Judging from the standing-room only crowd at “Selecting and Implementing the Best Software” Thursday at TD Ameritrade Institutional’s national conference in San Diego, advisors are still struggling with the cost and effectiveness of the software they purchase. Spenser Segal, president of technology provider and consulting firm ActiFi, based in Plymouth, Minn., offered the audience a five-step process meant to help clear the confusion.

“I want to provide a specific path, using non-technical terms, to help you to recognize the business value of particular software, rather than just a collection of features and functions, many that probably will not get used,” Segal (left) said.

The first step, assess, deals with how a particular piece of software is being used, and how it actually could be used if properly utilized.

The second step, envision, is recognizing the value of the software to the business, as well as defining how it is successfully used.

“Success is not defined by simply being able to install the software,” Segal said with a smile.

The third step, plan, is about being realistic and pragmatic about what it will take to execute what the advisor envisions for the software’s capabilities.

The fourth step is to execute and make mid-course adjustments as needed.

The last step is to monitor the software and the plan on an ongoing basis.

Innovation continues to increase at a pace that is greater than the advisor's ability to keep up with it,” Segal said. “Vendors are now releasing in a year what they used to release in four years. Technology is not increasing on an annual basis, but rather on a quarterly basis.”

He also noted that the ecosystem built between vendors and custodians is emerging to the point where the transition of data is seamless, without double entry issues like those experiences in the past.

“The integration and cross-functionality between different categories of companies, like CRMs, portfolio management and financial planning companies, is now a reality,” he said. “That’s very powerful.”