Michael Kitces #FinTech

4 ways to successfully prepare your firm for big tech changes

Understanding how you work with your technology today will ensure you understand the impact of the changes you are planning

Dec 18, 2015 @ 10:44 am

By Neal Quon

It's not necessary to rehash popular quotes about change. Nor do we need dire warnings that if change doesn't happen, disaster is certain. More than ever before, we are aware of the demand for change from customers to our businesses. Moreover, we have seen the disruption to traditional business models outside of financial services (think Uber and taxis), and in our own backyards (think the current emergence of robo-advisers).

Getting into the appropriate frame of mind for change is not just about defining your requirements and affirming procedures. Those are essential steps. Yet there is more. Before your first demonstration or white paper, you have to consider the culture of how you operate your business and manage your staff. Understanding how you work and interact with your business technology today, good or bad, will ensure you understand the impact of the changes you are planning.

Talk amongst your team about likes and dislikes of current technology, how you have worked around missing features in systems, and why you are willing to change. Not everyone will have the same needs, and often even the frustrations are for differing problems. However, talking through it will ensure you all understand your differing roles and requirements.

What may be the most difficult element of preparing for technology changes in your business — understanding you will not be experiencing business as usual. This means accepting that there will be confusion, work may be completed more slowly at first, and some signs of frustration will arise. Yet in telling yourself these are important steps, it means you are seeing, and communicating to your staff, the vision for where these activities and challenges will lead. Namely, more efficient systems and higher-quality output for your clients.

(More tech insights: 3 tech due diligence steps advisers should take before new purchases)

There are four things you can do to position yourself and your business for success with big technology changes:

1. Implement a strong internal communication plan. From the top down, this is where you begin, or else you may not get out of the idea phase. “The boss” has to be seen to embrace and believe in what will be happening in the business.

2. Nominate a strong project manager. If there is more than one person in the business, you absolutely need a strong project manager to serve as the point person and stakeholder for your tech initiatives. Someone who can work with all vendors, internal staff and outside consultants.

3. Identify 'scope creep.' A term from the corporate enterprise, but relevant to tech change, is scope creep. This is when initial requirements are defined and decisions are made – and then – one by one, additional requirements begin “appearing” and put risk into the successful completion of the project. Your project manager will need to identify this activity and put a stop to it.

4. Develop a report card. Not to punish folks for bad grades, but to track your progress and learn as your grow into your new technology. Measuring means affirmation that things are getting done, and perhaps more important, you and your team are understanding how to effectively use the new technology in real world scenarios.

It is important to remember that in any business, we have many different levels of skill and savvy with technology. Taking the time to invest in your organizational mental health will build a stronger, cohesive belief that your technology change will ultimately result in positive returns. Taking these steps and getting into the right perspective will also make you more confident in communicating clearly with those helping you – both vendors and consultants.

If you are planning new technology initiatives in 2016, consider taking these steps prior to the winter holidays. That may help make those business resolutions more likely to happen, and help you ring in a productive new year.

Neal Quon is the co-founder of QuonWarrene.

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