The second step is to create a comprehensive job outline that details the various duties and expectations of an employee. Such an outline provides a framework for training and evaluating an employee, based on specific criteria. With work-flow management reports that relate the procedures to the job outlines, management can then properly and objectively evaluate employee performance, thus ensuring that for any given task or set of tasks, the highest levels of efficiency can be achieved. With such reporting, it is also possible to reduce time demands on managers to train and directly oversee employees. It may also be possible to uncover inefficiencies in a particular task or set of tasks by revealing time discrepancies from one employee to another.

With specific work-flow groups of tasks defined, developed and systematized, it is also necessary to centralize task and work-flow group assignment, and this is step three. With manager/partners overriding other manager/partners, employees can quickly become overwhelmed and discouraged by the lack of process controls. By having such controls in place, employees can rely on a dependable standard for the work-flow assignment.

The final step is to integrate technology systems to increase efficiency by having management report generation and time studies made a part of the technology solution. With systems in place to record task completion, follow-up is a snap. Reports can be generated that uncover gaps, which focuses management on where the problem areas are. This saves time and builds greater efficiency into the overall process. The result is a true work-flow management system that might be illustrated as shown in the chart on this page.

The 2007 Moss-Adams Compensation and Staffing Study of Advisory Firms concluded that, with fee compression issues, the only way to compete is by creating much larger firms, referred to in the study as "market dominators." With higher AUM figures to point to, it is felt that such firms possess greater negotiating strength with product vendors, etc., as well as economies of scale, which could drive down internal operating costs. While this might be true, it is premature to write off the smaller firms, since work-flow management techniques, if applied correctly, could allow such firms to achieve substantial operational cost savings while potentially increasing employee productivity and net revenue.   

David Lawrence, AIF (Accredited Investment Fiduciary), is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of David Lawrence and Associates, a practice-consulting firm based in Lutz, Fla. ( David Lawrence is a public speaker on a variety of leadership, financial and technical topics. For details, visit

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