by Matthew Franey
The process of purchasing or evaluating your current sales reporting and data management solution, be it a formal offering or home-grown process, need not be as daunting as it may first appear. Although such solutions can be inherently complex, establishing a framework for evaluating their various aspects can simplify the process and ultimately provide assurance that decision makers select the proper solution for the right reasons. Based on our experience, we identified the following seven items as the most critical points in the decision making process:
- Accuracy and Timeliness of Flow and Asset Data
Data is only valuable to decision makers if they are able to draw the correct conclusions and react to it in a timely fashion. The process through which your data is obtained and cleansed warrants close attention, as today’s omnibus accounting environment introduces a multitude of complexities to managing fund sales data that are not common to other industries. Significant reconciliation requirements can be prevalent in a complex trading environment, so be sure that your current or prospective vendor understands industry standards and has a process to deal with them. Additionally, reporting mechanisms and standards frequently change, so your provider needs to be aware of potential hurdles these changes represent and react accordingly.
The potential ramifications of making decisions based on inaccurate or outdated information can be profound for a company in any industry, let alone distributors who operate in an environment of increasing investor scrutiny and regulatory oversight. The extent to which your sales reporting solution helps or hinders decision making translates to real dollars and directly impacts your bottom line.
- Efficiency and Scalability
In most cases, the primary goal of obtaining a sales reporting solution is to systematize manual processes and, when successfully adopted, organizations should expect a number of tangible benefits:
- Freeing up valuable human capital to perform more value-added tasks
- Significantly reducing, or eliminating, human error
- Realizing economies of scale as your firm expands its distribution footprint
As expanded distribution and/or external market forces can result in a significant uptick in trading volume with little notice, home-grown processes or less sophisticated solutions will not keep pace with the sheer number of producer records and could be of no value to you at a critical juncture in your business cycle. Make sure your solution and resources supporting it are up to the task.
- Robust Data Mart and Reporting Options
Even with the most state-of-the-art data warehouse and highest quality data stewardship processes, your sales and asset data will be useless unless it can be easily accessed and consumed. Your firm will realize the most value from a system with an intuitive interface, dashboards customized for your unique view of the distribution landscape, and reporting that is functional out of the box or easily created.
Flexibility is key, as consumers of the data might operate in a variety of capacities within your organization and require that the reporting be consumed outside the tool, for example in Excel or PDF. Report delivery options also need to be considered as well, as your stakeholders will benefit from a diverse set of options through which they can receive or view reporting and analysis. Finally, users should expect a solution that not only permits on-demand access to relevant data, but also the ability to distribute that data on a scheduled and/or periodic basis, or based upon certain system triggers.
- Integration to CRM
The power of sales and asset data in the context of a CRM endpoint cannot be understated. Such a tool empowers wholesalers and other marketers to correlate sales activities to results and nimbly react to new trades as actionable data automatically shows up in client account and contact records. Native integration with leading CRM platforms, for example Salesforce.com, permits sales, asset, and contact data to be further leveraged with other applications in their ecosystem, multiplying the potential use cases.
- Extensive Product Support and Resources
Distributors evaluating sales reporting solutions also need to consider what resources vendors put behind their product, as post-implementation support can ultimately make-or-break your experience. Your data and reporting needs can change quickly, and both the system and the personnel supporting it need to be diligent in engaging with their clients, as well as their clients’ service providers, to ensure these needs continue to be met as they evolve. Also, consider what level of investment the vendor has in their solution:
- What does the product roadmap look like for future enhancements and functionalities?
- What other solutions are offered and how will that impact support for the data management solution specifically?
- Does the vendor offer ancillary services such as consulting to facilitate adoption and customization?
- What forums exist for knowledge sharing amongst the client base?
All of these factors, while not individually significant, together can significantly impact the long-term value distributors realize from their decision.
- Bench Strength and Expertise of Team
Data management applications in fund distribution are highly specialized and require a partner with industry experience who understands your goals and concerns. You should not need to expend scarce time and resources educating potential vendors on the intricacies of your industry. Likewise, home-grown solutions can present a learning curve that can prove costly to an organization whose core competency is investing and distribution, not data management. It is therefore imperative that you select a vendor that can rely on its own individual expertise to speak the same language, understand your unique business model, and successfully deliver a solution that achieves what you are trying to accomplish.
- Flexible Pricing Arrangements
Asset management and distribution organization business models are becoming increasingly diverse. As a result, one-size-fits-all sales reporting solutions often miss the mark because they do not reflect the intricacies of the firms they support, resulting in a client potentially paying for features they do not need. Vendors should be able to quickly assess the needs of their clients, tailor the solution to meet these needs, and price it accordingly. ROI is a critical metric in any investment situation and applies equally in this context.
In summary, opportunity costs for asset managers who fail to consider how their firms produce and consume sales data will continue to rise as the industry becomes increasingly data driven and more dependent upon omnibus accounting. Make sure your firm is equipped to handle this new distribution necessity.
Director of Business Development
SalesStation™ from Celera Systems provides accurate and timely reporting of sales and asset data as an efficient, scalable solution for any distribution organization. We developed SalesStation™ around a sophisticated data warehouse and reporting tool that seamlessly integrates with Salesforce.com, and our clients enjoy highly responsive support provided from a team of industry experts at an affordable price.