From the June 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Is Your Technology Up to Date or Out of Touch?

Keep up with your technology upgrades to avoid getting left behind

If you're not on top of technology, you're falling behind. If you're not on top of technology, you're falling behind.

From a technology perspective, it truly is a great time to be an advisor. Advisors used to have to wait many months, if not years, to see substantial upgrades. Today, the development cycle continues to speed up with providers introducing more and more new features, integration opportunities and complete redesigns of long-established products. However, not all technology solutions are able to keep up with this development trend. The challenge for advisors is understanding how to respond: Do you act now, or do you wait just a little longer? Part of the answer depends on which category your technology solutions fall under.

Perhaps one of the more substantial risks for advisors is getting too comfortable with their existing technology. If you are not seeing consistent upgrades to a solution you regularly use, that should raise questions and concern. Too often I hear advisors say they are not happy with the upgrades (or lack thereof) to a product they use, but they stick with it anyway because switching is too much extra work. The risk here, of course, is that you could be falling farther behind than you would with similar solutions that regularly introduce new features and enhancements. There may be good reasons to stick with a product that introduces minimal enhancements, but make it a deliberate decision rather than simply avoiding a change.

On the other hand, what if your technology provider frequently introduces new upgrades? That can be a good thing, but not if the provider does a poor job of communicating and training for new releases. In these situations, a new release can be detrimental to your productivity and very frustrating for your staff. It’s like starting your car in the morning and finding your favorite preset radio stations have been changed. If this issue frequently arises with software-based solutions, you can delay installing the update until you’ve had a chance to research it. However, these situations are amplified with cloud-based solutions, which usually do not allow you a choice of delaying implementation. Therefore, as part of your evaluation criteria when considering a cloud-based system, be sure to focus on reviewing its implementation and release process.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Not so with technology. Productivity enhancements that are obtained with new software generate their own rewards, but sometimes a little encouragement is needed. New technology releases can easily be overlooked if your staff is averse to learning new ways to work more efficiently. Continuous improvement only happens when it is deliberately embraced and when your staff is held accountable for achieving results.

How often do you tell your technology provider what’s on your mind? Direct feedback from daily users is truly valuable for the technology provider, and how they respond to your feedback should be a good indication of their commitment to continued upgrades and new features. I find that when I offer a suggestion to a technology provider, the conversation often leads to existing features and tools of which I was not aware. These conversations should be a win-win where both the user and the provider leave with new information.

If you are not seeing upgrades and enhancements, and you are doing everything the same way you did last year, you are probably being left behind. Do a little shopping and talk to some of your current vendors’ competitors. Given all the advancements in technology, you are simply letting too much opportunity and efficiency gains go unrealized for your firm if you don’t.

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