Ask any family office or asset management firm to cite the most challenging aspect of implementing a new accounting system and you’re likely to get the same answer: complexity around the data. But the issue of complexity is actually twofold. It refers to both the difficulty in gathering the data and integrating it into your operations.
What makes working with data so challenging? And what can you (and your solution provider) do to address the data integration issue so implementation proceeds smoothly?
Data, data everywhere
Custodian and broker statements, pricing data, invoices, intertwined entities, financial spreadsheets – there is seemingly no end to the amount of information and number of data sources that feed your accounting ecosystem. It can be a nightmare to gather and consolidate this varied data into a single source of information; and equally challenging to produce client-ready reports.
Yet, access to complete and accurate data is vital for decision making. “Vendors must recognize that the single most important element in any reporting project is the data,” according to research firm, Celent. And “data interfacing,” which is the integration of data from external sources with in-house systems, is a critical element for asset managers.
Before interfaces can be built, however, you’ll need to work with your vendor to determine what data is important, where it is housed, and what needs to be automated.
For example, if you manually download market data from Bloomberg and enter details in Excel, an automated process for downloading the relevant data improves the accuracy and timeliness of information. It ensures your bonds have up-to-date coupon rates for accrued interest calculation, strike prices are current, reconciliation is efficient, and key details are available for analysis and reporting.
Put data first
In most software implementation projects, migrating data into the system is one of the last phases to be completed before going live. It’s done after connections to custodians, market data providers and other sources are established, and the system parameters are set. “That’s a recipe for disaster,” said Jim Marin, client implementation manager at FundCount. “Clients will struggle with data reconciliation if data migration is done after the entire system is built.”
That’s why FundCount’s implementation process puts data first. In the analysis phase, which occurs prior to execution, we take a deep dive into your data sources, account information, investment types and how accounts relate to each other. We review statements from custodians and other third-party sources and discuss workflow, leaving no stone unturned in trying to understand all aspects of your business. This provides us with a clear perspective on the structural requirements and the inbound information that will feed your firm’s accounting and reporting.
Once the information is gathered and the analysis phase complete, it’s time to develop an internal database. The database design and structure will be shared with your team so you can see how it will look before proceeding with execution.
Get a head start
A detailed pre-execution analysis phase requires a significant amount of client involvement, so be prepared to get your “hands dirty” early in the process. But taking the time for analysis up front serves several important benefits.
Faster learning curve
Unlike many projects where clients may not be involved until testing, you’ll need to supply and review the data for the analysis phase. This engages your team from the start and gets them familiar with how the database looks and functions, serving as an early base-level training. Once the system goes live, they will be able to jump right in and work efficiently.
Smarter resource allocation
Undergoing an analysis phase helps to identify gaps in internal resources or knowledge, so you can queue up needed support in advance. Getting the right team on board early will help to keep the project on track and within budget.
Data integration is one of the toughest aspects of any software project. Building clean architecture from the start that aligns with your firm’s data and data integration needs facilitates subsequent project phases and speeds implementation.
Addressing data complexity in the analysis phase and completing data migration before the system is set in stone ensures the software will support your workflow and operations. It can make all the difference in the success of your project.
“Data that is consolidated and unified on a single platform becomes much easier to control, reconcile, and of course, integrate with your existing ecosystem,” said Maxim Stepanov, FundCount implementations and customer support manager. “Plus, producing timely, accurate reports for your clients will be a breeze.”
For more information on streamlining implementation, download our Checklists for Implementing and Upgrading Software or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org