A technology audit helps promote operational efficiency, but it also ensures that compliance-minded HR and benefit advisers are up to speed in an increasingly demanding fiduciary environment.

“It allows you to benchmark where you are today against where you could be,” says Sayer Martin, chief operations officer and co-chief technology officer at Orchestrate LLC, an applications, services and support firm serving financial services companies on Salesforce.com.

Bloomberg/file photo

These efforts can bolster two developments that Martin sees taking shape: the need for employers to collect more timely information, as well as generate appropriate disclosures and prove they’ve been delivered. “For the most part,” he says, “those are the things that are still on the calendar for firms to continue building systems and processes around.”

Orchestrate suggests three key steps to lay the groundwork for a tech audit:

1) Assess current systems to ensure they provide an adequate framework to track and disclose information for clients.

2) Pursue more opportunities to automate so additional time can be devoted to business development and client-facing tasks (i.e., sending a follow-up email a few days after a meeting or generating an investment policy statement).

3) Anticipate future needs to stay ahead of anticipated fiduciary rule changes and handle business growth.

Orchestrate recently debuted Mix, a new Salesforce.com application to facilitate e-signed document merge that integrates directly with process automation software. As a cloud-based platform, Salesforce is scalable and flexible. Martin says it’s also far superior to more simple desktop-based systems that track only basic customer information across a finite number of fields that he likens to a Rolodex along today’s digital landscape.

With a customer relationship management software platform like Salesforce, Martin says it’s possible to create sophisticated tracking mechanisms in a single system vs. entering additional data in spreadsheets. Where this comes in particularly handy is the platform can be easily expanded to add a field to track additional information or products to sell, as well as accommodate fiduciary rule changes.

Accessible automation
Another point to consider is that since Salesforce is accessible on a web browser, users aren’t confined to a desktop computer. All they need is Internet access from whatever device is most convenient, including a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Mix helps provide seamless and accurate client reporting. Merge fields representing Salesforce information are added inside of template documents, which are then directly populated with Salesforce record data.

“When you’re meeting with a client and want to generate a document, there’s not the duplicate data entry,” Martin explains. “You just enter it where you normally would in Salesforce and generate reports from the stored data rather than manually or from some external system.”

Apart from ensuring their clients are in full compliance, a tech audit also can identify opportunities to automate various HR and compensation needs. Among the areas Martin suggests as ripe for consideration: the recruitment process, onboarding or training new hires, ongoing evaluation of employee performance and bonus reviews.

Martin believes smaller advisory firms “will be able to grow much easier and in a more deliberate way if they automate their processes,” while the push for more automation will scale with larger firms. The fact is, he says it’s “increasingly difficult to grow without putting those technology foundations in place.”

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