For this, many firms have turned to some sort of collaboration portal (or sharing platform) to permit a better way to share information, documents, etc. with collaborators. There are now several viable choices available, from the free offerings with limited functionality to the more full-featured collaboration portals. Microsoft offers a free service called Windows SkyDrive. Offering up to 25 GB free, SkyDrive has password-protected file-sharing capabilities similar to Google Docs ( However, neither of these offer sophisticated collaboration tools inherent in the more full-featured portals such as Family Office Network (, Junxure ClientView (, Advisor Products Advisor Vault (, and Microsoft SharePoint for enterprise systems (, to name just a few. 

Because collaboration involves heightened communication with collaboration partners, having mobile access to a collaboration portal can be extremely helpful. More and more advisors are turning to mobile applications particularly as connection speeds become more realistic with newer generation smartphones. For this, there are literally hundreds of potential choices, including such well-known names as Adobe Connect ( and IBM's Lotus Messaging and Collaboration ( The new Windows Phone (, using the Windows 7 mobile operating system, has direct access to Microsoft Windows SkyDrive and can access all Microsoft Office documents, including its OneNote program, with full sharing capabilities. Similar functions can be found with Google Android phones and Apple iPhones as well.

In an open-architecture environment, new ways of communicating and doing business will emerge. The traditional office environment could also change. Virtual office space, meeting rooms and outsourced staff could fundamentally alter the way some firms choose to do business. Others may stick with more traditional office arrangements, but integrate other elements of the open architecture concept. In the end, these are choices that, if used properly, could increase the efficiency and profitability of a financial advisor's firm.

David L. Lawrence, RFC, ChFE, AIF, is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of, a practice consulting firm based in San Diego, Calif. ( The Efficient Practice offers an advisor network and a monthly newsletter.

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