I get this question frequently. It sounds something like, “we want to deploy both a contact management system and a document management system – which one should we do first?”
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A: The answer is different for each firm. To help determine whether your firm should choose contact management software or document management software first, go through the following exercise first:
Ask candid questions about the last few technology deployments your firm implemented. Did the project take longer than you think it should have? Did the results exceed your expectation? How long did it take for your employees embrace the change?
If you can’t rate your firm a 9 or 10 (where 10 exceeds expectations) on past technology adoption in your practice, then I recommend undertaking a technology change that creates *immediate* success for your practice. Immediate success means your team embraces the new process quickly and ends up asking for more – as in “hey - that was awesome - what’s next – how else can we use this system?”
So, create the expectation up front with your team of what immediate success will be on either contact or document management to help make your selection of which system to undertake first.
Regarding document management, my definition of immediate success is to scan and file all incoming client paperwork. Think of it this way - your overall process doesn't change much. Instead of copying, the employee scans. Instead of creating a paper label for the file folder, your assistant creates an electronic label. The fun part – that is, finding files, is much faster and easier than dealing with paper files.
Also, the time it takes “go live” (from planning and installation to retrieving incoming client paperwork electronically) is about 10 days.
Having worked with contact management software continuously over the past10 years, contact management tends to be a much longer deployment since there are so many features to implement such as automation and management reporting. While these are the tools most firms purchase contact management for, there’s a lot of up front work a firm has to do to leverage these features (e.g., first define workflow, populate data in the CRM, etc.).
In my experience, setting up document management first means that you can dedicate your full attention to contact management software, while reaping the benefit having all of your documents accessible throughout the time you are working through all the phases of deploying contact management.
For firms that start with contact management first, they typically push off document management for one to two years when during that time, they could have been storing client records electronically that would enable them to:
- effectively find information
- eliminate the work of migrating another 1 or 2 years more worth of files
- have electronic disaster recovery in place for client records rather then push this out
While I do recommend selecting both contact and document management applications in concert with one another to understand how to leverage the workflow in each, I recommend employing them back to back instead of simultaneously. That way, your staff can leverage each system to its fullest, rather than obtain a smattering of proficiency in each system while still trying to keep up with their day to day work. They’ll be happier with their quick successes, and you’ll be happier with the outcome.