Getting value out requires putting effort in – The ROI of an Analyst Relationship Management System [part three]

icon-tools.jpgThis is the third in a series of posts that will explore the resources required and the advantages gained in using a formal analyst relationship management (ARM) system.  In this post we review some best practices in using a system.  Other posts will explore metrics and look at the values that can be obtained.  Your comments are encouraged. 

Data entry needs

A good ARM will allow you to append interaction information to each analyst record.  This information can include personal entries about analyst perception, but most significantly it can be the corporate memory of analyst interactions.  By recording the date, type, and results of each interaction with each analyst you build a history that is available to the entire AR staff as well as new members. 

We have heard comments from AR managers who believe that data entry into any ARM takes too much effort and the value is not worth the work involved.*  This is a short sighted view for several reasons.

  • Generating metrics – SageCircle is a strong believer in metrics. If you don’t record your activities and track them against your goals how can you possibly show success? Even a simple paper tracking in a notebook takes effort – - but that effort does not provide a payback in automated reports.
  • Creating institutional memory – It is nearly impossible to have institutional memory about the analysts and their opinions if all the information is in notebooks, file folders and between the ears of AR team members. There are numerous examples of AR teams “flying blind” with an analyst when a colleague who normally works a particular analyst is on vacation or has left the company taking all the information and context about the analyst with them. This aspect is especially important with vendors who use PR agencies to provide part of the AR labor. If the agency staff is not required to enter interaction data into the ARM, then the cost of switching agencies is high because of losing this critical information.
  • Increasing efficiency – ARMs actually save time by making it easier to get information rather than playing phone and e-mail tag with colleagues.
  • Improved timeliness — ARMs increase the ability to respond in a timely manner to a critical situation by providing information at your fingertips.

Making timely entries

In talking with clients we note that one problem with any (and all) ARM applications is the cultural shift required to get teams using it.  While some managers take a hard-nosed “stick” approach and set employee objectives for use – others take a laid-back “carrot” approach to data entry.  In either case the key to success is in staff making useful and timely entries.  A good manager will set staff expectations and encourage compliance to team standards.  Again, what process are you using to measure your success?  Your ARM should be the source of data for your status reports, planning documents, and success metrics. 

Ease of use

To prevent the ARM from becoming a burden it must be easy to use and entries must be able to be made quickly.  Team definitions that are well understood can make data entry easier or in some cases automatic by setting defaults.  Categories should be selections rather than free-form entry.  If it takes more than about two minutes to document an interaction the effort will become something to be put off until next week.  Some commercial products integrate well with typical desktop and browser-based office tools and can create interactions from emails. Managers need to look for other time-saving tips and tricks to make entering information a routine part of each day.

Garbage in, Garbage out

The quality of the data will be a major factor in its future usefulness.  Teams should establish best practices as to what is, and what is not, an entry.  Some teams track emails within the system, while others do not consider these to be true interactions.  Regardless of that decision there are certain data points that should be required.

An analyst interaction should have a title or subject that alone will tell any team member the topic and content of the interaction.  Making this title self-explanatory will make hunting through many analyst interactions faster and easier.  It will make reports more clear and understandable, and minimize additional searching.  Overly simplistic titles such as “briefing” will require the reader to dig deeper only to find that the data is not what they are seeking.

The interactions must also have a date, owner, and be categorized by various types that can later be used for sorting or reporting.  The description should be one or two sentences that describe the objective and the results.  Too much detail here makes reporting harder.  More complete information such as meeting notes, copies of presentations, or reports should be appended or linked to the record so they can be easily accessed if needed – - but are not automatically included into simple reports.  For teams that service multiple organizations it is very useful to be able to assign or associate analyst activity with products, technologies, or business units.

* SageCircle Advisory clients, either Annual or Hour Blocks, can leverage our experience with deploying, managing and using ARM applications to improve their use of these critical tools. In addition, SageCircle strategists can incorporate ARM usage tips and tricks into custom AR training sessions to make the ARM seem less of a burden and more of a valued tool that saves time while increasing effectiveness.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Managers should establish expectations for record keeping
  • Make entries as they happen and do not put off until later
  • Teams should establish standards and defaults for simple data entry
  • Capture enough information to be useful, but not so much as to be overwhelming

Question:  AR Teams – If you have an ARM are all staff members using it?  What is the most valuable data that is entered? How are you leveraging the data to improve AR execution and saving time?

This post is part of a series about building the strong ARM (analyst relationship management applications) of AR.

  1. Definition and basic characteristics – The ROI of ARM (part one)
  2. Commercially available systems – The ROI of an ARM (part two)
  3. Getting value out requires putting effort in – The ROI of an ARM (part three)
  4. The value to team collaboration – The ROI of an ARM (part four)
  5. Metrics for success – The ROI of an ARM (part five)
  6. The overall ROI – The ROI of an ARM (part six)

Bottom Line: The data in ARM applications is an incredibly valuable asset that AR managers need to make sure their teams are capturing. The initial requirements for capturing information will produce grumblings by the AR staff. However, once individual staff members get personal benefit from the information stored in an ARM (e.g., saving time on a project) then it will get easier to encourage usage.

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