Addepar is a software and data platform that is purpose-built for professional wealth, investment and asset management firms to deliver outstanding results for their clients. We’re helping our clients unlock the power and possibility of more informed, data-driven investing and advice.
Your digital infrastructure is a key driver of the quality of your investment decisions, providing context, insight and intelligence that can help improve portfolio returns. In over a decade of onboarding Addepar clients, we’ve distilled lessons learned to reveal what works when making changes to your tech stack. Those who are most successful at tech onboarding embrace these four behaviors.
1. Ready the organization for operational changes
A powerful new technology has the potential to change how your organization operates as it “touches all core processes” according to one family office client. You can prepare for broader organizational changes, by following these best practices:
- Avoid seasonality: Every investment organization has demands on its time during different stages of the year. Clients who successfully onboarded the Addepar platform were happy to have launched their tech projects in a slow period for the organization. For example, a family office attempting to onboard new tech during tax reporting season might encounter more challenges.
- Define roles and responsibilities: It’s critical to clearly identify which team members will be responsible for managing the various elements of the onboarding process, as well as those team members who’ll later become “super users” of the new technology (i.e., those responsible for day-to-day operation and maintenance). Identifying a strong leader and change agent leading new tech implementation is also very useful.
- Establish governance: Data that’s used by or within the new technology must be governed with established rules around the processes to be followed in order to change data, create new attributes or tag anything in the system. This data governance is necessary for consistency and reliability of the technology’s outputs.
- Fill gaps: Although adopters of new technology typically hope for an immediate increase in organizational efficiency, that’s not always the case. New technologies often demand new skills, and successful onboarders often benefit from the help of third-party experts in change management, for example, or maintenance and daily operation of a new system.
2. Define and establish data architecture and processes
Generally, having a clear schematic of the target data architecture will dramatically improve the likelihood of successful tech onboarding. In our experience, this means creating a series of “maps”, which can be thought of as input maps (data) and output maps (reports):
- Data mapping: Investment organizations should begin the onboarding process with an informed understanding of where all of their datasets actually reside. This includes knowing what data corresponds to LLCs, trusts, complex ownerships among family members, and so on—as well as the structures of those entities themselves. Investors need a complete picture of all online and offline assets and data.
- Reporting maps: Onboarders of new tech should identify all of the consumers of their various datasets and data streams and how those consumers need that data reported. At what level do your clients want to see performance? Is it at the level of a family member, a manager or some other entity?
- Unravel complexity: The purpose of mapping inputs and outputs of a technology is to anticipate significant complexities associated with a given user’s intended use patterns. An upside of many advanced technologies is that they can accommodate a variety of non-standard, even off-label use cases. It’s certainly best to understand those cases prior to onboarding so they can be addressed in the cleanest way possible.
3. Establish data ingestion processes
The success of any investment technology depends on the integrity of the data ingestion process, which refers to securing, onboarding, cleaning, validating, and unifying the investment data, such that it’s usable and useful for decision-making, reporting or other investment-relevant functions. As it pertains to data ingestion, we found three key areas that require special attention during onboarding:
- Data feeds: Planning for all data feeds and anticipating the time to enable them is important when implementing a new technology. Data coming from external entities such as banks or custodians may need to be routed through APIs or other automated pathways. Setting up data piping can be a lengthy process, often requiring significant paperwork and approvals across multiple parties. Prioritize this setup as early on in the onboarding process as is feasible.
- Data validation: In the later stages of onboarding, data validation and stabilization—the processes that ensure data is being properly loaded into and used by a new technology—can take considerable time. This testing period, which may be iterative, should be accounted for on the implementation calendar.
- Historical data: A vital choice in any tech onboarding is what amount of historical data to port into the new technology. This question isn’t simply a matter of a number of years or gigabytes—the state of the historical data is as much a consideration as its volume (e.g., does the data currently only exist in paper form, or in oddly organized file structures, or is it likely to contain errors?). Address this early on in the onboarding process.
4. Provide ongoing education for technology users
Proactive user training, both at onboarding and ongoing, is key to successful tech adoption. User training should begin early—well before the tech is used in daily activities. This early training can be helpful in identifying ways to improve the implementation plan, and possibly reconfigure things to better accommodate end users. And, users may not appreciate the flexibility and potential power of a new technology until getting deep into formal training modules.
We also actively encourage peer education within the Addepar community—putting your users in touch with users at other organizations who share similar characteristics and use cases. This community provides valuable education for new technology users and promotes best practices sharing from super users.
We developed this framework to help optimize your technology onboarding experience.
By addressing these issues from the outset, you can experience more successful onboardings and usage, ultimately transforming the way you do business and bringing deeper value to their clients.