Halloween's approaching and it's scary movie season. For many RIA firms, though, technology horrors aren't reserved for October. Most firm leaders are not IT experts, and some have fallen into costly traps and dead ends. These serve as cautionary tales for all of us when considering our next technology move.
THE VANISHING IMAGING SYSTEM
Many firms, including mine, have gone paperless. The benefits are being able to find and share information quickly from anywhere, improved security and eliminating all those filing cabinets. Core components include fast duplex scanners, an easy access online file system that's integrated with your workflow, intuitive taxonomy (the way files are named and organized) and staff fluent in using the process.
I have seen a firm invest in good scanners and file storage but continue to rely completely on hard copy files. Their investment in the technology gave them a negative return, and I am sure the scanners are now gathering dust. How could this happen?
The firm's leadership approached this project the same way they would handle a change in where they buy their office supplies. They made the purchase decision and left the entire implementation of the project to their receptionist, who was ill-equipped for the task. The supplier provided implementation support, but the firm was not engaged. Leadership didn't provide the receptionist the time or training to learn the new process, and didn't have the right level of involvement on the project. Unable to see immediate productivity results, the firm's leadership assumed the technology didn't perform and abandoned the project.
Moral of the story: Your technology investment requires commitment from the firm's leadership to achieve a stated productivity or quality goal. Leadership must allocate the appropriate resources for training, implementation and support, hold all parties accountable and be involved throughout the project by confirming milestones have been met.
ZOMBIE IT SUPPORT
A firm owner belonged to a local business organization and got to know another member, who represented an IT support company. This salesman had absolutely no technology skills, but was good at talking up his company's expertise in hardware, networking and security. After a few meetings and presentations, his firm was hired to upgrade and support the firm's server and network. With the promise of faster access to their technology tools from anywhere, ongoing remote support of their hardware and software and 24x7 support, the firm's owner was confident it was a good investment.
After several months the staff members began to see that they had been sold a great story. Their network would go down and multiple calls to the local support company were necessary to get a response. Support technicians often would be unable to resolve the issue for days. Remote access was promised, but the support team was unable to deliver. Countless problems led to the realization that these experts were lacking the basic skills and organization needed to support a small business' technology needs.
Moral of the story: Well-supported technology is critical to your business. By moving your technology strategy to cloud-hosted, well-established providers, you are left with desktop or laptop computers, tablets and phones and a local network connecting them to each other and the Internet. Moving to cloud-hosted tools is not the same as moving your software applications on your office server to rented space at a server farm that allows Internet access. Leave the business-critical application and security monitoring and support to firms who can hire teams of highly trained and supported engineers. The local IT support business can fix your computer or printer.
Care to share your technology horror stories? What's gone wrong for you? Join the conversation!/b>
Dave O'Brien is a NAPFA-registered financial adviser in Richmond, Va., and owner of O'Brien Financial Planning, Inc., a fee-only registered investment adviser. Prior to launching his firm in 2006, Dave spent 18 years at General Electric Co. where he managed information technology and operations teams in several industries.