I have the privilege to talk with clients on a regular basis and evaluate how our consulting and services match up with their needs. The number of conversations I have with firms across varying AUM allows me to see some cross sectional themes across asset, wealth, and alternative managers. One of the key strategic offerings the SS&C Advent Professional Services team offers when partnering with clients across these investment management segments is change management via process improvement initiatives, software implementation, automation, and workflow assessments.
KNOW YOUR TEAM
A common thread among the clients I work with is that the longer they’ve been using the Advent Investment Suite solutions, the more confident they are in their processes, many feel that there probably are not big improvements they could make. As clients integrate the Advent Investment Suite of solutions into their operations, the learning curve increases and the ability to retain the expertise needed to improve processes can go down, it’s can sometimes be harder for them to find efficiencies and increase operational productivity.
Often times we are led to believe that when a process doesn’t feel stressful, or our teams don’t voice opposition, things must be working. This is not always the case and is wholly dependent on your team’s working style, collaboration, and the culture you have built in your back office. Some teams are great at taking a process and executing it consistently, the “executors”, while other teams are constantly striving for less manual tasks and working to better what they touch, the “innovators”. There is no right or wrong, it’s simply a product of the culture in which the team sits, and it’s useful to be aware of which one you are working with or managing.
- Innovative teams tend to raise technical or operational challenges often, the monthly support ticket count is probably high, and management is constantly tweaking and adjusting processes to see what works and what doesn’t. Things may feel chaotic or unstable due to the pace of change, and it’s sometimes uncomfortable.
- Executing teams tend to keep the ripples at bay, processes are solid and generally followed. Tasking is of importance and things feel stable. Things rarely change or improve, and scaling your firm usually makes scaling your back office as well.
Innovative teams tend to be less stable, but they also tend to be agile and always working towards greater efficiencies, whereas executing teams will forego recognizing or addressing process improvement by working harder or staffing additional headcount. Executing teams may not even see a process as good or bad, and take it for something that needs doing and simply get it done. While no one can argue that executing is critical in meeting client and firm demands, if your firm is looking for increased efficiency (productivity) and growth, executing teams can get crushed from the increasing demands of the firm. At the same time, the chaos inherent to innovative teams can be disruptive and in some cases adds operational risk as there’s not enough loyalty to established processes you might rely on. The highest functioning teams have either a mix of resources that are executors or innovators, or they have struck a happy middle ground by creating structured processes to manage change while also encouraging innovation.
TOOLS FOR NURTURING CULTURE AND OPTIMIZING THE BACK OFFICE
In my time working as a consultant, I have found that rituals and mindset can be two of your most powerful tools as a manager for nurturing culture in your team and optimizing your back office so you can find that balance that fosters effective teams.
Tool #1: Ritual: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
Back office teams should evaluate the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of each core process that the team does on a regularly scheduled basis.
This exercise can get executing teams thinking in “impact” terms, and give innovative teams structure to work within to help focus their efforts. Put someone in charge of each core process; have them report back to the rest of the team on a regular basis on these items:
- Who does this process? Are they the best person for this job? Does a person have to do it at all? Can it be automated?
- What are the steps someone does when completing this process? Do all steps need to be done?
- When does this process need to happen? Is there something that triggers it? Is there a regular schedule for it? What happens if it’s not completed?
- Where does this process happen? Where does the data/equipment/tool live, where is the work completed, does it need to happen there? What if you can’t get to the location?
- Why does this process need to be done at all? Is there another way to make the end result happen?
- How can we make this process better? How can we make this process easier/less time consuming/more efficient?
While this ritual requires time and attention to get started, it can yield great improvements everywhere it’s applied. Beyond identifying opportunities for improvement in a structured way, it facilitates development of process documentation and can help team recover from loss of resources or other disasters.
Tool #2: Mindset and Culture
The second tool in your toolbox is mindset. Some people call this culture, team dynamic, or many other terms but I generally come back to mindset. It’s more concrete, easier to communicate, and mindset is something that can be nurtured with rituals like the one described above. The good news is that mindset, like culture, can be changed.
For a firm to continuously improve their processes and achieve growth, the simplest thing to nurture is the mindset. Foster a mindset that with enough resources anything is possible, try to work with your team to cultivate a “Yes We Can” attitude when it comes to process improvement, even if they don’t know the How part of the process just yet.
With enough time, resources, and willpower just about anything can be done. Try to stay away from the question of “Do we have the resources”, this is a question that should be evaluated against your investment plan, and against potential return on the investment. At this phase, cost should not determine what ideas are brought forward for consideration, if you take cost into account too early you are leaving potential on the table.
PARTNERING FOR OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE
If you’re ready to get started, or would like a complimentary proposal, SS&C Advent Professional Services can help. We can help you gather, distill, and execute on the information that your team brings in working toward process improvement and back office operational excellence.
Whether your firm is at a crossroads with managing back office efficiencies or getting a better grasp on your technology’s overall value, we can help. We can partner with your team to help you define and evaluate your current tech investment planning strategy, build metrics to measure your firm’s success, and help plot a new course that better matches your firm’s overall goals.
Request a demo with our team to help drive positive change and improvement in your firm.