Aim for Successful Integration, Not Just a Successful Implementation

By Susan Glover, President, Susan Glover & Associates, LLC on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Implementing technology is an overwhelming process. In the end, you may be relieved if it comes in only four weeks late and just 10% over budget.
 
You may consider the implementation successful when the software/hardware is installed, data is transferred from the old system to the new system, and your staff receives training from the vendor.
 
Don’t cross off the implementation on your to-do list and begin calculating ROI’s quite yet
Once you have implemented new technology, the next step is to integrate the technology into your practice. Albeit challenging, your reward will be the ability to better manage all areas of your business and improve client services. Imagine your firm spending more time on data analysis rather than data processing. Envision developing “information packets” for your clients based on their information needs, not just the default reports from your technology.
 
Let programmers focus on API’s and other technical aspects of integration
Integration doesn’t have to be about technical words that you don’t understand. You don’t need a guided tour of “behind the scenes” of API, SaaS, and other technical buzzwords. You do need an understanding of how your new technology will fit into your business and how everyone in your firm can use it.
 
Begin by re-thinking data integration
It’s easy to understand integration as data seamlessly moving from one system to another and striving to get there.  Emphasize other data integration needs in your firm such as data sharing. Many areas of your firm use the same data but require additional processing to meet their needs. You may also have a need to extract data from multiple sources and process the data into information for problem-solving and decision-making analysis. Think about how client, portfolio and performance data are used throughout your firm for different purposes.
 
The key to data integration is data availability and accuracy in your technology to extract and use effectively. It would be beneficial if this process was done before or during implementation, but the task of ensuring all of the data resides correctly in your system usually falls off the priority list.
 
And think beyond the data
You also need to integrate technology with your firm’s processes, functions and staff. The most common example is integrating the CRM with your firm’s work-flow processes. Many firms are doing this and are enjoying the benefits of back-office efficiencies and better understanding of their client base. The same practice can be applied to other processes used in your firm. For example, the technologies and processes used for your billing and accounting functions can be integrated to better assess your own firm’s financial situation. Integrating technology with your staff is easier to identify. If your staff is really using the technology to deliver solutions, integration has taken place.  
 
Integrating technology into your firm is an evolving process and has no end date. Begin with an analysis that is done in Excel or a process that is repetitive. It’s about getting it done right, not necessarily getting it done now.
 
Remember when…
After the overwhelming process of just implementing the technology, it may seem like successfully integrating technology exists only in a perfect world and is not a realistic goal. Remember when you said the same thing years ago about the capabilities of what your technology delivers today?
 
 
Sue Glover is President of Susan Glover & Associates, a consulting firm that ensures advisory firms have the information they need to make the best decisions for their clients and their own firm. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, she assists advisors in evaluating, selecting implementing, and using technology. Visit her website at www.susangloverassociates.com. You can email her at sue@susangloverassociates.com.
 
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