Should you consider the cloud?

January 30, 2015 | Last updated on January 30, 2015
3 min read

If you’re running a business but haven’t yet moved beyond emails for project management and your administrative software is still tied to your in-office computers, it’s time to consider the cloud.

In 2014, I made the big leap from a ground-based to a cloud-based server.

The reason? A $6 motherboard battery failed, and led to a series of computer problems that eventually required me to upgrade my network, which would have cost $9,000.

But if I’d gone that route, I would’ve spent a fortune and had a system that was already outdated.

Instead, I embraced the cloud for my CRM and office administrative software. The new system runs from any computer with an Internet connection, and I can even use my smartphone or tablet.

I chose the online service Podio. Initially, I’d looked at competitors, Salesforce and Insightly, but each was more restricted in what kinds of information it could store, or how information was stored.

Two factors pushed my decision to Podio.

  • The complexity and cost of customizing Salesforce in comparison to the do-it-yourself nature of Podio.
  • Podio lets me create an online workspace that clients, coworkers or wholesalers can join. Within this secured network, the invited members can make comments, respond to email, and upload or download sensitive files — all in an archived space. This has the potential to replace those long, convoluted email chains that can happen over an extended project.

Setting up Podio

The biggest potential downside of Podio is simplicity. While the system allows you to create a personalized client database, this also creates more work. There are a few pre-built templates, but I was changing so many fields and datatypes that it’s easier to start with a blank slate.

This allows you to drag in as many appropriate fields as you need, and create relationships between them. Once completed, this collection of fields becomes an app, and it’s where your data resides. For example, I created an app called “Clients” that I use to store basic information about each individual client, borrowing from the structure of my past server-based database.

Once that information is entered or imported, you start grouping items. For example, you could group all clients in a family or household. I also created a scheduling app called “Activities,” which I then used to connect specific tasks, calls, meetings and administrative to-do’s to individual clients. There are date stamps and reminders on each activity.

Additional apps

Another app we set up is “Service Record,” which allows us to track client service, administration, follow-ups and issues separate from Activities. If we did a deposit for a client into an account, my assistant would create a Service Record entry two weeks from today to ensure the deposit was made. This behind-the-scene task is separated from client contact like follow-up or birthday calls, for example.

I also created an app to archive my past database’s information. To move the information from that database, ACT, to Podio, we first exported the ACT database into Excel, and then imported Excel into Podio. The number of historical items (117,000) made this a long process, but it was worth the effort because we could create a Podio app that duplicated the layout of the old software.

App creation is easier than it sounds. For example, the bulk of your info (client name, SIN, etc.) is added into a basic Text field; birthdays would be put into a Date field. You can also create a drop-down field for each client type (e.g., A-list, B-list; accredited investor, non-accredited investor). The Client app I created has 44 fields and I can add more if necessary.

More customized Podio apps you may want to consider include:

  • Net Worth;
  • Insurance;
  • Conversation, to invite individual clients or wholesalers;
  • Financial Plan, with a journal to record changes over time;
  • Individual Plan Goals, including percentage complete;
  • Staff Hours;
  • Fee Tracker for fee-only clients; and
  • Administration Projects for complicated administration issues.

The beauty is these apps link directly or indirectly back to the Clients app, creating an organized structure.