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Steve Andrews: Replacing practice management systems

Upgrading or replacing a practice management system can be a very difficult and time-consuming task, but no business should fall prisoner of their legacy software

Moving to a new system should make your business more efficient and cut costs. However, the key to making sure it’s a success is to understand what you need and put some thought and planning behind the decision-making to ensure the transition is as smooth and as cost effective as possible.

Things can go very wrong as well as very right so here are five things adviser firms should consider when moving your legacy practice management system.

Know what you want

Be clear on the benefits you want from a new system – evaluate and identify the key elements you will need, be it a client portal, digital tools, financial planning tools, co-browsing/screen sharing, integrations or document management. Having a clear vision of your propositions and the channels through which you want to serve customers will help to select a suitable vendor and define the scope of the solution you need e.g. lower value telephone-based single need with some self-service; higher value, complex face-to-face needs or simple, holistic planning with a mix of face to face and co-browsing.

A single simple solution

Don’t go through the hassle of replacing a system with something that does little more than replicate the same functions of the old system. Strategic and thorough evaluation of the legacy system is crucial. Be clear on what all of the current/existing systems do, be it manual, paper based or other, and identify what could be replaced and which business processes you need in your new system. The end goal is to have a system that provides a single, coherent, joined-up solution that ideally integrates the functions of all of the current systems in one easy-to-use package. Ability to identify what can be done better in the new system is key, and failure to differentiate between a replacement and replication can be very expensive.

Managing data

Understand that while data migration will be a challenge, once it’s done it’s done. Issues often arise, so check your software supplier’s credentials and experience and be detailed in your due diligence in particular around integrations. This is to ensure all the data you need is available and can be processed in the systems you use. It should be as simple as possible to enter data and where possible automate as many processes as feasible.

Set KPIs to assess the impact

KPIs are integral to any upgrade project, so set targets and measure performance against them. For example, these could include anything and everything from lower servicing costs, lower cost advice processes, greater productivity, more consistency and better compliance to increased agility, flexibility, sustainability and scalability of the system.

Future proofing

Consider what your needs will be in the next five years, where the business is going and what regulation may be coming down the line. The ability to easily adapt your new system to future changes is crucial. This will allow the business to grow more efficiently in the future as your adviser numbers and client demographics change, and it will increase the value of the business when it comes time to sell.

Steve Andrews is head of managed services at Focus Solutions

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