Integration is a subject of both great interest and much frustration, both in general, and in particular, to the financial services profession.
Your client practice management system, or client relationship management system (CRM or back office), is designed to be able to see the client’s journey as one whole picture – taking in the initial enquiry or referral, to servicing, and ensuring you meet many compliance requirements including MiFid II, and much more, along the way.
In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to have one point of entry and to avoid having to log into so many other different pieces of software, and rekey the information again and again, and bring back the results to your CRM, to be able to see that full picture in one place.
We know that for many years the level of integration has been very poor in what I call the ‘traditional’ back-office systems. However, it has improved slowly over the last few years, and more recently with the likes of Intelliflo Office for example expanding the number of third-party applications in their IO Store and portal integration with their client’s website.
Indeed, there are many systems which as standard provide integration, for example Zoho CRM, Salesforce, and many more. However, sadly in financial services, there is still a long way to go…
The tips below may help in the following scenarios:
A. I am a new company - when choosing a new system, what should I bear in mind with regards to the integration with other software/systems?
B. I (or my team) are existing users of a CRM which we have been using for some time, and I wish to explore more integration with other software we use
C. We have merged with, or bought out a company/ies, which have a CRM system which we are either a) Merging with ours (both the same) or b) Replacing with a new one for the whole organisation, and bringing data across, what’s the best approach?
This subject crosses over with other detailed subjects – such as due diligence, data migration, training, and many more other subjects – too much to cover here, but I hope the following may help.
1. Map out what you and your teams need from your integration
What do you want and expect from your integration? What do you need it to do?
Work with your teams to outline what they need from their perspective and outline it in some form of document. This could be as simple as creating a table in a word document, or spreadsheet or mind map.
2. Check what your current system has already, in terms of integrating with other systems
Use your requirements map, and then fully explore what capacity your existing CRM has to integrate with other parties’ software. Check also whether you need to subscribe to the third part software you wish to integrate or not.
Indeed, you could apply this to all areas of your system in terms of functionality, as sometimes you have the capacity to complete functions of other software that you may not know that you already have.
3. Check the quality of your data in both systems
Check to what level the integration is, in terms of data for example going one way or (often preferably, but not always exclusively) both.
Also check the quality of your existing data in all the software involved and have a process in place to ensure all users are updating it accurately as you go along to ensure you have no gaps.
4. Creating your own integration? – bring in in the right experts if you do not have the resources in house.
Our experience shows that trying to run your own business and operate in the company as a financial planner giving advice and being involved in so many other areas required is a huge undertaking and massively time consuming.
Projects small and large, are completed more efficiently, in terms of time, reduction in stress and much more, if you work with a qualified person in house to concentrate (where possible) on this type of area.
We find it is worth working both with your existing software supplier wherever possible first, and if there is no inhouse resource available, bring in an expert to work with, who has a proven track record both on the technical side (API, back of the systems) and someone who understands how financial services ticks and understands fully your companies’ processes.
5. Expect the unexpected!
No matter how much you prepare, research, implement and learn, unfortunately sometimes the unexpected does happen – we just have to deal with it.
Bear in mind that when you set your time for your project, often it takes much longer to complete. Build plenty of wriggle room to account for elements taking longer and for the unexpected!
Find out more about how Nucleus users are working with third party tools in this year's census