In spite of the overall popularity of customer relationship management software, those who took part in Financial Planning’s 2015 exclusive tech survey of financial advisors indicated that they need better technology to help them with two challenges in particular: streamlining workflows and improving time management.

Yet CRM systems are well-known for addressing both these issues. That leads us to wonder, again, if all our readers fully appreciate what a CRM system is.

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We can’t cross-reference how many of our respondents who are struggling with operational inefficiencies are using MS Outlook as their CRM, but we suspect that there are more than a few.

We will also venture a guess that many advisory firms that own a true CRM application still aren’t receiving the full benefit of their software.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. They may have purchased the wrong CRM system for their firm or the software was improperly configured and their advisors were never adequately trained on its use.

A CRM system can either be a general-purpose product or industry-specific. An advisor who purchases the former has to configure it with all the fields that apply to a wealth management practice.

For both types, the workflows have to be tailored to a particular firm. Some CRM products include standard workflows, but the software’s developer or a third-party integrator will customize it for a fee.

This also might require integrating several different software products because many workflows extend across multiple applications. For example, an account-opening workflow might entail using the CRM, an auto-form filling application, an eSignature program, a custodial or broker-dealer platform and, possibly, a firm’s portfolio management program and financial planning software.

If a firm’s CRM system can’t be integrated with all its other systems, the firm will never be able to use all the CRM’s workflow features. Unfortunately, many advisors aren’t aware of all these dependencies and don’t take them into account when they select a CRM system.

Read more about the tech survey tomorrow, when we look at technology spending.

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com.

This story is part of a 30-day series on leading tech trends for advisors. It was originally published on Dec. 1, 2015.

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice.