When I talk with advisors about technology solutions for their firms, the conversation is usually focused on specific products, vendors and data interfaces. However, a big part of the equation—the person part—generally doesn’t come up in the conversation. When we think about how we deploy technology, we often forget to factor in how we manage the employees who use it day in and day out. Your employees—their skills, their knowledge, their habits and their responsibilities—will have a significant influence on the success of any technology product, initiative or process that you want to introduce in your firm. They are your technology players, and just like a baseball coach or football coach, you need to make sure they are in the right positions. If all of your technology issues fall on the desk of the “tech person” at your firm, then you have some work (and opportunity) in store to improve your technology environment and your overall level of success.
A good place to start with your technology players is to expand the number of people you have involved in your technology environment. Yes, it is appropriate to have specific roles and responsibilities for each individual. For example, one individual might be responsible for reconciling your accounts on a regular basis while another is responsible for handling your rebalancing and trading. Even with these distinct roles, though, it is still very important for employees to work together in a manner that expands their understanding of the entire technology infrastructure of your firm. Do your technology players understand both the upstream and downstream effects of their processes? The expectation is that expanding their knowledge will lead to new ideas and opportunities for efficiency gains. This is particularly important in today’s technology environment, which offers many more integration opportunities and products that can address multiple business needs.
When was the last time your technology players switched positions? Do you have employees who have had the same responsibilities year after year? This falls under the heading of cross-training and having individuals who can back up other positions. Taking a step further also involves moving people into new positions from a technology perspective. Sometimes advisors tell me about a new employee who is doing a surprisingly good job of managing a certain technology product right out of the gate. Often the new employee has identified ways to be more efficient compared to the person they replaced, even though they may have less experience. Why is this? The answer is that we often get stale and not very curious or creative in how we use the technology products with which we have the most experience and familiarity. Switching employee positions—whether temporarily or permanently—will help identify new ways to use your existing technology solutions. In fact, before you consider replacing an existing technology solution that is no longer meeting your needs, you might want to think about changing the primary user.