Technology is necessary to the survival, sustainability and evolution of a firm. While many technology implementations are major undertakings for businesses, most of those investments, unfortunately, are not successful. In fact, according to IDC’s study on business technology initiatives worldwide, one-quarter of IT projects fail outright, and 20-to-25 percent of IT projects don’t provide the expected return on investment. Meanwhile, of those new technology ideas that are successfully completed by business organizations, half need massive reworking by the time they are finalized.
Numerous factors cause projects to fail, from inadequate technical resource planning to poor time management. However, at the heart of all these reasons is low user adoption. At the end of the day, it’s people that determine the success of technology investment. You might have the smartest solution in the market, but without users embracing the technology, there will be no ROI.
To increase the chances of a successful introduction of new technology in a financial advisory practice, look beyond the checklist of various functions and technical specifications required for your solutions. Instead, take your staff and client experience into consideration using the following questions as a guide:
- How much user training does it require or is it intuitive? Most firms like to ask vendors how much training they provide, but in this case, less is more. Consider if you’ve ever taken any training on how to use Amazon, for instance. This is the power of smart technology and the basis of “consumer-fication” — users are far more likely to adopt technology when it is easy to learn and operate. A perfect case in point? Toddlers are among the fastest adopters of iPads.
- Second, test out the software by putting yourself in the users’ shoes. In today’s world, speed is quality, and that includes the stability, responsiveness and load time for the application you are evaluating. If a user must wait for a webpage to load or must click through 20 different screens to accomplish a task, they are far less likely to use the technology.
- Does the new solution have a consistent design with adopted standards? Consistency is the reason why technology is intuitive. If the solution is familiar to your advisors — like a web browser or a document editor — they’re far more likely to use it, even if the overall process is different.
- Last is cost. This is not as important to advisors themselves as it is to the IT organization rolling out the technology. However, if cost limits the number of seats or licenses available to the group of advisors, then there will be low user adoption because of that limitation. Look for a scalable, cost-effective solution.
Once you make a smart technology choice, next you need to think about how to implement effective change management. Here are tips to facilitate the seamless transition of existing tools to new ones:
- Start new technology projects small and simple. Find your low hanging fruit in areas that have obvious challenges. Maybe a solution design does not need a total overhaul of existing operations, but still has a significant impact. Fully compliant solutions that can be deployed fast and result in saving resources, for example, could lead to more complex workflows and increased user adoption.
- Leadership buy-in. Every new system needs to be supported and nurtured before it can stand on its own. Senior leadership sets the vision and structure necessary for getting the new technology initiative off the ground. Any friction or doubt at the leadership level will derail the project quickly.
- Maintain full transparency during the transition. A clear timeline with cutoff points and regular checkpoint meetings will ensure that advisors and staff members are not taken by surprise when the new technology goes live.
- Employ a two-way communication strategy of user testing and feedback. The most successful model involves the solution designer meeting with the executive team AND supporting staff during the requirements gathering and implementation phases. Being flexible enough to modify the design or extend the timeline based on feedback will also go a long way toward acceptance.
Above all else, realize that even after successful user adoption has been achieved, the job is not over. There is still plenty to do to ensure continued effectiveness:
- Encourage your users to attend and participate in industry technology workshops and conferences. There they can learn and be inspired to develop new business solutions. After attending a conference, your team will be excited about what technology can do for them and will be already brainstorming their next project.
- If in-person events are not realistic, there are plenty of online forums and educational resources available to further one’s learning.
- Finally, reward and recognize your users for adopting the technology. Celebrate their achievements and honor their successes. Acknowledgement is by far the quickest and easiest way to create user champions.
And just remember, the more the technology is used, the greater the ROI.
Linda Ding is the Director of Strategic Marketing, Laserfiche