How to Create Operational Excellence to Help your Advisory Firm Thrive
Achieving operational excellence can seem like an overwhelming undertaking, but it does not have to be. In a space where client needs are (somewhat) predictable and service is delivered on a highly consistent, if not cyclical schedule, you can (and should) get started today.
Where to begin…
Start by identifying where your time is being spent today. Make a list and focus on a primary use case as a starting point — client onboarding, client reviews, financial planning, new accounts, and tax planning are just a couple of common examples.
Now that you have your starting point, begin documenting the procedure you have already developed. It might be recorded somewhere already, available in a vendor’s support help desk, or something that you might currently keep in your head.
Avoid going into too much detail, and keep yourself high-level. Build a procedure that will help you drive the project for each client, not archive what you have already done. Ensure that you build something that you will look forward to actually using to bookmark the progress that you make on that client project.
Focus on only creating structure for the client work that is in progress today, and make changes or improvements to your procedures as you go.
Break Service Cycles Down into Stages
Break multi-month service cycles into bite-sized stages instead of building run-on processes. Since clients rarely all follow the same path, stage-based processes will help you string together your procedures in the order of each client’s most pressing needs. Shorter processes are also easier to maintain long-term, and create greater visibility into the progress being made — helping you identify bottlenecks to streamline or hire for as your firm grows.
Identify Seasonable Needs
Once you are ready, start looking around the corner to identify seasonable needs or topics that you will cover for your clients in the next quarter. Stay focused on building out procedures for every upcoming quarter, and remember to reflect and improve upon your documentation afterwards.
Use a Workflow Management Tool
Stay the course and be intentional. Pick a workflow management tool that is purpose built for the financial services space and make sure that it meets the following criteria:
- Flexibility — Can documented procedures be customized with one-off client tasks?
- Visibility — Are you able to see progress and spot bottlenecks at a glance?
- Repeatability — Is it easy to work in and maintain your documented procedure without having to rekey client data manually?
Reviewing client progress through workflows one-by-one, stringing together one-off tasks, and relying on learnt memory will slow you down. Selecting a purpose built workflow management solution, such as Hubly, will ensure that you get the most out of your investment you are making into operational excellence and help you see results sooner.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Implementing operational excellence within your firm is no small feat and will require you to align your team on identifying specific current challenges to overcome and specific, measurable goals to drive towards.
The proper technology can help streamline this undertaking by providing a starting point and structure for your team to work through as they spearhead the project.
Designating a team member, or committee, as your Project Lead is often an important first step. The Project Lead will be entrusted to keep things on track, create alignment, and cultivate buy-in for every individual team member. This is often the COO, or Operations Manager or Lead, as they often exhibit critical skills and traits such as technical proficiency, organization, strategic planning, project management, and team collaboration.
Once the initial project is complete and documentation on key processes is established, this person’s ongoing role is to ensure that the firm runs like a well oiled machine.