Are you itching to “break-up” with an existing technology provider? Although sometimes this is an easy decision, frequently it is not.
There are many variables and details that need to be considered in making the final decision, especially with setting the goal of ensuring that any change or transition is as smooth as possible. Realizing this critical objective starts with ample preparation before you ultimately say goodbye.
Start by evaluating all areas where the program or solution “touches” your business and systems. This is a deep dive to understand how your business would operate if the product were gone. For example, perhaps you are planning on replacing your CRM. You should conduct a feature comparison, a usability review, and other user case scenarios versus the potential replacement solution.
As each of the items are evaluated, remember that not all features and interfaces necessarily provide the same level of functionality. For example, if you import data from outside sources into your CRM, find out if the same data points are exchanged with the various third-party interfaces currently used by your firm. Just knowing that there is an interface available by itself is not enough. This is often an area where it is easy to discover surprises, both positive and negative
Any product or solution that ultimately interacts with your clients (either directly or indirectly) requires an extra level of evaluation. Clearly, there is the risk that your clients might not like the replacement solution. Or even the transition process from one product to the next could potentially be challenging for your clients. Sometimes, the reasons why you want to replace an existing solution may have little to do with what your clients actually see or experience. If this is case, the bar is raised even higher to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
You also should consider notifying your current provider early in the process that you are planning to leave. They might be willing to help you make the transition. Of course, there are variables to consider with this strategy, like the terms of your existing contract, a potential decline in service, and even hard feelings depending on your relationship with the provider.
However, other variables might improve if they know that you are planning on making a switch. You might end up with some improvements that make you decide to stay put. The type of product and its specific features should directly influence the overall evaluation process and transition timeline to move to a new solution. Specifically, the more complexity and changes that are involved will have a direct correlation to the amount of time and effort required. This could mean the need to run both solutions (existing and new) in a parallel environment with a detailed quality assurance process.
It is critical during this process that all stakeholders are involved with the goal of providing their ultimate “sign off” for the new solution. In fact, it is often during this period where you ultimately answer the important question of whether or not the new solution will “make it or break it” in meeting the needs of your firm.
Also, as you go through the process, do a regular gut check to confirm that you are not leaving for the wrong reasons. Emotions often cloud your decision-making. And sometimes advisors feel at a certain point that they have to make a change just because of all the time, energy, and “mindshare” that they have invested in the evaluation process of leaving a provider. The more time that is spent leads to more pressure to make a change.
This is part of the reason why we have plenty of examples in our profession of firms that make a technology change and then ultimately go back to their original provider or switch again to another provider. Therefore, the common saying that the grass is not always greener on the other side certainly applies to technology decisions, too.
Dan Skiles is the president of Shareholders Service Group in San Diego. He can be reached at email@example.com.