CRM options, both old and new.
Find one that fits your practice.

    Every once in a while an idea for a software solution catches on and spreads from one software maker to others. Such has been the case recently with client relationship management (CRM) software. The trend in the industry has been to produce subscription services rather than one-time software license fees. This benefits the software maker in that there is a continuous income stream from, essentially, the same products. It could also benefit the end user in software fixes, updates, and additions being done behind the scenes without the need for the end user to load update CDs or find an update online somewhere to download and install. Accessibility is potentially enhanced through a Web interface that can be accessed from any Internet connection.
    Questions surrounding the security of client information, for the most part, have been answered with sophisticated encryption technology and password protection. With some offerings, the files may reside online, which may permit access to those files outside of the office environment. With others, even though the software may be an ASP platform (Web-based), the client files could still reside on a local computer or server.
    The question is, given the trend toward Web-based CRM software offered on an ongoing subscription basis, which software is right for your financial advisory practice? The answer depends on how your practice is set up operationally, and how you work with your clients. No one software platform is going to be right for everyone. Fortunately, plenty of choices are available. If you are an established practice, with two employees or more, you may decide that you will need a full-featured client relationship program with advanced features. If you are a new practice or a one-person shop, you may opt for a less robust, more cost-effective program to fit your needs.
    In the full-featured category, one that may have been overlooked in recent years is ProTracker. The people at ProTracker software have completely revamped their software with the newest version, ProTracker Advantage 4. ProTracker now can convert data from a long list of competitors' software, including:
    Microsoft Outlook
    CRM Software: Junxure-i
    Schwab: Relationship Manager
    Microsoft Access databases
    Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
    Microsoft Word documents
    E-Z Data
    Text Library System
    Techfi Contact
    ProTracker, like Junxure-I, is based on the Microsoft Access database engine. The program can be installed as a stand-alone version, peer-to-peer environment or client server version. In setting up the software for your firm, you can elect to add more than one location. Having the ability to select a main office location, versus a remote or other office, gives the firm some scheduling advantages, and appointments held in diverse locations can be captured within the history record of a particular client.
    The revised desktop has priorities for the advisor schedule and tasks on the home page. Calendar functions include group scheduling, employee schedules and a separate conference room scheduler. The public schedule allows everyone in the firm to see what is on the schedule. For work flow purposes, ProTracker is a full featured CRM program with the ability not only to assign tasks from a task library or "on the fly" and track them to completion, but also to create work flow processes that include specific task groups for ease in setting up work flow processes for a particular client.
    Firm-wide document management is the strength of ProTracker. The document section structures your firm's folder system to logically store contact information, correspondence, reviews, reports, tax returns and other important client-related data. All of your employees can access the documents being stored, depending on your firm's server file storage and accessibility requirements. It is even possible to link documents or information previously stored on a server by creating a new Path to Client Documents (or, if you prefer, enter the preexisting path as the Path to Client Documents. Additionally, there is a document review tab on the home page that permits oversight of client or other documents prior to distribution, filing and/or processing.
    Navigating the various screens within ProTracker is a snap with the handy toolbar buttons located at the top of the page. There is even a Nav button to quickly jump you to a particular area of the database. There is also a Search Box to help you find items quickly with as little as three consecutive characters typed into the box.

If you have looked at ProTracker in the past and looked elsewhere, you may want to take a second look at this full-featured, robust client relationship management software program. ProTracker also offers a compliance manual program and a business continuity plan template for $150 each. For details, visit
    In the mid-level or lighter category, you may wish to look at a new product called UpSwing ( Scheduled for release last month (October), Upswing is described as easy to use, cost-effective and industry-specific. It was built to compete with Microsoft Outlook, Act, Act for Advisors and Goldmine. It can accept imports from those programs as well as any program that has the ability to export to an Excel or comma separated values file (CSV). The main screen is a simplified desktop with eight tabs for navigation purposes.
    The program is a full relational database, so client contact records contain history records. Further, the software was built with MySQL technology in the Ajax development environment, which permits faster page loading, emulating a desktop application, even though it is a Web-based (ASP.Net) product. Ajax is an exciting new Web application that eliminates the start-stop-start-stop nature of interaction on the Web by introducing an intermediary, an Ajax engine, between the user and the server. Because the Ajax engine is loaded instead of individual Web pages, the rendering of graphics and information is extremely fast. Applications offered on the Web using this technology often are indistinguishable from desktop applications in performance and speed.
Just because Upswing is offered as a lighter CRM software does not mean that it does not offer some punch. It has good client relationship tools, calendar functions and advanced task management. Additionally, Upswing is in talks with major data providers such as Pershing, Albridge Solutions and Black Diamond to offer downloads into the software.

Upswing has an attachments tab that permits attaching files to client records. Though it does not have robust virtual filing tools at this time, plans call for enhancing this area of the software, according to Alex Turnbull, vice president of sales and marketing for Upswing Inc. The software will be offered at $35 per month per user. There is a Microsoft Office Connector Tool, which will permit exchange of data, e-mails, etc., with Outlook and other office programs. This tool is offered at an additional $4.99 per month per user.

Certainly, many other choices are available to advisors, such as Junxure-I, Outlook, Goldmine, Act for Advisors and others. The two choices described above illustrate two types of client relationship management software available to advisors. Depending on the needs of your practice, either of these could increase the efficiency of your operations.

David Lawrence is a practice efficiency consultant and president of David Lawrence and Associates, a practice consulting firm based in Lutz, Fla (