Our article was published in Barron's on January 20, 2021.
After implementing a tech upgrade, my clients either embrace the change or are heard saying, “We’ve always done it that way,” adding, “let’s make sure the new technology can support the way we always did it.” Which best describes your firm?
When discussing change, all roads lead to technology. If you want to enhance your client experience, upgrade your legacy software. If you want to improve staff efficiencies, invest in work-flow software. For many advisory firms, unfortunately, the road ends there.
Once new technology is phased in, too many advisors initially believe the hard part is over. Soon enough, reality quickly sets in—changing technology is the beginning of a long and challenging process.
Welcome to change management. Instructions on change management are not included in your software user’s manual and many advisors are unprepared to tackle the challenges from implementing change. Best-practice advice from vendors doesn’t always fit a firm’s structure or culture.
Sometimes the hardest part of planning for change is where to start. Begin with a focus on your clients and internal structure. Here are my clients’ experiences:
It’s all about the clients. When upgrading legacy portfolio software, I manage two types of clients—those who quickly see the benefits of the new software and immediately plan to deliver new information in an updated format (for example, client portals), and those who insist on delivering the reports to clients in the same method.
The goal of upgrading legacy software is to upgrade the client experience. If you deliver the same information in the same format, clients won’t see your investment in technology. Implementing the same process can create complacency, resulting in resistance to change. Changing the reporting process after migration means implementing the same process twice.
Clients who implement a new reporting process during the migration understand upgrading the experience of their clients is the goal. One client called a firm meeting on a software conversion project’s first day and announced the immediate goal is to develop better client reports. A team was tasked to work on this. When the project was completed, new reports were delivered with immediate client satisfaction.
Firmwide changes require firmwide participation. A common mistake when implementing new technology is having the operations team perform all tasks involved in the project. This strategy leads to implementing what you already have, not what you can have, and that’s what halts an advance. The project’s direction and decisions impact everyone at a firm—it takes more than the operations staff.
Committees can assist in managing firmwide changes and help create a smooth transition to a new environment. I suggest a client-experience team to focus on providing the best information and tools to your clientele. This team can learn the new software, identify new features your clients will appreciate, and test several prototypes—all during the implementation process. Another team can identify changes in internal workflows due to new software. The new software won’t replicate all your current processes in the same manner, and you will be disappointed if you try.
Don’t let a change in technology leave you living the well-known cliché that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Contact us for assistance on implementing a successful change management plan for your new technology.