In my last post, I discussed the five steps necessary in selecting and implementing the "right" software for your practice. The first step is Assess.When purchasing technology, one of the most common mistakes we see advisors make is not clearly understanding, from a business perspective, the “why.” We don’t see advisors asking the key question: “What is the business objective we are trying to achieve with this purchase?”

 A key limitation of technology is that it is only as good as the business improvement it drives and the readiness of team members to use it effectively. For an example, look no further than a motorist who paid extra for four-wheel drive in his car without ever using that feature or even knowing its purpose.

 In the ActiFi “Process Bridge" (see above). a five-step process, the "Assess" step is about assessing three things:

  1. What are the business objectives?

    If you don’t know the objectives you’re hoping to achieve, then it is impossible to create a plan that will take you from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. As one of the participants in the 2010 FPA/ActiFi CRM Technology Report, one study participant stated: “Just buying software, more often than not, will make the problem worse because it doesn’t solve the problem of identifying how you get work done and who should do it.”Make sure that when assessing your objective that you are very clear, concrete and as detailed as possible. That way, you can actually tell if what you wanted to have happen actually occurred.  For example, a specific business objective would be “Increase revenue per employeeby $5,000 by 1/1/2012.” This objective is very clear and it’s easily measurable.

  2. Gain a more in-depth understanding of people's perception of the current capability.

    Depending on the role within the firm, each person who will eventually use the technology may have a different perspective on what is the problem and how technology might solve it. Pay particular attention to people who do a specific task on a frequent basis. One tactic in gaining a more in-depth understanding of your employees' perceptions is to conduct a simple survey using free tools such as Survey Monkey or Google forms. Send out a survey and ask questions related to inefficiencies within the business, bottlenecks, client service issues, etc. related to what you hope the technology will improve.

  3. Identify the specific people and processes that will be impacted.

    One hundred percent of the business value of any technology investment is tied to

    • first, being used by actual human beings and
    • second, improving a specific business process.

Technology itself is not designed to do all those things. Unless your technology is a robot that will do everything in your practice (and as far as we know, no such robot yet exists), your technology investment will go unused and/or underutilized if everyone on your team does not have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, and each individual’s specific role in achieving the goal.

For example, let’s say that your business objective is to call clients on a monthly basis and discuss relevant information. To accomplish this goal, you need accurate data automatically added to your contact system as it is learned (e.g., one client is a new grandparent). You need to talk to your assistant and find out how the data is currently being gathered, where it’s currently stored, and how long it will take to correctly implement if a new CRM technology is purchased.

Now is also a good time to clearly communicate to your assistant how important it is that the data is up-to-date and accurate because the goal cannot be achieved without his role. Remember, you can purchase the best, fastest, and most technologically advanced CRM system ever developed in the history of the world, but if the data isn’t entered, it’s useless. Assess how things are done today, so you can clearly articulate how you would like it to be done tomorrow.

Once you’ve clearly assessed your current needs and where you are today as it relates to a specific problem and business objective, the next step is to design a clear vision of how things should be, or how you would like them to be. 

In the next blog post, scheduled to appear on AdvisorOne on April 6, we will discuss the second step in the 'Bridge Process': Envision.

Read the first posting here discussing the overall Bridge Process for choosing and implementing advisor software.