Too often when advisers are considering new technology, their decision-making is focused almost entirely on the final price tag.
Instead of engaging in an analysis of all the qualitative and quantitative benefits that the technology can offer their practice, the extent of their examination tends to begin and end with the question, "What's it going to cost?"
Obviously, costs are important. But there are other equally important factors to consider. Measuring quantitative benefits such as increased productivity, reduced personnel and fewer hours spent on specific tasks will help to justify the spend and allow for return on investment to be projected.
Qualitative returns are more difficult to measure, but they are equally significant. Factors such as increased client satisfaction, enhanced staff morale and competitive differentiation are vital elements that need to be considered in any new technology acquisition.
SPEND OR INVESTMENT?
I have recently experienced this emphasis on costs more directly in the launch of a new platform United Capital is making available to independent advisers.
In my discussions with potential customers, I have seen up-close how advisers typically evaluate and justify the acquisition of new technology. The initial reaction is almost always focused on the cost instead of the benefit.
These potential customers would be better served if they looked at the technology from a more holistic point of view, identifying what the overall benefits are to be gained from its use. Rather than focusing on technology solely as a spend, it should be viewed as an investment in their business.
If technology is primarily considered to be a cost, the natural impulse will be to devalue everything and achieve the lowest possible cost. Instead, it would be more advantageous to consider both the quantitative and qualitative factors of such a purchase.
Advisers should take into account not only how technology can make their offices work more productively, but also how it can drive higher client retention rates, higher client satisfaction rates, and higher close rates for new and prospective clients.
Increased client satisfaction is a key qualitative metric. Utilizing technology to enhance the client experience will lead to increased client satisfaction, which will inevitably lead to a more successful and growing practice.
QuoteIf technology is primarily considered to be a cost, the natural impulse will be to devalue everything.
Another key metric is revenue per employee. When advisers are looking to expand their business and increase their revenue per employee, technology can assist in growing a business. However, it can also impact the denominator in terms of how many employees are needed to support that growth, thereby having a significant impact on the business.
An improvement in employee morale is another qualitative benefit that a tech upgrade can provide. Many advisers underinvest in technology but often their staff are enthusiastic about having new tools. They ultimately find ways to use these tools make their work lives better and more efficient, and that kind of morale boost can contribute to employee retention.
An investment in new technology is also a way to differentiate one's practice from the competition. We all know that technology products and services are evolving at lightning speed and that clients expect advisers to keep pace. However, it is important to be aware of the kind of investment you're making.
Sometimes you spend on technology simply to keep up, while other times you invest to enhance or differentiate your business from the competition. In those key areas, you want to make sure that you don't underspend.
Don't regard technology as a necessary evil; if you're prepared to make a serious financial investment, make sure that you spend whatever is required to truly make a difference in enhancing your business or differentiating it in a significant and meaningful way.
So, when you are looking at spending money on technology, make sure to take everything into account. And, when you're in discussions with a technology vendor, make sure they provide an analysis of the full benefits as weighed against the costs.
When I'm in consultation with technology vendors, I always urge them to speak to the true value by saying, "Guys, I have to justify this, so in addition to the spend, let's also talk about the benefits side of this. Let's quantify as much as we can, but also describe the qualitative benefits."
A broader, more inclusive perspective on your technology spend will serve your practice well.