Some advisors don’t want to deal with IT, but like fire insurance or an emergency call from your security alarm company, if you need IT support, it’s because something isn’t right.
The reality for advisory firms is that you can approach your IT support in many ways. Some firms do most of the IT work on their own (when they have time). Others outsource the responsibilities, and some even hire full-time staff focused only on IT support. No matter which path you choose, there are best practices that you should follow and common pitfalls to avoid.
Successful IT support starts with having expertise and knowledge of the systems used by your firm. Advisors use products that are widely adopted in other businesses like Microsoft Office or SalesForce, but they also use products specific to our profession that manage portfolio reporting, trading and rebalancing, and financial planning. It is critical that whoever you place in charge understands all of your systems. Too frequently I hear of situations where an IT firm was great in supporting common systems but had no idea how to support the advisor’s reporting software. If this deficiency isn’t caught early in the engagement with the IT firm, it can be a very unpleasant surprise when you realize that they are not properly updating or backing up one of your core systems.
No matter which path you choose to meet your IT support needs, you must constantly verify that everything is working properly. IT is unfortunately an area where problems or issues do not always make themselves immediately obvious. For example, if you have outsourced to an IT provider to back up your systems and data, then it is critical that you regularly review these back-ups (by opening and reviewing a backed-up file, for example) to ensure the process is working.