Advisors have never had it so good on the technology front, but all the whiz-bang software in the world won’t help advisors who don’t have organized processes, according to several tech gurus speaking Thursday at the Shareholders Service Group annual conference in San Diego.

Michael Kitces, publisher of and a partner at Pinnacle Advisory Group, and Bill Winterberg, founder of FP Pad, also revealed some of their favorite easy-to-use software.

Winterberg likes WorkFlowy, a program that documents work processes. “It’s a real neat tool, it’s online and syncs with mobile devices,” he said.
RescueTime is helpful for tracking your time, Winterberg said. “I use it each and every day. It knows how much time I’m spending on Facebook, and how much time I’m spending on client phone calls.”

Kitces likes Screencast-O-Matic for teaching and documenting a work process with his personal assistant. (Mac users can use a similar program, Camtasia.)

“You hit a button, and you’re now recording everything on your screen” along with your  voice, Kitces said of Screencast-O-Matic. “I use it for every single process I’m trying to delegate. … I upload [the recording] to a private YouTube channel [and] send the link to my assistant. … We now have a list of probably 40 or 50 things that I’ve delegated down and never done again since I sent the link.”

He is also a fan of Evernote, a note-taking and archiving program. “It is a central Web-based platform where you can take notes about anything for everything,” Kitces said. “If I’m out and about, and I just had a conversation with someone and heard an idea for an article, I pull out my phone, punch in a note and the next time I’m at a computer, it has a list of all my writing ideas.”

It also works well for “building out a policies and procedure manual, he added. “It’s like having a shared workbook.”

Kitces and Winterberg also recommend mind-mapping software, which is useful for graphically showing ideas through diagrams and other visuals. iThoughtsHD works for Macs, iNote is the version for iPads. MindGenius and MindMeister are also popular products.
“I’ve never been more blown away by clients when I’ve shown them a mind map of their entire financial situation—their family members, their goals, their insurance, investments—all on one big screen,” Winterberg said.

While these simple programs can be handy for discrete tasks, advisors won’t benefit from their enterprise software unless they have systematized processes that can be automated, the tech experts warned.

“We have lot of challenges as advisors in trying to get more systematized in what we do,” Kitces said.

He recalled how he once worked with an advisor who wasn’t getting much benefit from rebalancing software.
That was odd since, like many RIA firms, Kitces’ own firm has found rebalancing software to be a huge time saver.

“Once we delved into it, we found that [the advisor’s] version of a model portfolio was to have 100 models for 100 clients,” Kitces said.

That wasn’t a system that could be automated. The solution was getting the advisor to rethink what he was doing for clients and standardize the process.