As we move into September, this is the time when we start to think about the status of our current initiatives and what we want to accomplish in the coming new year. Now is the time to consider the spending that will impact your operations and technology. It is also an ideal opportunity to assess the services and vendors you currently utilize.
Many practices will hold off site planning sessions to facilitate discussions around this. It also may be the one opportunity for leaders to field more detailed comments, complaints and issues around the systems and services you use.
There are key areas to consider in these planning sessions both as a manager and with your team.
Depending upon your agreements with vendors, you may be under contracts, subscription agreements or other contractual terms. Don’t pass up an opportunity to hold a call with your vendors to look for better terms, loyalty pricing or even discounts for longer commitments. As to the latter, if you have settled on a service and do not foresee a change in the coming 24 months - consider offering an extended renewal beyond one year to negotiate for the better price.
The oft used quote that we rarely use more than 10% of our systems is somewhat exaggerated - but more likely is 30-40% of usage. This does mean there is always an opportunity for teams to squeeze more capabilities out of the systems and services already implemented in a practice.
Take the time to review the latest free and paid training sessions being offered by your vendors. Consider these against your practice processes and also any team complaints about functionality. Frequently the feature and function is in a system, and the techniques can be acquired through fresh training.
In the case of a core system that drives a significant portion of your practice operations - don’t look past an opportunity to invest in personalized training. Vendors can bring their staff and expertise to your office and get hands on. There is a cost - but can be a valuable investment in jump starting new capabilities in servicing your clients.
These can be vendor add-on modules to systems you are currently using - be it features available but not used - or new modules introduced during the current year. Once you have fielded feedback from your team, you may find opportunity here to match a product or service expansion to complaints and issues from yourself or team members. This will enable you to drop in budget dollars for both upgrades and training on new features.
Finally, acquisitions cover initiatives that will require new products and services. This may be to upgrade current capabilities for your practice and clients or to begin offering new services.
Some examples from a recent advisor I worked with:
These acquisitions can be large or small from a financial perspective - but they might have a large impact on empowering staff to service clients, reducing paper or otherwise creating efficiencies.
When reviewed collectively in this method - you not only develop a more accurate budget for technology spending, but by the nature of the process also have a framework for a 2010 project plan for initiatives.