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A 5-Step Process to Utilize Your Existing Technology: Level 1—All in Your Head

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In the first post in this series I introduced the Five Levels of Utilization chart (see below) and relayed the fact that 100% of the business value a practice receives from the software and tools it owns is tied to how much they are used. This post is focused on Level 1: the initial way that practices use their software and tools.  

Unfortunately, the majority of practices are using their tools at Level 1 and don’t move beyond this most basic level of usage. They have figured out how to get in and use some of the features, but there is not a well-designed, written process on the optimal use of the tools. Each employee learns, through a variety of methods, how they should employ the tools that are available to them. Each employee’s approach to figuring it out is a little different and may include;

- Asking a colleague

- Calling the vendor

- Training

- Reading

- Intuitively figuring it out or guessing

Because there isn’t a well-designed, well-written process of precisely how and when to leverage a specific tool, employees are typically left to their own devices. This usually results in the tools being underutilized and not delivering the business value the advisor desires.

In many cases, the employee is not fully aware of the capabilities that are available to them to increase productivity. They may only understand one aspect of the software and not realize that they have powerful functionality embedded in their current tools that they are not taking advantage of.  

For example, a firm might outsource their portfolio management to a leading vendor like Orion, Envestnet or Black Diamond and use it to generate performance reports for their clients. However, they are not taking advantage of the fee billing, client portal capabilities or rebalancing functionality of those packages. When asked why they wouldn’t use these powerful capabilities they are already paying for, people typically answer that they either don’t know how or say what they are doing works fine. 

“Works fine” compared to what? Because the users have never known a process that takes full advantage of the power of these solutions, they compare what they are doing now to what they did years ago; long before they had any software. In this context, “works fine” may be accurate.  However, if they compared the total time and cost of their current process against a firm that is using the the same tools in an optimal fashion, they would likely find that their process costs more and delivers a significantly inferior outcome. 

While Level 1 Utilization is the default starting point for many practices, it certainly is not the place to finish. In the next blog, we will move up to the next level; using a checklist and taking the time to write down and agree on what your process actually is. 

(A full-size PDF of this diagram is available upon request from ActiFi.)

ActiFi's Five Levels of Utilization (Click to enlarge)