Tools that Extend CRM for Even Higher Performance in Asset Management (Part 3 of a 3-Part Series)

Asset Management Transformation Series: How Firms are Rebooting Sales and Service (HINT: It’s Much More than CRM)

Most technology suites are not able to fill the bill when it comes to what asset managers need to be more productive, more profitable, and more successful.  If you are using a “horizontal” CRM solution like Salesforce or a point solution like SalesPage, you are out on new opportunities. CRM software has so many more capabilities than most people know about, and the role it plays in the life of an asset manager can be a real game changer.

In this 3-part series, we discuss how CRM—used as an operational platform—can take you much farther than a traditional CRM and other system. Part 1, “Does Your System Measure Up? What Asset Management Firms Need in CRM Software”, discussed the critical components a CRM software solution for Asset Management should provide. Part 2, “5 Reasons Why Asset Managers Should Make Machine Learning Part of Their Daily Routine…and Why Their CRM Software Should Help,” discussed the role machine learning and predictive analytics play in keeping you ahead of the curve.  Here in part 3, I dive into additional tools beyond CRM, which you likely already have, that will supercharge CRM to help you drive productivity.


Part 1 in this series discussed the shortcomings of traditional CRM software. These systems simply are not equipped to help asset managers determine where to focus their efforts for the best results. If your CRM system cannot help you organize your data as well as your day to get the most value, then it is not the right CRM software for you. CRM should be used as a platform, supporting and collaborating with other key systems.

Part 2 discussed five reasons asset managers should make machine learning a part of their day. Machine learning is a very practical, usable tool that, put simply, can take very large amounts of data and process it in ways a human cannot—increasing the likelihood of winning. The right asset management software solution should provide this ability seamlessly.

The final installment in this series talks about tools you can start using right away if you are already using the Microsoft platform. These tools range from simple and commonly known to the lesser known—all of which are powerful in their own right.

Starting simple with Microsoft Office 365

Most likely, your firm is using at least some applications within Microsoft Office 365, like Outlook Exchange, Word, and Excel. If your CRM is not connected to these tools at a very minimum, then you need to reevaluate your CRM software. Tracking email activities, appointments, phone calls, and tasks without your Office tools being integrated directly with your CRM software puts you behind the curve right out of the chute.

Let’s drill down a little more and talk about Excel. If your CRM software does not directly integrate with Excel, you can’t do things like inline editing with Excel online, use Excel templates to import data directly from CRM, or distribute an Excel spreadsheet where the only thing someone needs to do is press ‘refresh’ to get the most up-to-date information from your CRM. Sounds simple, but if you’re an asset manager reading this, you know how important it is—and how messy it can get without the right tools.

A whole new world: LinkedIn and CRM

Because Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, the integration between Microsoft Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn is very powerful. Any record within CRM, be it a company or a person, has automatic linking back to LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If you navigate to a person, and that person’s email address in CRM matches an email address that is aligned on LinkedIn, you can automatically see that information. 

Likewise, within LinkedIn Sales Navigator, if you discover a new lead decide you want to track that lead back in CRM, the lead is updated in CRM and synchronized between LinkedIn and CRM as well. Again, this is a benefit you only get from using Dynamics 365 as your CRM.

Other hidden gems within Microsoft Office 365

So, you use Outlook, Excel, and Word. But Microsoft Office 365 has so much more to offer asset managers.

OneNote. OneNote is ideal for taking meeting notes and making it easy to distribute them and take action. If you’re using Dynamics 365 as your CRM, you have an additional advantage with OneNote: It is fully integrated with Dynamics, which means information can easily flow back and forth between the two applications. For example, if you’re on a coverage team for a particular account and want to understand what happened in a meeting or what research is currently under way, you can access OneNote information through CRM.

SharePoint and OneDrive. If your CRM software is not integrated with SharePoint or OneDrive at the individual record level within CRM, again, you’re missing an opportunity for some great collaboration within your team and the organization. Working on a proposal response to an RFP and being able to collaborate directly within OneDrive and have that linked back to the RFP (which is posted inside CRM) is just one of many examples of how SharePoint integration within Dynamics can make your day much more productive.

Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is a powerful aggregator of data from across the organization. It’s the collaboration point around specific opportunities and specific accounts that can very easily pull data from Dynamics CRM, OneNote, OneDrive, SharePoint, or any number of other collaboration tools that are already within your organization and which have connectors to Microsoft Teams (and there are literally dozens of those connectors out there).  

For example, if you’re managing work within a project, and that work is being managed on Kanban Board, having visibility to that within Microsoft Teams is huge. If you are using market data feeds about a particular opportunity or account, that data can come directly into Teams, so it really does become the viewpoint from which you can reference all the collaboration about a specific item with CRM. That’s extending CRM out to another level.

The power of reporting and analytics: Power BI

Reporting and analytics views around data within CRM is critically important in asset management. Power BI allows you to not only consolidate data within your CRM, but also from external sources, pulling in data from across the organization into a single view that can then be surfaced within Microsoft Dynamics, just like any other dashboard element, or as a component on an individual record within CRM. You also get the ability to drill down into CRM data within Power BI reports and dashboards.

Integrate with any application using Microsoft Flow

No one application does it all. The fact is, your CRM must be able to integrate with other business-critical applications and tools—and Flow is Microsoft’s way to do this very easily. Flow is an integration point to Dynamics, but also to the entire suite of Microsoft products. It extends connectivity to dozens of third-party applications that might already exist within your enterprise, including ERP (not just Dynamics) and other CRM systems like SalesForce. Flow allows you to not only do integrations, moving data from solution to the other, but also other business functions like workflow approvals.

For example, if you have an approval process for your RFP responses that goes outside of the CRM platform—let’s say two of the approvals are legal approvals, and legal is not within CRM today—you can create a workflow within Microsoft Flow that says, “When you get to a certain point in the RFP response and Legal needs to approve it, send out an email to the legal team that has an approval workflow built into the email for approval that also has a link to the document or documents they’re reviewing and approving during that process.” This streamlines the workflow throughout the organization, whether those uses are within CRM or not. It also allows you to capture the approval back in CRM to continue the workflow there as well.

The beautiful thing about Flow is that it lets you take advantage of the third-party applications you have come to depend on. Flow can connect anything and everything: on-premise data sources from SQL server; Campfire for project management; Salesforce for CRM integration outside of Dynamics; GoToMeeting; Sales Page; Broadridge; data consortium managers like Market Metrics Strategic Insights and WalletShare; FactSet market data; Bloomberg market data…the list goes on and on. And if Flow does not currently have a connector to an application, it’s easy for your organization to build one (or have our team help you build one!).

The next level: “Power Tools”

The next level of tools is a category we refer to as “Power Tools.” These are tools that help your firm customize your systems without having to touch code.

Azure Machine Learning. We discussed machine learning in Part 2, but Azure Machine Learning is one of those tools that is perfect for a power user—someone who really understands the business or the data but doesn’t have the data science background necessary to implement machine learning within the organization. Azure Machine Learning has a visual tool that allows you to apply certain types of algorithms and certain types of learning mechanisms within your data to produce Web services that can be used within CRM to evaluate the likelihood of winning a specific RFP and other very helpful information. There are many powerful options with Azure Machine Learning that don’t require you to be a data scientist or technology wizard. Azure Machine Learning is a great way to “ease into” machine learning. It’s intuitive, easy, and effective.

PowerApps. Every organization needs that one little piece of functionality that is unique to them. With PowerApps, creating these applications is quick and simple. Similar to Azure Machine Learning, PowerApps allows you to extend the data model beyond just CRM into more of an XRM model that creates custom user interfaces just by a dragging and dropping—no coding required. You can create user interfaces for mobile, desktop, or a tablet. PowerApps allows you to extend into external applications and combine that data in a mash-up type of environment with data in CRM. External data and CRM data can coexist using Microsoft’s Common Data Service.

Integration of custom data packs into the common data service. As an asset manager, gathering transactional data across the industry allows you to see which firms are trading on your buying agreements, and which firms you need to focus your sales efforts with. The challenge is that each data pack is slightly different in the way it’s provided, or the specific attributes of the data.

Additionally, you have to go through the process of loading and integrating that data into your data warehouse or your CRM system. The Microsoft Common Data Service allows you to quickly model the data from the data pack and integrate it in the same way you would any other data within CRM. Web services are also generated immediately, and the data is immediately consumable within CRM or any other platform application (such as Flow).

Experience the power of CRM as a platform

After reading this series, we hope you can visualize the potential CRM as a platform holds for asset management. From helping you plan your day to providing you with information that helps you make smarter use of your time and resources to working in harmony with all the applications, tools, and systems you depend on, a CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can completely transform the way you approach sales and service. To learn more about Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft platform, talk to the financial services experts at AKA Enterprise Solutions.

By | 2018-08-01T17:45:25+00:00 June 15th, 2018|Sales & Service (CRM)|0 Comments
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Contributor: Michael Quattlebaum

As Vice President of AKA's CE (Customer Engagement) practice, Michael has 20+ years of experience in technology and financial services, focusing on a business-centric approach to problem solving. His expertise in functional and technical design enables him to convey confidence to end users as well as C-level executives.

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