In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the pathway to transformative advisory work and the big why of this work: it’s about making our clients better and increasing their wealth. In Part 2, we talked about creating visibility for our clients through key financial and operational measurements. And in Part 3, we talked about enhancing performance by transforming clients through strategic advisory work.
Now in Part 4 of this series, we’re going to talk about transforming clients through strategic technology adoption.
Defining the Category
There’s a big difference between transformation work and trusted advisory services. Trusted advisory can be, and often is, passive. But transformation work is always active. With transformation work your clients trust you, your expertise and your team of resources enough to make big necessary changes in their business.
Technology advisory, the third area transformative advisors focus on, provides clients with automation, solutions and time back.
There are several ways we can provide transformative advisory services to clients in this area:
Back office automation. We can implement a number of solutions that allow more efficient data entry and intelligent interpretation of that data. Some of these involve OCR (optical character recognition) and data parsing (Receipt Bank, Hubdoc, Neat), accounts payable automation (Bill.com, MineralTree, Xtbills), bank feed and Excel importing, payroll and 1099 automation (OnPay, Patriot, ADP, Paychex) and sales tax solutions (Aleran, Vertex, LumaTax).
Team collaboration. This is an area that is often a critical need for small businesses. Gateway operational transformation tools (Slack/G Suite/Evernote, Microsoft Teams/Office 365/OneNote), document management tools (Google Drive, SharePoint, SmartVault) and expense and time reporting solutions all allow more efficient and secure interactions between time members.
Operational solutions. QuickBooks is among the most powerful and most frequently used operational solution tools available. There are many solutions that integrate with both QuickBooks Desktop and Online, including inventory management, point of sale and billing and field service solutions. All of these tools enable a business to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Managed Service Providers
A managed service provider (MSP) is a third-party organization that takes care of day-to-day management of IT services, assets and end-user support on an expert level. An MSP can handle matters such as end-user workstation support, internet hosting, implementations and upgrades of new software and applications, remote assistance and troubleshooting, and IT project management.
MSPs are shifting to cloud-based models as industries move into the cloud from traditional local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). This is a disruption for previous generations that are pivoting into the cloud. Millennials and subsequent generations, however, directly see the cloud as the natural storage and communication facility.
Virtual CIOs (Chief Information Officers)
Whereas an MSP focuses on day-to-day and short-term matters, a virtual CIO offers exposure to executive level influence in decision making. Virtual CIOs focus on five key items:
- Growth. This encompasses business development issues, such as additions to the workforce, the company’s expansion into new markets, remote work for its employees and increasing technological exposure to potential customers. In this area, a virtual CIO can help determine marketing strategies.
- Compliance. A virtual CIO can determine where a company falls short of full compliance with financial and government technological requirements and help the company create objectives to become fully compliant.
- Risk reduction. This involves helping the company decrease potential exposure to various hazards, such as PCI (payment card industry) issues that merchants face with financial data, assessing the life cycle and projected remaining useful life of equipment, network infrastructure, firewalls and internal security. For example, updates to technology can force other users off networks or leave them susceptible to issues.
- Operational efficiency. Automation, standardization and increased collaboration fall into this category. Virtual CIOs can help companies understand and improve their environments in order to accomplish more work and achieve savings of resources. Organization-wide standardization of technology allows organizations to produce consistency and reduces risk, especially across businesses in terms of regulations.
- Technology strategy. These involve technology implementations and advisory services to determine sustainability of overall processes. A virtual CIO can consult with companies about long-term technology concepts, such as capital or operating expenditure strategies, cost-benefit analysis and evaluations of equipment and cloud solutions to storage, workflow and other technology-related issues.
Questions to Ask Clients
When meeting with clients for the first time to discuss a technology solution or project, it is helpful to use a phased approach. The first step is to ask your clients a series of questions:
- What are your goals today? Where do you see yourself in terms of technology today? What are your external processes and current challenges that can be addressed in terms of technology? Why are you doing it that way? (The answer to this last question is usually “We’ve always done it this way.”)
- Where are you going? What do you need to change? How much will it cost? Do you need to increase the amounts of technology your company uses? Are the intended users at your company, your vendors and your customers trained in the new technology? If not, who needs training? Can they get it?
- What are you required to do to be compliant with laws and regulations? Do you have those safeguards in place today? How do you implement them?
- Is there a better way? Do you have time to do all these things?
Many technology vendors, such as Intuit and Sage, implement changes that take effect overnight. It’s important to be aware of changes connected to the vendors you work with. They often issue press releases to announce changes just before or just as the changes happen. Virtual CIOs can monitor updates for clients, help them determine how to monetize changes and assist with scaling changes.
A virtual CIO can help clients achieve a centralized management style as fast as possible. This is possible for little cost by performing easy tasks. Virtual CIOs can guide clients to creating technology and data privacy policies. They can also participate in industry seminars and conferences, so they can be aware of coming developments and changes and help clients become as effective and efficient with their technology as possible.
The smallest change can increase your client’s wealth.
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