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The Culture of Technology and Why it Matters

Shaun Kapusinski, Director of Technology & Operations, Sequoia Financial Group
Shaun Kapusinski, Director of Technology & Operations, Sequoia Financial Group

Shaun Kapusinski, Director of Technology & Operations, Sequoia Financial Group

We live in an environment that celebrates more, faster, better. It seems like every time we turn around there is another update, upgrade, or version of the technology we’re currently using. Often, changes are minor and incremental. We need but make the smallest of tweaks, if any at all, to keep up. But other times, there’s a jump that requires more effort and mental energy than we have to give.

It’s no surprise then when companies find technology that meets their needs, or at least meets enough of their needs, that they choose to stick with what works. Unfortunately, in such a fast-paced environment with a technology landscape that is constantly changing, this mindset hinders companies from keeping up with their competitors.

We don’t want to be stuck with outdated tech, but we also don’t want to make changes just for the sake of making changes. What we want to develop is a culture of technology that serves our clients, supports our staff, and influences our decisions for a successful future.

"What we want to develop is a culture of technology that serves our clients, supports our staff, and influences our decisions for a successful future"

In The Financial Advisor M&A Guidebook, my co-author and I refer to the common adage that “culture trumps strategy.” I believe this truth goes well beyond M&A events and applies to any financial environment. Culture will always dictate expectations of behavior, language, and ways of thinking. What we do and what we say affects our team’s mindset for growth, change, and adaption. Because culture is so important, it behooves us as overseers of information and technology to take time evaluating whether our current tech culture needs to change. In the following sections, we’ll look at why.

A Culture of Technology Influences our Focus

Does your technology allow your team to fully focus on client needs versus their own? Do the needs of your clients match up with the capabilities of your systems? Do your employees have the resources and training to serve and assist clients in a timely manner? Is there a disconnect or mismatch anywhere? If there is, the first step in changing culture is to clearly communicate the value your technology brings to each person’s role.

How do you do that? It starts with managers. Internal technology systems are worthwhile insofar as they are actually used and how well they are used. Make sure your staff knows your expectations that technology is a means to ultimately benefit the clients. You must clearly communicate that people are the focus, not the programs.

When a company systematically invests in technology and spends time and money to properly train employees, you create a cultural expectation for growth. For example, companies that provide learning management systems, create documented manuals with procedural standards, and match new employees with mentors or learning-buddies show that the company values communication, connection, and consistency -- all of which create a positive work environment that ultimately benefits the clients.

A Culture of Technology Identifies Our Expectations

You want to drive revenue and hope to do so through efficiency gains of your systems. A culture of technology which anticipates growth will also support staff and expect adoption. Is your current culture such that staff can expect communication for when technology changes will happen? Do they know when to anticipate routine updates, upgrades, and new interfaces? Do they know who to talk to if there is an issue? A culture of technology plans for regular training and resources to help them throughout these transitions.

Top players, you included, are huge influencers in the culture of technology. When you are seen promoting and utilizing recent changes, the culture becomes one that anticipates a willingness to adapt. When leaders buy into technology changes, others are sure to follow.

Are you open to feedback? A culture that welcomes users to share their concerns, issues, or struggles will create an environment where people feel heard. Do not discount the opportunity to learn where improvements can be made by the people using the technology.

You also develop a culture of technology by addressing what isn’t acceptable. For example, if your culture is currently change-resistant, which affects your long-term adaptability, take steps to clearly address expectations and highlight individuals conforming to the desired cultural norms.

A Culture of Technology Creates Standards

Develop usage benchmarks that make sense for what you’re trying to accomplish with your tech initiatives. A new program is only as good as its users. And regardless of what its functionality is, it won’t benefit the customer if the staff isn’t properly trained or confident enough to use it well. You need to ask if the current technology serves both the client and improves internal efficiency.

Take time to identify what growth looks like. You’re managing data maintenance upgrades, mobile app enhancements, and internal CRM releases -- among a myriad of other changes. Does your company have standards for when it is time to make those improvements and upgrades? Ask yourself: is our tech serving us well? If so, good. If not, what needs to change?

A Culture of Technology Leads You Forward

As we enter this new decade, it’s a great time to think about your technology objectives at your institution. How can technology help you with your overarching goals? What are your plans for technology use and upgrades in the coming year? The coming decade? What do you envision the client’s experience to be like in those same time frames?

Does the current tech culture support your goals? If not, take an inventory of what changes need to be made and start working on communicating your expectations and plans clearly.

Whatever your tech goals are for the future, a healthy culture of technology will guide you on the way.

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