First step in tech overhaul? Post-it notes

Advisers counseled to write down job functions and work flows on sticky pads; like a storyboard

Mar 5, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

By Lavonne Kuykendall

Information technology can help advisory firms improve their business, but even leading-edge firms still need help from old-school aids such as Post-It notes and whiteboards.

“Great technology won't make advisory firms more profitable unless they have a systematic approach,” said Spenser Segal, chief executive officer of software provider ActiFi Inc. at the Financial Planning Association's 2012 Business Solutions Conference in San Francisco on Sunday.

Mr. Spenser, who opened the conference, said that even with the best technology, advisers still need to go through the low-tech exercise of documenting exactly how their firm performs tasks in order to systematize their businesses. Sessions throughout Sunday and Monday morning focused on ways advisers can develop processes and use technology to automate their work.

Mr. Segal said that outfits he worked with often started by documenting all the steps involved in firm functions, such as preparing for client meetings, bringing customers on board and planning events. One way to do that is by writing down each task involved on a Post-it note and arranging those notes in the proper order.

“We all do it differently, even though we all use the same system,” Mr. Segal said. “There are a lot of single points of failure.”

Developing a flowchart for each firm function is a key to delegating work, streamlining operations and increasing profitability, he said.

“We have to systematize to create efficiencies,” Mr. Segal said. “There is no return on investment on technology purchases per se, it is how it translates to efficiency or increased value.”

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