It’s easy for a software provider to say their technology is “easy-to-use,” but how can you tell if software will be truly manageable for both your team and for your investors?
Here are 9 criteria to consider when evaluating whether investment management (IM) software will be genuinely user-friendly.
1. End-to-end Functionality. IM software should support both your basic and advanced needs. Product feature limitations should not get in the way of completing a task or make a process more complex with manual work-arounds. Feature depth is also necessary to address specific needs. For example: if you manage a fund, your IM software should understand and be able to incorporate accounting principles, such as realized and unrealized gains; and if you manage sensitive information, you’ll want to be able to restrict access to specific information to certain users.
2. Intuitive navigation. Software that solves complex problems can be difficult to use if navigation isn’t intuitive. Common features and commands should be easy and quick to access, while advanced features should be easy to find within the interface. Ease-of-use does not necessarily need to stem from limited functionality: intuitive navigation can make a feature-rich software a delight to use.
3. Aesthetically appealing. The Graphic User Interface (GUI) should be clean, pleasant, and easy to navigate. A GUI’s primary purpose is to make the user’s job easier. (Think of yahoo!’s homepage, muddled in overwhelming buttons and options, compared to Google’s clean homepage: Google’s search function is extremely powerful, and the user experience is nonetheless simple and pleasant.)
4. Flexible. Optimizing for effortless interaction with your team’s existing systems and practices is essential. For example, you may require that your real estate IM software automatically recognize fields from Yardi, have export and import functions to excel, and have flexibility to work with any general ledger and any chart of accounts.
5. Configurability. Users quickly find that configurability is crucial as their company grows and their needs evolve. Software that ‘grows with you’ will allow you to do more things when you need to, such as add your own custom data fields to CRM contacts, customize your email formatting, and accommodate different groups of investors with different needs or different levels of returns.
6. Ability to filter, sort, and organize data. Filtering contacts, entities, and accounts organizes and streamlines IM tasks. You should easily be able to filter entities by categories such as type (JV, fund, etc.) and status, and contacts by categories such as which offering they are a prospect for, which investments they are invested in, what type of investor they are, and what their typical deal size or profile is.
7. The team behind the software ‘gets’ you. The team behind the software should have a deep understanding of your business and what problems the software will be solving for you. To avoid frustrations down the road with your software provider, prefer a company that has extensively researched its users’ needs. The team behind your solution should have a profound understanding of everything from your waterfall structure to what your LPs will care about.
8. Reliability. User-friendly software is reliable: it has been tried and tested over a substantial period of time, is used by companies you know, and does not malfunction or crash. Ideally, the software provider should have a history of zero technical errors, however this is hard to come by.
9. Responsive customer support that is rooting for your success. No matter how powerful and user-friendly your software solution is, you may still need help. Users should have immediate access to a robust, responsive and well-trained customer support or customer success team. You’ll want to know that your customer support agent has the internal resources to answer difficult questions for you, and that you’ll get answers quickly.