Technology advances have been one of the driving forces allowing independent advisors to provide same services today, that only a few short years ago, was reserved for larger firms with large technology staffs and budgets. Technology levels the playing field and provides a competitive advantage for those willing to identify and implement the best technology to support their firm’s vision and goals. In other words, it is extremely important to the continued success and growth of your firm.
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A recent Financial Planning Magazine Technology Survey had some interesting results regarding technology usage changes from previous years. One attention-grabbing piece of data in the report was that 82% of advisors do not have a technology plan. Nearly 50% of the survey’s respondents have no schedule for reviewing their technology needs. The survey found that these numbers have stayed fairly consistent over the years.
The article further went on to point out that, even given the percentages above, advisors are aware of their needs due to challenges they face. Surveyed advisors pointed out that the single biggest challenge they would like technology to solve for them was WORKFLOW (40%), followed by TIME MANAGEMENT (20%), and CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS (18%).
Having no structure for reviewing your technology and planning for your needs, it is not surprising that firms make technology purchases that result in a mishmash of solutions that don’t seem to do what was originally intended.
As the article pointed out, advisors know what areas that provide challenge and need improvement in their firms. The challenge is to focus on these challenges, your firm needs, and the goals derived from your business plan when creating your technology plan. The technology plan aligns with your strategic plan and focuses on the technology needed to carry out the goals identified in your strategic plan. Since this is the time of year many firms begin thinking about their strategic plan for next year, think about how your technology plan will integrate into your strategic plan.
So, how do you implement a technology plan in your firm to stay “ahead of the game” that helps reach the goals of the firm?
Follow these steps to analyze the needs of your firm to develop a technology plan that will help you stay up-to-date with your technology needs.
1. List all the technology (software, services, and devices) that your firm uses.
2. Conduct a SWOT (strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) assessment of your firm.
What does your firm do well (strengths) and what areas need improvement (weaknesses)?
List the top 3-5 strengths and weaknesses.
3. Perform a gap analysis to see where technology can help reach your business goals for the next year. What processes need to be improved to help reach these goals?
4. Refer back to your business plan and identify your top three goals for next year.
Which business goals do you have that involve using technology? Could these goals be reached by better utilizing your current technology? Do you need to upgrade current technology to allow you to reach these goals? Or do you need to purchase a new piece of technology to help you achieve your goals? Think utilize, upgrade, or purchase.
Oftentimes, it isn’t the technology that is the problem, it is the process currently used that involves using the technology. The process may need to be updated or changed to get the maximum use from the technology.
A few other recommendations to incorporate in your technology plan:
· Create a vision of where you would like to see the firm, technology wise, in three years. Some of your ideas might seem a little “out there” and impossible to achieve at the present time. That’s fine, think in terms of best possible solutions for you to reach your goals.
· Does this technology vision support your business plan vision of where the firm will be in three years? The tech vision should support your business vision.
· Make sure your current software is being utilized to its fullest potential as it relates to your needs. If not, figure out how it could be used more wisely and change any needed processes. This step involves your staff. Make sure your firm has the will, skill, and time to better utilize your current technology and future technology purchases.
· Buy the best fit solution for your firm. It is easy to get caught up in all the great features of a certain product. But stop and ask yourself; will I use all the features of this product? Is there a less expensive product that does what I need that covers 80% of my needs?
· Get training. Technology in and of itself is not the answer. Provide proper training to your employees. Encourage them to attend training. When purchasing new technology, make sure you also budget for getting the proper training.
Following these steps and recommendations will help you develop a technology plan and allow you to stay up-to-date with your technology needs. The technology plan process does not need to be complicated. Keep it simple and conduct the plan periodically and consistently to stay on top of your needs. Each year (select a date- do it at least annually), analyze your technology as it relates to your strategic plan to ensure your technology is keeping up with the strategic needs of your firm.