When traveling around the country and meeting with our users, they often ask, “What are your company objectives for this year?” The most important aspect of that question, of course, is the unspoken part: “How will your progress benefit clients like me?” Recognizing this, I thought it would be helpful to share the answers with all our users.
Major Objectives for 2016
Our three major company objectives for this year are as follows:
- Continue to develop our new Polaris™ product, so that it becomes the data management and reporting standard for all our family office software clients, existing and new.
- Enhance the support structure for Polaris, so users can easily learn how to utilize all the functions they need in order to accomplish their work assignments.
- Selectively add users for Polaris that can help us enrich the product.
Let’s examine these objectives in more detail.
Polaris™ Product Development
To accomplish our first objective, we need to achieve the following goals:
- Update and enhance the user interface – Updating the layout, terminology and functioning of Polaris™ will allow it to appear and work in a manner that is more consistent with other software products currently on the market. This revamp will make Polaris more user-friendly and easier to learn by providing a more familiar experience for the user. The shortened learning curve will reduce frustration and generate greater productivity, along with increased user satisfaction.
- Incorporate all of the extensive functionality of our current product – Our FN 9.5 product was developed over many years, specifically for our target market. It provides the extensive functionality needed by our users to meet their diverse accounting and portfolio tracking needs. While Polaris already includes many of these capabilities, certain remaining aspects have not yet been incorporated into our new product. Adding that remaining functionality will enable Polaris to do everything that FN 9.5 does.
- Add functionality to Polaris that was not available in earlier products – No one wants to upgrade to a new product unless that transition can yield significant benefits. Users want greater speed, simplicity, functionality and flexibility. Such improvements have been and will continue to be incorporated into Polaris, guided in large part by feedback from new and current Polaris users.
Enhance Polaris Support Structure
We know that clients’ skill level in using our system can erode over time as staffing responsibilities change or turnover occurs. Therefore, an important component of supporting our users is to help them bridge the gap between what they need to accomplish and what they currently know how to do. Fortunately, today’s online world offers convenient ways to store and effectively deliver extensive, detailed educational content that can greatly aid users in becoming more proficient in the use of our software.
We are developing the Polaris Support Center to contain a variety of resources to assist users as they seek to gain full mastery of the features in our system. Because documentation in any form relies on screenshots and lists of specific steps, we cannot finalize the Support Center until the product is close to its finished state. However, we have already started to build the underlying pieces. In addition to SmartText searching and meaningful graphics, we are preparing extensive video materials that focus on key topics users will need to learn. These tools will play an important role in making Polaris a great success for our clients and us.
Selectively Add Polaris Users
Transitioning existing users from FN 9.5 to Polaris has not been a high priority for us. The data-conversion process, combined with the required training time for clients, will require a significant investment of our internal resources. Instead, we prefer to focus our energies at this time on more fully developing Polaris’ capabilities and support system, as noted above. Consequently, we are being selective about adding Polaris users.
As previously noted, Polaris already possesses much of the functionality available in FN 9.5. Logic might therefore suggest that existing clients would be the best kind of users to evaluate our new system. After all, they are already familiar with how FN 9.5 works and what it does. However, we have found that the most effective users are often new clients.
New users are a good match for Polaris because:
- They are motivated to learn the product, from the basics through its advanced features, since they have no alternative solution.
- They often do not require all the functionality that FN 9.5 offers. As a result, Polaris can meet their needs in its current state.
- Lacking experience with FN 9.5, they are not burdened by the memory of how things were previously done. As a result, their feedback comes from a fresh perspective that helps us consider new features and possibilities.
Of course, new users sometimes want additional functionality that was never part of FN 9.5. This can be a good thing. Their suggestions have caused us to add capabilities that we had not previously considered. This process results in a stronger product that helps us to better meet the needs of our clients, to the benefit of all.
We hope this discussion provides some insight into our objectives for 2016 and how our new Polaris product will be taking shape over the next year.
Edward Van Deman