January 12, 2023

Reevaluating Your Tech Stack As Your RIA Scales

Written By Charesse Spiller

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Unfortunately, between the “busy”-ness of running a business, and other CEO obligations, ensuring that your firm’s tech stack is streamlined and fully operational can be a challenge.

Please note: This blog was originally written for the Journal of Financial Planning.

The world of financial planning is constantly evolving, and financial advisors are leaning more and more on various technology tools and systems to help their businesses run smoothly. Clients are beginning to expect a level of automation and tech-powered services when searching for firms, making it even more critical for business owners to have a tech stack that supports their operation.

Many advisors do have an existing tech stack, and often there are pieces that are free or inexpensively given to them through their various industry memberships (XYPN, FPA, NAPFA). Unfortunately, between the “busy”-ness of running a business, and other CEO obligations, ensuring that your firm’s tech stack is streamlined and fully operational can be a challenge. 

So, how do you maximize your firm’s technology without spending too much time going down a tech rabbit hole? Let’s dig into how you can make sure you have the right tools in place and that you’re making the most of the technology you subscribe to.

The Problem

Firm owners usually take on the responsibility of managing their business’s technology as an ad-hoc project rather than treating it as a function of the business. This can negatively impact:

  • Your revenue.

  • The amount of time you and your team spend on critical processes.

  • Your ability to delegate and grow.

  • Your view of technology and how it can serve your firm.

Most importantly, firm owners who don’t review their tech stack regularly for redundancies, and with their goals in mind, lack confidence in their ability to execute their firm’s key processes. Taking time to review your tech stack and maximize its use is critical to your success as an RIA!

How Does Auditing Your Tech Increase Scalability?

When you take the time to audit your tech stack, you’re able to accomplish three main priorities:

  1. Save. Looking into your tech stack and making sure it aligns with your processes as you continue to scale helps you to save money! You can eliminate tech that has an overlapping purpose, or trim back what package you’re on for certain tools if you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Additionally, you may be able to save time and resources by avoiding having to train team members to use new systems that may or may not move the needle in your business.

  2. Reduce. Auditing your tech stack helps you not only to reduce ongoing existing expenses, but it also keeps you from making impulse purchases in the future! You know exactly what tools you have in place and the purpose they serve – which helps you say “no” when something new is marketed to you.

  3. Delegate. The more you’re able to automate, the less you have to worry about taking the time to delegate tasks to a new (expensive) team member and train them. You can also have existing team members who are strong performers stay on top of your tech stack and ensure automation is running smoothly in your firm.

Choose Your Path Forward

You have three options for checking your tech audit off of your firm’s to-do list:

  1. DIY. If you DIY your tech stack audit, you need to ensure you have plenty of time to implement any unforeseen changes. This is the most cost-effective option, but often advisors and firm owners drop the ball when it comes to follow through because there are just too many “to do’s” pulling at their attention! Set yourself up for success by scheduling your tech audit for a slower season of business.

  2. Collaborate. This can be a more costly route, but the benefit is that you get expert advice, and can also get help with implementation if needed. Because you’re collaborating with an expert, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This also saves you time, energy, and financial resources – helping you to jump straight to the solution that will have the best impact on your business.

  3. Delegate. If you want to fully delegate your tech stack audit, and have a team to support the process, you can successfully keep it in-house. Have your team members block time to do research, audit your tech stack, and implement changes. You can always come in as the final step in the process to review and approve their findings. However, before committing to this path, ensure that you either have the role fully built out within your firm or that you’re delegating these tasks to an internal team member who has the capacity to take them on without negatively impacting their current job role.

Once you decide the right path for your firm, you can move forward with the tech audit process.

Performing Your Audit

In general, our team at Level Best recommends that firms perform a tech audit at least annually. This helps you and your team make sure that any changes to your business processes, workflows, or even your ideal client type (and associated pain points) are reflected in your technology. 

As you go through your tech audit, it can be helpful to remember that the goal isn’t to overhaul your tech stack! In fact, we recommend taking the opposite approach. 

If you currently have the technology you subscribe to and that your team and clients are used to using, it can be more efficient to maximize existing subscriptions as opposed to pursuing new technology altogether. 

We have a tried and tested six-step process for reinventing your existing tech stack:

  1. Identify what technology exists within the firm. Make a big list of every piece of tech you leverage. It can be useful to interview each member of your team to make sure you don’t leave out any components of your tech stack. You can also analyze your bank statements to see what, exactly, you’re paying for. It can also be helpful to gather feedback from clients to see what technology they like, or what is challenging to use – this helps you identify what systems aren’t serving your client base.

  2. Analyze each piece of technology you have. Write down how you currently use each vendor. Again, surveying your team can help. Give them a list of technology your firm owns or licenses, and ask them how they use each tool. This stage in the process is also where you can identify gaps, and address pain points within your business.

  3. Review what’s available. Reach out to the vendor and explore their website/features page to understand how you *can* use it (even if you aren’t doing those tasks/items currently). Notice where there is overlap in your tech stack. Keep in mind that just reviewing your tech provider websites isn’t always the best way to find out what features you’re missing! Look through their webinars and product releases, and reach out to people in your network or mastermind group to learn how they’re using their tech stack.

  4. Reorganize your tech tools to help you reduce redundancies. This is the most skipped step for all firm owners! Deciding what systems you don’t want, or finding opportunities to streamline, can feel intimidating. If you find a tool isn’t a fit anymore for what you’re trying to accomplish within your firm’s processes, you can look to replace it with a new system. Create a roll-out plan so that new uses of old systems, or new tech tools are shared with your team. Make sure you have a clear timeline for new tech roll out.

  5. Decide how else you want to use your tech stack. Can it eliminate manual steps? Can you use additional features? Set up an implementation plan for your new tech stack strategy. We recommend that your implementation plan includes:

    1. A timeline.

    2. Launch dates for new systems.

    3. Clear deadlines to remove past systems from your tech stack.

    4. Engage internal team members or outsourced solutions to help you transition.

  6. Repeat annually! Don’t forget to monitor and adjust your tech stack plan over time. 

It truly can be as simple as that. If your firm’s processes are buttoned up, you may find that your tech stack audit only takes an hour or two every year as you check in on any new features or integrations your tech stack has available. However, if you’ve gone through a major process or business transformation in the past 12 months, you may need to spend more time cleaning up your tech stack. Staying on top of this task annually prevents it from getting out of hand and overwhelming, and can help you avoid technology “breaking” or specific features that you rely on going away unexpectedly. 

A Lean, Mean Technology Machine

The truth is that financial advisors and firm owners are often the target of “new shiny technology” marketing campaigns. There are thousands of various technology platforms out there that cover everything from financial planning, to marketing and lead generation, to client relationship nurture. It feels impossible to keep up with all of the options available and even harder to determine what fits best into your practice.

One goal to keep in mind before signing up for new technology or services is to evaluate how it fits into your current tech stack, and determine how it either enhances your processes or replaces existing systems. It’s easy to continue “adding” to your tech stack without ever eliminating software, which can result in inefficiencies within your firm, and an out-of-control technology spend. 

Here are a few ways you can help your firm to stay lean without missing out on new integrations, features, or tools that can help you to stay current and level up:

  1. Put someone in charge. As a firm owner, you have too much on your plate. Put someone on your team in charge of auditing your technology annually and making updates, or have a consultant or contractor support you. You can keep final sign-off on any changes on your list of responsibilities, but delegate the responsibility of research. 

  2. Get your workflows and processes in place first. You can’t automate or find uses for technology until you know what tasks/actions need to happen for both client service and business operations. 

  3. Be flexible and open to out-of-the-box solutions. Tools like Zapier can help you to integrate existing technology in your firm and maximize how you use your systems. 

  4. Reassess and pare down. Cutting technology can feel nerve-wracking if you’re dependent on certain platforms but staying lean means constantly reevaluating your use of technology to ensure your firm doesn’t become bloated. Trimming extra tech can make a huge difference in your firm’s ability to stay agile and effectively serve clients.

  5. Submit requests for change. Vendors only improve when users have pain points. If you want your technology to do something different, ask! Submit a ticket, and figure out what their timeline for fixing bugs or gaps is.

Need Help?

Our team is here to assist you in evaluating how technology amplifies your processes. Schedule a call with us today to learn more about how we can support you!

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