For advisors, there have been several years of growth by many measures: new clients, increased asset values, investment opportunities and certainly more choices for technology products and solutions. What was considered innovative just a couple of years ago may now be recognized as a foundational requirement. Now more than ever, advisors need to ensure that their technology is not behind the times.
The first question you should consider is your firm’s technology scorecard for 2014. Potential areas to evaluate may include your adoption of new technology: Is your firm more efficient with common processes and workflows? Did the overall quality of work improve (and errors decline)? Did your firm achieve the ROI expected on your technology initiatives?
The goal of the technology scorecard is to not only give your firm a baseline, but to provide a framework to review what did and did not work well. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you don’t repeat past missteps. Furthermore, be critical of where your firm is today. It is very difficult to set achievable technology goals for 2015 if your 2014 technology scorecard is full of “excellent” ratings that might not stand up to tougher scrutiny.
Another critical area to consider in 2015 is your foundational (core) technology solutions. The most efficient and scalable firms achieve success by building on a core technology product or platform. This core product could be your reporting system, contact management system or even the platform offered by your custodian or broker-dealer. The ultimate goal is that your 2015 technology initiatives benefit from the previously completed projects on your core technology platform.
Getting the basic building blocks right provides ongoing benefits as your firm grows and your technology needs evolve. For some firms, implementing new foundational technology might be the primary technology goal for 2015. If that’s the case in your firm, I recommend you limit your other technology initiatives—maybe not even work on any other technology projects—so you can focus on getting this one right.
A very important component in identifying your 2015 technology goals is deciding who is going to be responsible for each initiative. Too often firms select technology goals without someone identified as the true owner of the effort. Needless to say, projects without an owner rarely achieve success.
If there is too much that needs to be done, prioritization becomes your critical first step. Common sense, right? However, I hear story after story of firms overlooking this important area. They simply are too optimistic about how much can be accomplished. Sometimes the best decision is to hire a consultant to lead the effort. They will not be distracted by other demands at the firm, but you also need to make sure they have the authority and support to truly drive the effort.
Do you have technology wishes from previous years that you are considering revisiting for 2015? Perhaps in the past your firm has considered a new imaging system, an asset rebalancing solution or a client portal. We have seen a tremendous amount of technology innovation during the past several years; chances are, the reason you decided to wait on a particular solution might not be a factor anymore. In addition, always include your existing providers when revisiting technology initiatives. The data interface or a new feature or an integration that you were hoping for might now be part of an upcoming release.
Will 2015 be a transformational year for your firm’s technology? It really should be if your firm is not already realizing the benefits of a scalable practice that provides excellent service to your clients. There is too much great technology available today, so don’t be left out. Remember though, even sticking with your current technology is a decision (good or bad). Whatever you decide, make it deliberate.
Related on ThinkAdvisor: