? If your answer is that client reports are based more on your firm’s direction, then there is a great opportunity to make your data reporting experience more interactive for your clients.

In addition, as your firm grows and more of your clients move through various life stages, you have an opportunity to use real results in your data reporting. For example, instead of using trend data for how new retirees spend money in their first years after leaving the workforce, consider aggregating and sharing the data showing what your firm has experienced specifically with clients in this category. It is also important to think about non-traditional areas that your firm can track and report back to your clients. Areas to consider could include health care and travel expenses; these are just examples of data points you could track with the help of an account aggregation tool.

Finally, always remember the power of the feedback loop. The wearable technology market (Fitbit, Garmin, Polaris, etc.) has shown that consistent, easily accessible feedback can influence behavior. To a certain degree, the same type of experience can occur between you and your client. I’m not advocating for a daily feedback loop with your data reporting, but you can decide the appropriate frequency for your client group.

One of the more exciting aspects of data reporting is the potential opportunity in the future as technology continues to improve in this area. In some respects, this new technology is already making an impact today: for example, free-form text requests (Google Type Queries) for report commands to retrieve and evaluate data. We primarily type these instructions today, but using natural language (voice commands) is already becoming commonplace in this process. Furthermore, there is significant opportunity with machine learning and tracking report tendencies (what we regularly review) to expand the scope of more traditional data reports. Everything we do with technology and data reporting can be analyzed to make the process more efficient, and that efficiency can free up our time and attention so we can focus on other important uses and new insights from that data. This is very exciting technology, and it will help us all be more efficient and smarter with our overall data reporting.

Ultimately, the evolution of data reporting is very dynamic (pun intended for data geeks like myself). We have come a long way from only being able to query information in a single table to generating results from multiple platforms and systems. As our reporting needs continue to evolve, so must the technology.

— Read SheCapital, Robo-Advisor Aimed at Women, Shuts Down on ThinkAdvisor.