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#14: Designing a Tech Stack

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How to Select, Build, and Implement a Strong Tech Stack

Many of our readers are familiar with Stephen Covey and his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There are so many lessons to be derived from its pages and wisdom to absorb. One lesson that comes to mind is found early in the book: begin with the end in mind or the habit of vision. 

Vision is crucial in financial planning practices. We talk about this all the time when creating your client service matrix, appropriately pricing your services, and building your practice. You need to think about the experience you want to create for your clients, your team, and yourself and find the right tools, resources, and support to bring that vision to life. 

Today, we are going to talk about the habit of vision and how it applies to one of the most ubiquitous, ambiguous, and broad elements of our field: technology. Every firm needs to find, implement, and manage the right technology to increase productivity and define the user experience.

But how can you find the right technology for your firm? Today, we are going to talk about three crucial elements of finding the right technology stack. 

Start with the Experience

There is an old proverb about a person who spends their entire life and career climbing a ladder. Day and night, weekday and weekend are spent inching up. On the day where they finally reach the top, they look over the wall only to find out that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. 

This lesson is almost too easy to do with technology. You become so focused on what the technology is and how it works that you forget your vision, the end goal of how you wanted it to perform for your company and clients. 

In business, everything almost always comes back to the clients. So when you are deciding on the technology to support your business, the question you really need to be asking yourself is: what is the experience you want to deliver to the client? 

Now is a good time to go back to that client service matrix and think about which parts of that experience intersect with technology. Below are some questions to help you think more about this connection between the client service matrix and the technology needed to help bring it about.

  • Will clients have access to online account information?
  • How will they interact with their financial plan?
  • Are there online document exchanges?
  • How are appointments scheduled and do they get automatic reminders?
  • Does your firm communicate with electronic newsletters, emails, and videos?

Instead of focusing on how you are going to get everything done, focus more on the technology through the eyes of your clients. It’s easy to slip into thinking about profitability, reputation, etc. but thinking about the client is always the right place to start. Don’t limit yourself to the technology you currently have in place. It might be working well or you might need to reevaluate based on your ideal client and their needs. 

Once you are clear on what your clients need, it is important to also consider what your team needs to be successful.

  • What do you want their day to be like as the work to create, produce, and deliver the experience that you’ve designed?
  • How many pieces of software do they interact with to do their jobs and who is in charge of what?

Advisors need to think about the user experience on all fronts in order to find the right type of technology for them, even if they aren’t the ones using it on a daily basis. Take transactions as an example. At CX, our advisors don’t process transactions, which makes it easy to disregard the platform used to process those transactions. Maybe it is really great or maybe it requires employees to jump through a lot of hoops. It’s easy to understand a tool from a high-level but it’s another thing to know how it operates on a daily basis and you want tools that set your team up for success. 

But technology only works as well as the people who use it. As you think about bringing in and adopting new technology, you always need to keep the psychological needs of the people using it in mind. If you don’t, the technology adoption will never be as effective and efficient as it could be. Remember, technology doesn’t manage itself—people manage technology. 

Sort Through Your Choices

Now that you have crafted the vision you want for your clients, team, and business you get to go tech shopping! Brace yourself, it isn’t as much fun as it sounds. In wealth management, the options are nearly limitless. Every conference cycle there is new software designed to magically solve all of your problems. Well after a number of years in this business, we can say with confidence that magic doesn’t have much to do with it. 

How are advisors supposed to choose?

Anytime you ask “how,” you need to go back to what Simon Sinek calls the discipline of the “how.” In this case, the discipline is to return to the client service experience you designed. From there, it is simplest to eliminate entire categories of tools that don’t fall into that service-matrix. For example, if your experience doesn’t include account aggregation, then you don’t need an account aggregation tool. Just cross it off the list. 

This becomes difficult when you are swayed by a compelling presentation or the latest technology, but if it’s not directly part of your client experience you don’t need it. Eliminating options can actually help you narrow down your choices and find the right set of tools for you. 

When in doubt, head back to your client experience. When you only purchase tools and set up processes and hire team members that support that vision, you will be able to create cohesion, consistency, and strength in your client experience. 

As you strive to purchase and implement the right technology, be sure that you are actively balancing the following:

  • Implementation
  • User-experience
  • Effectiveness
  • Cost

Likely, something will have to give. But it is important that you find the highest quality tool that will set you and your team up for success. Sometimes that tool might cost more or it might need more regular maintenance. Sometimes that tool is easily accessible and takes minimal implementation, whereas others may be more disruptive. Always weigh the pros and cons and use your client experience as the deciding factor. 

How to Put the Pieces Together

There are two main hurdles advisors face when implementing a tech stack:

  • Integration
  • Adoption

Integration is the process of making each piece of software work together. If your CRM and your trade order and reporting software tools don’t talk to each other, then your team has to do double or triple data-entry which casts a negative experience not only for your team members who experience heightened levels of busy work but also for your clients due to the increased chance of errors every time a task has to be performed on multiple systems. 

The fancy term that used for software talking to each other is bidirectional data flow, and the more systems that can have automated bidirectional data flow, then the less chance there is of errors occurring. Also, the more efficient the team is because they don’t have to enter things multiple times and waste that time in doing so. That talking to each other, the bidirectional data flow, doesn’t happen automatically and not right off the shelf but it becomes a really critical piece of building the accuracy and efficiency of the tech stack.

Each piece of software is its own complex system and continuously is being upgraded by the vendors, so integrations break all the time. Every update has to be assessed, broken links have to be re-established, and there’s a constant process of maintenance required in keeping that tech stack running well. Once again, we’re back to systems and processes even within the automation of our tech stack.

Adoption refers to the acceptance of technology from clients, staff, and advisors. Many people are resistant to changes, especially where workflows and processes are concerned. A new technology stack can be a big change for firms and in order to promote adoption, there are a few things you can do.

  • Educate people on the benefits of the new tools
  • Provide ample advanced notice
  • Enable them to test the software 

Technology + Vision

In the end, technology is all about people, just like everything else. In order to create a strong tech stack for your business, you need to understand your vision for the client experience, the user experience, and overall implementation. 

When you choose technology that supports your vision, stays true to your mission, and enhances the client experience you designed, you are in really good shape. Remember to use our client experience tool to help you start to put the pieces together. 

 

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