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Digital Battleground

Digital Battleground

15-03-2017 | Insight

“Life moves pretty fast,” observed Ferris Bueller back in 1986. It’s truer thirty years on than ever. Re-watching the UK TV series Life on Mars recently, it again struck me how alien a world without tech seems, yet how recent our dependence has developed.

  • Stewart Bell
    Stewart
    Bell
    Business Coach at Audere Coaching & Consulting
Disclaimer

Stewart Bell is Founder & Business Coach at Audere Coaching & Consulting. The opinions and statements are deemed to be those of the author, and do not represent the view of Robeco.

More are seeking choice in what they use, how they use and how it enables their chosen business model.

As such, tech is emerging as the new battleground for achieving much needed business efficiency gains.

The last decade has seen fundamental change in the way software is used and provided. We’ve seen the dominance of all-in-one solutions replaced by best-of-breed apps, software subscriptions, extensions and plugins, with data flying freely back and forth between.

The adviser tech world hasn’t been so quick to adapt to this trend. Many of the tools used by advisers continue to be mostly of the all-in-one nature.

Often comprehensive in their approach and certainly aiming to do all that’s required, they’ve sometimes fallen down on form and usability factors.

This is fostering the rise of more small players in the market.

Often they’re advisers, sometimes with tech experience themselves, who decided the only way to get the solution they wanted was to build it.

Some are larger businesses who, having scratched their own itch, have decided to take it to the world.

Others are fresh new entrants, ready to disrupt their way into the market, by offering to do things more established players cannot.

It’s an exciting new frontier, but we’re in a transition phase.

Whilst more advisers are seeking a solution where their CRM speaks to their online marketing tool, which triggers their workflow management, which enjoys a perfectly symbiotic relationship with the plan production engine, and they can plug and play additional elements in and out at will, we’re not there yet.

The general agreement is a complete solution is likely one to three years away.

In the meantime, two strategies are clear if you’re pulling your hair out now.

  1. Go with what's established, invest fully and wait it out, or
  2. Plug and play today, with the express understanding that integration plays second fiddle to functionality.

Within our Leverage Advice firm program, we have a number of advisers pushing boundaries. Their overriding strategy is the second one; plug and play.

The choice is to not commit to a single incomplete solution, but rather pick and choose best of breed, maintain the ability to get out quickly and manage data disparity by only putting into systems what is absolutely needed.

It’s not perfect, but then neither is the alternative.

It’s a moving feast and increasingly one big lever for helping advisers increase capacity to manage existing clients and help new ones. It’s an exciting time to watch it unfold, from a tech perspective at least.

Two questions beg to be answered.

  1. Will we see the rise of new incumbents, or numerous smaller players?
  2. Will we see new licensing solutions that rely more intrinsically on tech to drive their proposition, such as XY Planner and Personal Capital have in the US?

It may be too early to tell.

In the meantime, for firms eager to start tinkering, playing and potentially even finding a compromise solution before the final panacea, here are six plug-and-play tools that already fuel our world.

  1. We use and recommend Teamwork for automating workflow management. It’s simple to grasp, easy to adopt, has threads that can be designed fast and supports time based task assignment. Other options include Basecamp 3 and DaPulse. You can absolutely choose to use what you already have, but there are simpler tools which can do the job more effectively. If integration comes second to workflow automation, this is where I’d look.
  2. Slack is a tool many are using to get internal communication out of the email environment. It combines the communication style of Twitter (in a private setting) thereby removing the fluff that goes with email (introductions, sign-offs, etc). Work can be organised according to channels (#client, #project, etc), leaving email for the business of dealing with the outside world.
  3. ActiveCampaign has been our choice for marketing CRM for the past two years, and we've never regretted the decision (despite looking at Infusionsoft and Ontraport, to name just two). It can automate campaigns, react automatically to what's going on on our website, give insight into how clients and prospects are using our resources plus all the other things you'd expect from standard mail marketing tools. It's also super cheap. Simply, it does things for your marketing that financial planning CRMs don’t seem to be really considering.
  4. Voxer and Rev.com are Leveraged program staples. Again, the goal is to minimise the time wasted in communicating via the long-form, written medium. Voxer’s great for recording short personal messages quickly for everyone from clients to team members, whilst Rev is a hugely effective transcription for audio file notes and more.

At the core of everything lives cloud-based file storage. We use Dropbox, but Google Drive and Box are also similarly effective. If you’re looking to systematise, this is essential for creating an accessible central storage place for form letters, documents, process maps and the like. This means that accessing your latest templates is about hitting a link, instead of re-uploading to multiple locations when changes are made. One link, so when it's updated, it's updated everywhere.

Finally, for you tech-tinkerers, Zapier is great for building bridges between tools you need to be on talking terms. It provides a low-tech means of linking together applications for specific tasks, by setting up what is known as Zaps. It’s a lite version of what an interconnected tech world will eventually look like.

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Disclaimer

Stewart Bell is Founder & Business Coach at Audere Coaching & Consulting. The opinions and statements are deemed to be those of the author, and do not represent the view of Robeco.

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