Implementing the right technology is as much the result of sound processes as it is about installing the right solution. In fact, without a good approach, a technology overhaul can have disastrous results.
The technology infrastructure in most family offices evolves incrementally-components are added gradually, as they are needed. Practices sometimes reach a point, however, where major changes are needed to meet their burgeoning operational needs.
Technology changes can be inspired by a number of factors. Sometimes upgrades are needed to keep up with business growth and to maintain quality client service. Competition can also be a driver of change, forcing businesses to replace antiquated systems for technologies that are more efficient and less labor intensive. In the advisory business, changes in compliance rules can also be drivers of change. Or a practice may simply want to upgrade technologies in anticipation of future growth.
Whatever the reasons, it is never too early to start the thought process. What follows are some guideposts for advisors to use as they wend their way toward a technology transformation.
1. Develop the game plan.
To quote Yogi Berra, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else." A clear and manageable plan is essential to keeping you and the organization focused on the big picture, as well as the details that are critical for success. A comprehensive plan will be necessary, but first get your thoughts together with a map of where you are, where you're going and how you're going to get there.
Assess your "tech house."
The first step is to clarify what's working well and where the problems are.
Assess your mission-critical functions: general ledger, portfolio analysis, performance measurement, partnership accounting, reporting, bill paying and so forth. What's working and what's not?
Assess the overall system: Parts may work but the system as a whole may require too much manual intervention.
Where is the business going? Wayne Gretzky skated to where the puck was going to be, not where it was. Make a wish list. What's missing?
Prioritize the technological functions you need to run the business. Which are mission-critical and which are not? Which functions are needed to serve clients and grow the business? This will help you decide which areas to attack first.
2. Decide on your approach.
Now that you have a clearer view of your goals, think about how you will achieve them. Should you start fresh and replace your entire system or focus on isolated components of your infrastructure? Depending on your goals, business situation and funding, there are several options.
Strategic or tactical?
A strategic approach, which considers the entire platform in context of the business direction, is very comprehensive with far-reaching costs and benefits.