From the October 2009 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

October 1, 2009

Five tips for better tech results

While I've previously mentioned that there are any number of resources available to help you make sense of technology, I also know from the e-mails I receive it's not as easy as it sounds. With that in mind, I ask each of you to dedicate one full day between now and the end of the year to learn more about how technology can enable your business to become more efficient and more productive, and in turn drive revenue, reduce costs and provide a better customer experience. As you go through your day, here are ideas to keep in mind and questions to ask.

Can the application grow with you? How well a given solution meets your needs today is important, but equally critical is whether the solution and people behind it will grow with you. As your practice grows, you may need additional functionality, the ability to add more users, and the ability to store more data. Do not be afraid to share your growth plans with your current or prospective providers to test how they are going to be able to serve you now and in the years to come.

Who's behind the application you are considering? Often overlooked, but arguably the most critical aspect of a solution provider is whether they are going to be around for the long haul. There are many competent service providers in portfolio management, CRM, research and market data, and document management. However, what looks good on the surface doesn't mean there isn't trouble lurking underneath. It is important for you to know the financial viability of any solution provider you're looking to work with. Understanding their long-term growth plan and ensuring that their interests are aligned with yours is a critical success criterion.

Who else is using the application? Every solution starts without any customers and the fact that a particular solution has few customers should not necessarily be a "red flag" (you may have stumbled onto an undiscovered treasure). It is important to talk with current and former customers. Do not be afraid to ask a solution provider not only for their current references, but also the last few customers that left them. Get the full picture on a provider as you are likely to be with them for the next couple of years.

Does this application easily share data with other applications? No one wants to re-key data because one application you use does not speak with other applications. For example, you should not have to waste time entering your CRM data into a financial planning application. Your financial planning application should be able to draw in data from your CRM application. Ask the solution provider you are speaking with what other software products they connect with currently or plan to be able to connect with in the near future.

Most importantly, stay out of the technology business. Your customers don't pay you to be a technologist. They pay you for your service, your partnership and your performance. Many technology solution providers will sell you software, but then require you to maintain and/or host it. Some of you may think you are equipped to handle this responsibility, but this will only become an added cost and the maintenance of it will take time away from servicing your customers and efficiently running your business. For these reasons, the trend in financial services and other industries has been moving towards a "software as a service" model, where a service provider hosts and maintains their software and provides you with access to it.

Technology is often overwhelming. However, it's an important way in which to differentiate your services and the experience of your customers. I encourage you to take the challenge. Whether you decide to spend the day with your broker/dealer, custodian, or with a particular technology provider, it's a worthy investment of your time.

Marc Butler is managing director with iNautix (USA) LLC, an affiliate of Pershing LLC in Jersey City, N.J. He can be reached at mbutler@inautix.com.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.