Do less with your CRM

October 16, 2013

The success of CRM is typically measured on its ability to make processes and people more efficient and deliver a planned return on investment in the short and longer terms. For this to happen CRM needs to be adopted across the organisation on a grand scale and for there to be a company-wide commitment to becoming truly client-centric.

Sounds simple – but if you look at published statistics you may be forgiven for thinking that the odds are stacked against you when implementing CRM. Historically CRM project failure rates have been most famously quoted by industry analysts, Gartner as being on a par with some of the largest ERP implementations.

Why is this?

Well we think it has a lot to do with the level of complexity involved in a project. Trying to do everything in one ‘big bang’ approach can cause ‘change shock’ which will alienate users and cause the project timescales to extend so far into the future that maintaining a sense of momentum is, in itself, a challenge.

In our experience we have found that a better outcome can be achieved by following these simple guidelines:

  • Identify and prioritise core processes
  • Work in an iterative and agile fashion
  • Prioritise the user experience over everything else – they are the key to successful CRM
  • Simplify the user experience by reducing screen clutter and providing only what is needed

By gaining small wins and moving on it’s possible to achieve your original objective, avoid chaos and keep the users on side. In this way user adoption will be maximised and project outcomes will be stacked in your favour.


Post–trade malaise in managing exceptions

October 11, 2013

Even after all these years many organisations have not yet managed to get their back-office processes as slick as the front office, especially when it comes to managing exceptions in post-trade processing of derivatives.

With regulatory bodies around the globe placing ever increasing emphasis on operational risk for derivatives (both ETD and OTC), it seems that many enterprises in this market place have still to get to the optimum position

Why is this?

A recent conversation with a senior manager at a global Tier 1 investment bank revealed that dealing with exceptions is still a challenge, partly because there’s often something more high profile in which to invest and partly because any problems are solved with either more human resource or by relying on email and spreadsheets.

Whilst this approach appears to provide a short term fix, operations and client services teams quickly become swamped with emails, client service levels can drop off and operational risk increases.

Sometimes there are other, more obscure reasons why this area is not addressed. Initiatives to improve reconciliations and exception management for derivatives, such as futures and options, may be widened into strategic initiatives involving all asset classes or into more general business process workflow requirements. This often leads to much larger budgets, more interested parties (with different views of what’s required) and long implementation projects.

Agile exception management is perfectly possible with enterprise class solutions, applied judiciously and fast to problematic areas. By adopting an agile, one-bite-at-a-time approach brokers can start to realise the benefits such as:

  • Having all exceptions quickly identified and controlled in a single place
  • Knowing instantly the status of any trade break
  • Providing a professional, client facing view of their exceptions and status
  • Underpinning multi-office processes with a single, uniformly enforced business process workflow, with audit trails, security and escalation
  • Meeting client service level expectations or obligations
  • Decreasing operational risk

To quote the fabled Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”


The Mobile Wave – A Review

September 19, 2013

I recently read a fascinating book called “The Mobile Wave” written by Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy. If you are even remotely interested in mobile technology then you should read this to get a glimpse into the future. And what an amazing future it promises to be.

In the book Saylor convincingly argues that the growth of mobile technology marks the tipping point in the information revolution.

Every business will be affected by this wave and will see dramatic changes. Many jobs will be lost but also many jobs that we don’t even know about today will be created. According to Saylor “to create, you must first destroy”. Scary stuff if your job is one of those that’s going to be destroyed.

He talks about how various sectors will be dramatically affected by mobile technology – healthcare, and education being two that will see dramatic changes. For example, he believes that mobile technology will burst the bubble of overpriced higher education by making outstanding education available to everyone, everywhere.

Healthcare will see dramatic changes in how we both look after and monitor our own health and how the medical profession interacts with people. With the advent of tiny sensors, telemedicine (i.e. remote diagnosis capabilities) will become available to people anywhere in the world.

In summary, this is a valuable and thought-provoking read for anyone trying to get a handle on the enormous changes coming our way. Saylor paints an intriguing picture of how our lives will look in the not too distant future. However, like all predictors of the future, he will undoubtedly be wrong in some of these predictions.

The short history of computing has shown us that many predictions fail to materialise within the timeframe predicted. It wasn’t that the prediction was incorrect but that the timescale in which it happened took longer.

Despite this I can see many of Saylor’s ideas coming to pass over the next few years. The speed of change brought about by mobile technology is increasing at such a rapid rate that already some of the innovations he talks about are starting to happen.


Why Mobile Matters

September 13, 2013

Last week’s hot news had to be the story of Microsoft purchasing Nokia’s phone business for the (bargain) price of £4.6billion.  Another clear move in the battle of the mega vendors to stake a claim in the mobile space. It’s common knowledge that Gartner predicts exponential growth in this space – driven by BYOD and our seemingly limitless capacity to consume and create content whilst on the move.

With global sales of tablets alone set to rise by 67.9% in 2013* nearly every technology vendor on the planet wants a piece of the action and there’s the smell of real game-changing opportunity in the air. As these products move into the mass market and price points drop nearly everyone will be able to own one.  And it’s happening fast. Glance around your crowded commuter train carriage home tonight and just count on one hand the people not interacting with a mobile device of some kind.

It’s not hard to imagine how quickly this widespread mobile device ownership will drive change in every aspect of our lives. As consumers – both at home and at work – inevitably we will become ruthless about interacting, spending money and engaging only with those businesses that can provide what we want and need on our (mobile) terms.

And as this thing progresses and the tsunami that is mobile engulfs us all it will inevitably wash away those businesses that haven’t quite got on the mobile bandwagon fast enough.  We’ve already seen many household names disappear over the past decade because they wouldn’t move from bricks to clicks – it’s now all too clear that having an established business, past successes or a big brand name provide no protection against change. Just ask Nokia.

*Gartner (June 2013)


Are you ready to do business with the digital natives?

September 5, 2013

Whatever business you are in you are either already dealing with digital natives or they will represent the next wave of customers for your product or services.

These natives, the Generation-Y who have grown up with digital technology, are those who will put less value on how long a company has been in business and more value on how companies do business in a digitally engaging way.

Digital natives are used to serving themselves and expect to have information available at their fingertips 24×7 from any location. They also expect to deal with people who communicate in their language and who use the same media as them. Are you ready to do business with them?

In parallel with the emergence of the digital natives, we’ve seen the convergence of social media, mobile technology and cloud computing – something that Gartner refers to as the “Nexus of Forces”.

All of these forces have led to the consumerisation and democratisation of technology which has put more of the power in the hands of users meaning that IT departments will have to adapt to new demands that are driven by outside forces.

Taken together these forces are going to cause disruption to every business. Disrupters will enter markets and new leaders will emerge. We have already seen how the music, media and publishing industries have been turned on their head. What could happen to your business?

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, giving birth to the whole area of smart phones and subsequently tablets, the speed of change has been phenomenal. In a short space of time we have become conditioned to 24x7x365 access to the internet from any location. So far we have only exploited a fraction of the capabilities now available to us. Far from slowing down, the pace of change is only accelerating.

To stay competitive businesses will have to become more proactive and invest in innovative products and services that take account of the anytime/anywhere customer paradigm. IT departments will have to become more agile and have a more outward focus. New software will need to be designed and developed. Continuous delivery will need to become ingrained in a company’s culture.

Extinction is what happens when companies, or even whole sectors, refuse to acknowledge that external forces are causing seismic shifts in the business landscape. So if you plan to be in business in the coming decades then change is not optional.


Is it possible to turn compliance into competitive advantage?

August 27, 2013

As the summer holiday period comes to an end (I’m always amazed at how this affects business – perhaps I should be used to it by now!), it’s interesting to note how new initiatives get a bit of a kick-start.

This is especially true with the impending requirements of EMIR, regulatory reporting and the manifestations of Dodd-Frank, which are compelling companies to look at all their operational risk processes and systems.

Derivatives reconciliations for both ETD and OTC are getting more focus from operations and risk teams because they represent a core risk area for many trading businesses. This is especially true as more venues are launched and client segregation requirements begin to increase post-trade complexity.

But is it possible to actually turn this burden into a competitive advantage?

It may be.

By adopting a “Get Recs Fit” approach in advance of these additional regulatory burdens, organisations can prepare themselves to be ready for new trading venues in shorter timescales and positioned so that reconciliations are no longer an impediment to gaining new business.

The welcome side effects of streamlining of exceptions management and increasing transparency in positions across exchanges, client and instruments can be a significant reduction in costs as well as improved client service capability and business agility. Firms that embrace the change and use the demands of EMIR reporting and risk management to improve post trade processing efficiency in readiness will be best placed to adapt the situation to their advantage.


CRM – Facilitating Information Flow

July 16, 2013

Indulge me just for a moment. It occurred to me recently that perhaps there are a few fundamental mind-set changes needed for CRM to become integral to any business and to effect the best return on solution investment.

Firstly, shift your mind away from viewing the traditional email system as a storage tool. There’s a common belief that just because emails can be kept in one’s inbox or saved, that they should. In fact, it causes a break in information flow and accessibility.

The fact that Microsoft Dynamics CRM works within Outlook is both its greatest asset and its biggest drawback when it comes to ‘Information Management Best Practice’. In the audience’s (user’s) mind, CRM and Outlook are one and the same and so everything must be tracked…this is wrong. By doing this, you are essentially just sticking everything in one big repository that consumes greater and greater amounts of storage space and which slows all processes down further and further, the more it grows.

In fact what’s really needed here is a shift in thinking – one that views a CRM system in an entirely new way – as an effector of Information Flow. One that facilitates access to and awareness of information whilst driving business processes.

Ultimately, for any business the requirement is to create an environment where everyone can access the type and amount of information necessary to carry out their remit for their clients (and grow the business) and to ensure compliance with the financial regulatory bodies (facilitating the appropriate level of client information and activity recording).

This will be addressed in part by the implementation of CRM; but not entirely. CRM is the lynchpin that connects the dots (solutions). For example, if copies of large client files need to be kept for the auditors, then an appropriate Document Storage Solution should be the answer.

But, knowing where to look and identifying the processes that have taken place in order to record that information is the job of the CRM system.

Setting expectations about what CRM will and will not do for the business and being clear about how it can benefit is, I believe, the first step towards CRM Nirvana.


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