The new version will take a dramatic step by offering CRM capabilities.

Morningstar Workstation 1.0 is a competent investment analysis tool, a Principia for the Web, if you will. The new version of Workstation Morningstar will soon release has enough new features to be an entirely different breed of software.

From a macro standpoint, 1.0 provides Morningstar's research and analysis for the various security types it monitors. What the new version does that's such a dramatic departure is to let the user manage the process of providing this information to his clients. In other words, Workstation has CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities.

Just remember Workstation is still in beta form and not yet market-ready. Nevertheless, let's sneak an advance peek at the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Home Page

Workstation 2.0 features an entirely new interface that takes better advantage of the Web environment. As a result, navigation and usability are greatly enhanced. All of the pages in Workstation now have tabs along the left side for navigation. The home page divides into three vertical sections-two narrow columns flanking a wide middle column-all of which reveal summary information about the advisor's client base and clients' portfolio holdings. On the left is a "Quick Start" section including Alerts, Activities, a link to new Clients and Prospects, and a "Practice Summary" section totaling the advisor's clients, prospects and assets under management.

The middle section includes Recent Clients and Prospects, Top Securities, Alerts and Appointments. In the first two sections, the client and securities listings are hyperlinks that, when clicked on, allow the user to drill down into the detail of his recent clients and their primary holdings. Alerts highlight changes to holdings of which the advisor needs to be aware, such as manager changes. Appointments are self-explanatory, and a testament to the fact that Workstation contains CRM capabilities, more of which we'll look at shortly.

The right column shows the user a Market Barometer in style-box format, recent changes in the major stock indices and a Morningstar Analysis section listing recently used funds. All in all, this home page has a clean look and becomes an integral part of the program's navigation system.

But here are a few nits:

The Morningstar Market Barometer looks great, but some users may question its utility beyond its aesthetics. If the Morningstar indices reflected in the style box gain wider acceptance, this feature should gain in popularity.

The right column doesn't but probably should include things like interest rates and commodity indicators.

Not all new analyst reports need to be listed. A report that simply repeats the conclusions drawn in a prior report might be suppressed in favor of new reports with new findings, such as upgrades, downgrades or other recommendation changes.

In fact, what might be really helpful would be to empower the user with some level of customization. For example, he might be allowed to choose those funds for which he particularly wants to see new analyst reports, or he might be given the option of replacing that section entirely with news feeds or something else.

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