Data Action Layer November 28, 2023

The future of standardization is not templates

by Bethany Walsh

Website Standardization

The dream: every document that comes into your firm is formatted in the exact same way, contains the same level of information and is delivered on time.

The reality? Well, it’s a bit more chaotic than that.

When you’re receiving documents from hundreds of customers, potential customers, fund administrators, or investment managers, standardized formats and document types are rare occurrences. In the absence of templates, operations and technology teams are left struggling with balancing resources and priorities. How much information can they feasibly pull out of disparate documents, and how can they structure it?

Often, they are left to the mercy of those that are sending the documents—requesting the sender use a certain template or format and hoping they adhere to it. Some use automation systems that require unique coding for every fund and every document, then crossing their fingers that nothing gets moved or changed.

The problem is that neither of these options scale. They are fragile processes whose success depends on large groups of people following specific instructions. How can you service more clients or funds? What happens when you want to change investment strategies, or when the market shifts and you need to change tactics?

Applying the right technology to create process

We have seen technology rapidly change this past year—around every corner is another AI advancement—but the reality is not many understand how to get the most out of these new tools.

With the emergence of generative AI and advances in machine learning, what’s possible and the speed at which it is possible is rapidly changing. Standardization no longer needs to happen at the document level. It can now happen at the data level.

Large language models combined with existing technology like machine learning and natural language processing have changed the game for software applications to be able to understand context, allowing tools to be smarter with categorization and locating information in a document.

With the right tools, standardization can now be a setting at the software level, where you can identify the parameters you need and the format in which you need the information, while the technology does the work.

Creating scalable success

By utilizing technology to create standardization, you can create a more scalable process. People are diverse in what they prioritize and how they accomplish things, and they bring their own ideas for optimization. As your firm grows and staff turns over, it gets harder and harder to maintain process continuity and avoid introducing human error. This creates branches in your processes which ultimately break down.

Rather than relying on your teams to create work-arounds for various formats or lead efforts to marshal your customers or partners into using standardized templates, you can redirect their creativity to how that data is applied in your business. You can build a technology stack that not only supports them but grows with them, providing stability and continuity over time.

How to successfully apply advanced technology to standardize your data:

  1. Partner with a technology vendor that not only understands the technology but also understands the best use cases for your business to apply it. How well do they know your industry AND the technology?

  2. Have a clear plan to implement the technology into your processes. Start with one use case and take your learnings to expand from there.

  3. Find someone in your firm who is excited about the technology to lead the transition. They will help you navigate the ins and outs and also be a champion to get others on board.

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