From the January 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Five Tech Steps to Start 2012 Right

Conducting a thorough evaluation of your firm’s technology will provide a good foundation as you begin 2012

Moving from one year to the next provides a natural opportunity to evaluate and plan. For advisors and their technology, planning might be the easier exercise. The evaluation exercise is sometimes more challenging and not necessarily as enjoyable. But you need to do it, especially as we start a new year.

When was the last time you met with your staff to discuss what is working well from a technology perspective? Generally, our meetings tend to focus on what is not working versus what is working well. When we discuss the technology solutions that are most successful, though, best practices are identified that facilitate success and which can be utilized for future projects. 

Moving into a new year is also a great time to evaluate your open technology projects. Each open project should be re-evaluated to ensure it is still important. Perhaps your firm is in the middle of switching CRM systems, upgrading your technology infrastructure or is in the early design stages of a new website. Whatever the project may be, make sure your time and money are still being well-utilized. Conducting this evaluation is especially important for projects that are not going well. When speaking with advisors regarding unsuccessful technology projects, I consistently hear them say they wish they made the decision sooner to cancel the initiative. Don’t let this happen to your firm. If a technology initiative appears stuck and is not making any progress, push for a decision—one way or the other. There’s no better time to do this than at the beginning of the year.

Reviewing your firm’s operational procedures should also be an exercise conducted at the beginning of a new year. My experience with advisors is that their documentation of operational procedures has really improved over the years, meaning there is an actual written document of procedures. However, the ongoing challenge is to make sure that your operational procedures document is up to date and accurate. It is not easy to make this task a priority—other items will often be more important to complete. Therefore, as you start this year, make sure that one of your staff members is responsible for this effort.

Another area to evaluate as we move into a new year is the contracts with your current technology providers. The tendency is to only review contracts at the point of renewal or termination, which limits your ability to be better prepared and ultimately achieve more favorable options and pricing for your firm. This exercise is particularly important if you have any inclination of switching technology providers. Refreshing your memory regarding the terms of the agreement, renewal dates, termination fees and any other critical details will provide you important information as you develop your 2012 technology plan.

There are a number of tactical technology items that you can easily evaluate and address as we start 2012. A starting point includes reviewing the software programs installed directly on your main computer. By using the Control Panel feature on Windows and selecting Programs, you can easily view all the programs installed on your computer. How many are there that you don’t use anymore? How many are there that you have never used? Take a couple of minutes and remove the programs that you no longer need or have never used. You should also follow this same exercise for your smartphone. Perhaps you have a number of apps installed that you never use. In addition, consider removing or archiving old data files that are no longer necessary. 

Conducting a thorough evaluation of your firm’s technology will provide a good foundation as you begin 2012. This effort can also create positive momentum as you start working on your technology goals and objectives for the new year—and maybe even make it easier to achieve success.

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