October 13, 2021

Efficiency Series #1 – Transcript

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Efficiency Series

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

business, decisions, process, people, technology, client, advisor, moving, decision making process, software, build, day, point, requirements, role, episode, journey, bit, product, advice

SPEAKERS

Fraser Jack, Ivon Gower, Mitchell Ramsbotham, Jodie Douglas, Vicky Andrews, Phil Thompson

 

Fraser Jack 

Hello, and welcome back to the Expert Advisor podcast. I’m Fraser Jack and today we are kicking off a series brought to you by Morningstar about all things efficiency and probably technology efficiency to being the focus here. With the five part series, we have got an amazing panel of speakers and in each episode, we’re going to cover a different topic. The first topic today in this episode, we’re really covering off on the idea of how do you make technology decisions? What goes into a decision? What’s the internal emotional decision making process? You know, what’s the logical decision making process? And how can advisors go about that process of making technology decisions? In the next episode episode two, we’re really going to cover off on the the concept around, you know, expectations versus reality, you know, what expectations Do we have when it comes to using software? And how does that play out when we implemented in our business. In the third episode, we’re going to cover off on integrations and really having a look under the under the hood around things like API’s and working out how we can stack out our software together to make it work efficiently. The fourth episode, we’re really going to cover off on compliance and how compliance has an overlay. You know how we can make compliance more efficient, and all the different things using technology that that are both in place now and coming when it comes to compliance. In the last episode Episode Five, we’re going to cover off on the change management process. Obviously every time there is there was a change happening. Every time we implement software for efficiency reasons. There is a pyramid of change and training and tracking and all those things that go with it. So there’s the five topics we’re going to cover, and we look forward to bringing each topic to our amazing panel of speakers for this series is principal financial advisor Phil Thompson from sky wealth principle financial advisor, Jerry Douglas, from mad about life financial services, General Manager of coastal advice group, Mitch Ramsbotham and bring your perspective of a large corporate technology provider. Vicki Andrews is an enterprise agile coach at Telstra, and rounding out our panel from Morningstar, Director of Financial Planning products, Ivan Gala. Welcome Phil Thompson.

 

Phil Thompson 

Thanks. Thanks for having me.

 

Fraser Jack 

Thank you for being here. Now we’re talking all things around decision making when it comes to technology in your business. And of course, you’ve made a lot of those decisions in the last few years, with your particular business and in moving from a full financial advice services to a specialist risky advice business. And along with all that came a whole lot of decision making. So I thought you’d be a fantastic person to to talk to in this episode. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Now, talk to us about the technology decisions that you’ve had to make in your business around the concept of how do you go about them?

 

Phil Thompson 

Good question. It’s pretty difficult technology. There’s like, a million different service offerings and a million different options. But I kind of think that, like having a core technology or a core process within your business, is really the business that we’re in. Like, if you think of any successful business, like their processes and their systems, is really what makes that isn’t as valuable. So that’s the way I think about it is how do I have a great client experience? And how do I make sure my staff are efficient? And how do I make sure we’re compliant? And then the technology just needs to help me do that.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, fantastic. And so obviously, with your, the changes that you’ve made in your business moving, you’re leaning in towards the concept of, you’re just going to specialize in risk in your business. At a time when obviously risk commissions were reducing efficiencies were something that you really had to focus on. You mentioned grabbing a core piece of technology and then building around it, or even the process you sort of talked about the process being really important. Talk us through How you went through that in your own mind? In creating that process?

 

Phil Thompson 

Yeah. So I guess the benefit of really specializing and, and dialing Ryan into one area of advice is it just helped me really map out that client experience from very beginning to very end of what what that looks like. Because there’s not like 20 different variables that we can help clients with. It’s just one thing that we’re going to help clients with. And we can just nail that process. So we know, we know, every time I have a client phone call initial client phone call, I know exactly what the steps will be every step of the way. And clients can leave that process as at any point, you know, that they’re the ones that, you know, may not proceed or may not go ahead fully or or might change their mind. But our end to end process could look very similar for every single client.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah. Now, you mentioned obviously, starting with the client experience, was this a, you know, you know, tear up the sheets and start from scratch? Or was it something that was a renovation? Tell us talk to us about how you went about it? Yeah, so it kind of,

 

Phil Thompson 

I hadn’t done much insurance only before, like, I’ve never done any insurance, I they actually, because I thought that that was, if they were if a client wanted insurance, only then they weren’t a good client for my for my business. So it was kind of a tear everything up. And we kind of think about how we want to, we want to do insurance advice. And then from there, we have like a rough map, and then just really building on that kind of rough idea of where we really want clients to, you know, do they need insurance? First of all, do they want insurance? And then how do we provide a really simplified version of, you know, not advice, and then, you know, how do we give them like a proposal, if you will, and then you know, then leads to advice, and then it leads to an application, then that leads the policy in place. So we kind of started with that rough map, which is pretty, pretty standard, pretty simple. And then just dialing into every little area of the business and going, Okay, is this where we want to do and we’ve changed our process. I mean, the actual steps in that process, we’ve changed a number of times and reinvented it. And even now I talked to my team and going, let’s rip up our factfinder and redo it. Because it’s, you know, it’s good, but it’s not great. And how do we make that client experience better? How do we make it more compliant? And how do we make it easier for

 

Fraser Jack 

our team? You know, you’re right, you know, you can start from scratch at one point. And you can you can, you can go, you know, with a fresh sheet of paper, but I guess at some point, the continual improvement part is also or the renovation part is continual?

 

Phil Thompson 

Yeah, I think that’s kind of the most important thing actually is just continually thinking about how do we make it better? How do we make it better? How do we make it better?

 

Fraser Jack 

Yep. Now when it comes to the selection, obviously, there’s a there’s always a selection, there’s always alternatives and other products you can you can throw in when you’re looking at that user experience, you’ve focused on the client’s experience more so than you are your own team or staff as in, you know, maybe one product is not quite as good in internally, but it’s amazing for the for the client, or vice versa.

 

Phil Thompson 

Um, both probably I would lean towards our business and making it more efficient for our business. Because the fortunate or the The bad thing about financial services is, every client has a horrible experience with every financial planner. Like, historically, we’ve got a really bad client experience processes, no one walks away from a financial plan that normally and says, that was an amazing experience, because I’ve got to wait. And several weeks to get their soI, they’ve got it, you know, it takes time when in all the research. So I was fortunate that we came into thinking, Okay, how do we communicate to our clients as efficiently as possible, because that’s really what builds that client experience is making sure the client understand where they’re up to. Because it does take time does take us a number of weeks to, you know, we’ve got to gather a whole bunch of data from the clients, we’ll go to go ahead and go Sorry, go away and do a whole bunch of research. So the client experience isn’t like click a button, and they’ve got an insurance policy. But it’s how do we make ourselves more available of clients and communicate more clients? So you’re predominantly how do we make our jobs easier to therefore communicate with clients easier and better? And

 

Fraser Jack 

what sort of time do you take in researching all the options and get a longer piece of string, but how much time did you spend on?

 

Phil Thompson 

Yeah, and this is kind of the thing we you know, think about reinventing as well, because we we’ve really dial into our pre assessments, so we spend ages with our pre assessments in going back and forward a lot. And a part here, that’s one area that it’s like, Okay, how much how beneficial are we is that to the clients like are we getting different outcomes from our pre assessments, and spending that much time so it probably takes us on average four to six weeks to prepare an soI because from from fat, fat find because we may need a follow up additional information and we really dialing into That, that pre assessment work by we’re considering whether that’s worthwhile and but we did some numbers last month or two and about 50% of our recommendation comes off the back of a pre assessment. And instead of, you know, if we just looked at a blind and picked insurer based on what we felt it was actually different when we when we really dived into the pre assessment.

 

Fraser Jack 

So you think the pre assessment really was a process that’s created deficiencies in the in the overall review business, even though it takes longer at the beginning? Probably hasn’t created

 

Phil Thompson 

efficiencies, it but it’s it’s gotten better client outcomes. And so that’s the hard balance is like into it is much more inefficient for us. But we’re getting better client outcomes. And so how, yeah, How valuable is that? Well, it is super valuable. But at what cost is the way I think about it,

 

Fraser Jack 

yep. Now when you think about the the process involved in choosing software, obviously, this is a, you know, a scenario where you have to invest a little bit of time and effort and money into before you even make a decision. And so you know that that then you’re pushing out down the track to hopefully that pays off down the track.

 

Phil Thompson 

Yeah, I’m the type of person that researches if I’m buying $100 stereo, or research, we say how on. So when it comes to software, it’s like you, you’re throwing down a lot of time and energy and effort into just the research stage. So we took a long time researching, but it was just a matter of finding something that fit for today. And then you know, when and then building out a process around that. And whether it fits our business into three years time or we can reassess that

 

Fraser Jack 

it’s an interesting way of looking at obviously the research can take time, but you know, the fit for today, I think is probably not a bad comment, it allows you to, it allows you to sort of not dive too deep into or to be able to make a quick decision or a quicker decision. Yeah, and,

 

Phil Thompson 

and, you know, as painful as it is moving your whole software just to something kills. I think that there is a concern where people want to build out a beast, let’s build out this base because it’ll it’ll do exactly what we want. And then if you’re investing, you know that many hours into building out a base, and then you realize, actually we want to process has to change, and maybe this base doesn’t suit that need anymore. So that was my, my thinking is, let’s just get something. Let’s use it. And if it doesn’t fit our business in 20 in two years time when we’re changing stuff around, then then let’s look at moving again.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. So you almost approach it like it’s a two year decision. Yeah, pretty much.

 

Phil Thompson 

Yeah, I’m not I’m not investing everything into this into any one software.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. Phil, thanks for coming on this episode. We look forward to catching you in the next one. Thanks. Right.  Welcome, Jodie Douglas.

 

Jodie Douglas 

Hi, Fraser.

 

Fraser Jack 

Thank you for coming on this episode or the series I should say. Now tell us a little bit about your other principal advisor and responsible manager of your licensee. But your business is called mad about life. Tell us about that.

 

Jodie Douglas 

Yeah, that’s right. Thank you for having me, Fraser. so mad about life risk advices our business we’ve been around nearly eight years and just recently become self license. So our licensee entity is mad about life Financial Group. We help everyday Australians with All Things foundational financial advice, from their wealth, their protection to their legacy. And in our practice, we utilize advisor logic as our CRM and software.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. Now in this particular episode, we’re talking about all things to do with making technology decisions. Now obviously, that’s, that’s a big part and you you have a fairly interesting and unique process within your business for making these decisions. Tell us about tell us about the team around you that that helps make these decisions. Yeah, sure.

 

Jodie Douglas 

So I’m the principal advisor at mad about life but there’s no way that I could be able to give advice in a digital world without my partner in crime which is Mike, his background is in it. So over 20 years of IT support and test analyst work. So when it comes to making decisions around technology in our business, I’m the driver of what we need. I’m always the one to go to Mike and say you know i’d like to make this process more efficient for our clients and for for myself as the advisor and then Mike puts his it head on and says Yep, we can do that or no we can’t and why and in comes up with the solution effectively.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. So are you the emotional driver and he’s the the logical driver that you see it?

 

Jodie Douglas 

Definitely 100% emotional, this is what we need. Tell me how we can do it. And then he brings me back down to earth and says, hang on a minute. Let’s just see what you actually need.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s funny, isn’t it? You know what, this is what we need. We need it now. We needed yesterday. I want this thing. I really, really want it and he’s like, let me just, let me just bring you back to reality.

 

Jodie Douglas 

Definitely. Or not. I’m incredibly impatient when it comes to taking on new things. And in the world of it impatience, you know, there is a need for it. But you do need to slow things down to make sure that there’s actually a requirement as well. Yeah.

 

Fraser Jack 

Talk to me about the requirements. So obviously, that’s something that, that Mike’s very familiar with setting out requirements, how does he told you about that process to say to you, you know, what is the requirements? What do we need this functionality to do?

 

Jodie Douglas 

Yeah, that’s it. So it comes down to what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve? So when I go to Mike, and I say, Okay, I really want to be able to do this. And this is why that’s where he’ll actually asked me a whole bunch of questions to actually form what we call like a test case, really. And that’s an IT and it is to actually look at what what are the requirements of the user, the requirements of the user being the client in the advisor if it’s to meet both of those needs, and then making sure that we’ve got a clear list of those requirements, and then ticking off the solution to meet those requirements, not just putting in place the solution and then hoping that it meets those requirements, actually looking at the requirements first, and then building the solution from there. And quite often, it can be a completely different solution to what I was thinking once he actually breaks that down.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah. Okay. Very good. And so does that then often require him building something? Or does that require you guys going to mark and saying, right, well, who are the product providers that can provide this solution? Yeah,

 

Jodie Douglas 

sometimes it’s to build something. So we utilize Microsoft suite, which has a whole bunch of like checklists and things like that, that you can actually build within it. Things that I never knew even existed. So sometimes you don’t even have to recreate the wheel. There’s already software there that can provide that. And quite often, it’s a case of just having a look at what are the tools that are out there that meet this? So quite often, we don’t, we don’t need to build it ourselves. There’s already something there. But Mike’s role is really to have a look at Okay, what’s our requirements? What’s out there? And then what’s, what’s the best tool for the problem?

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, and I guess that that means you have to take into account all of your existing tools. And that’s also part of his job. I’m taking it.

 

Jodie Douglas 

Yeah, definitely. And this is the thing is, if you have too many systems or or apps, it can actually be too onerous to manage. So all the time, Mike is saying to me, hang on a sec, do we have a tool that can already do this, let’s not add another one. So in our practice, we have about 10, digital apps and software’s that we use. And I mean, that’s already quite a lot to be all over. So we don’t really want to end up with 20 of them.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, that’s a really good point. So we might maybe want to talk about those when we get to sort of towards the third episode, and we’ll talk about the different the different technology and how they stay together. But how do you then prioritize? You know, obviously, if you want to do a lot of things, sometimes it’s incremental change, but sometimes you want to do a whole lot of things at once, how do you prioritize what you do first.

 

Jodie Douglas 

So we actually use planner, Microsoft planner is our favorite tool, I use it to manage our clients and their workflow, but we also use it for our 90 day plan. So that’s all things that we want to do within our business, we add it to plan, and across the team, we do it. So even the admin team add to plan are things that are kind of little pain points that we want to improve on. And then together, we actually prioritize those things. Before we know what we’ve got a 3060 or 90 day plan, sometimes they push out beyond the 90 days. But we measure that within our Planner Tool. And it’s quite fun every month, we actually go through our planner in our team meeting. And we actually move those little widgets across or complete them once we’ve implemented them, and we vote as a team as well as to what’s important. And we we move along in that process of testing those requirements and so forth. And sometimes we scrapped them and we say, Hey, that was a great idea 90 days ago, but actually we found we don’t really need it. Well, that’s

 

Fraser Jack 

a really good process. So every month you get together as a team and and reassess that 90 day plan and you know, obviously, like every good play that it shifts and moves fluently as as things change.

 

Jodie Douglas 

It does That’s right. And it’s really great Microsoft planner actually has the ability to delegate within it as well. So not only do we put the little widgets up and then allocate them 3060 or 90 days, we then allocate them to each team member so that everyone’s working on something to improve the business.

 

Fraser Jack 

Well, that’s really cool. That’s really cool. And so your business then I take it as a constant renovation.

 

Jodie Douglas 

It is always moving, always adaptable quite often we’re already ahead of the curve. And we go we’ve already created that within our business because you’re always putting those ideas down. And always, always moving forward and always striving for efficiency. Definitely. Yeah.

 

Fraser Jack 

Tell me about Tell me about the the price tag that goes along with striving for efficiency. Cuz obviously, you know, having a having a mic in your business costs money and constantly working on stuff cost money and I guess it takes time to pay it pay itself back?

 

Jodie Douglas 

It does definitely. I mean, we’re really lucky because we are a husband and wife team. I have the advisor skill set, Mike has the it skill set, I can only imagine how much it would cost if we had to outsource that it resource we take, we take advantage of it really I mean all the time, we’re just saying to Mike, can we do this? Can we do this daily, you know, whereas I know a lot of advice practices out there would have to bring in an IT resource for that. So for us, the cost is obviously Mike works within the business, but he also works a lot for love, because it is our business. So you know, there is that cost. And really apart from that having that IT resources, probably our biggest costs. In terms of other software’s and things like that. You can have a lot of apps and things like that that are quite low cost to keep the costs down. However, nowadays, I think the largest cost within our businesses probably very much so the software followed by wages would be the two.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yep. Fantastic. Jodi, thank you so much for coming on this particular episode. We look forward to catching you in the next episode, we’re gonna talk about the expectations of software versus the reality.

 

Jodie Douglas 

Thanks, Fraser.

 

Fraser Jack 

Thanks for joining us, Mitch.

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

Thank you, Fraser. Thanks for having me.

 

Fraser Jack 

Now. You’re very welcome. Now just for a quick context point of view, God give us a quick overview of your the business that you’re working in at the moment.

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

Yeah, sure. So I’ve recently joined the coastal advice group. Only six months ago, really, the business is going through a fairly significant evolution at the moment started a few years ago now. And as every business does, started as a small business with a with a CEO, Daniel with real visions for the future and where he wants to take it. So previously, based solely in Newcastle and on the central coast of New South Wales, the vision now is to is to really expand and and move up the East Coast with a couple of brands excitingly about to be launched further up the coast. at this particular point in time, we find ourselves with 12 advisors at present with a couple more to come on soon. The the business model and the structure that we run is we offshore, a couple of functions of our business being both the paraplanning. And some of the more paper based and onerous administrative functions, I suppose you’d say to a couple of different third party companies. So that just gives a little bit of a bit of context and color as to the setup and structure of the business and probably a lead into the conversation in the way that will flow and where I suppose my viewpoint comes from.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, fantastic. Thanks, Mitch, for that, you know, that’s, that’s a good point. You know, you guys are a business that started off small, you’ve grown fairly rapidly with a lot of growth plans, as you said, 1212 advisors at the currently Yeah, 12

 

 

currently, but a couple on the boil at the moment, and some pretty significant growth aspirations once once Gladys lets us out of our out of our LGA, we’ll we’ll be trying to hit up the the East Coast. And there’s a couple of spots that we have some brands up and running now. But the logistics of that have just had to had to wait.

 

Fraser Jack 

And fair enough. Now obviously, plenty of what we’re focusing today on the decision making process and around, especially around technology, but I guess there’s a lot of decisions being made in your business fairly rapidly. Talk to us about talk to us about their decision making process, how do you go about making decisions? What sort of one of the things that sort of come front of mind, and how do you go, how do you do them?

 

 

So the decision making process here is a bit of an interesting one. From an emotional point of view, I suppose people tend to hold on to the past. And I know that that’s probably a generalization, but I’m sure that there’s probably a listeners that can attest to the same whether it’s them, they start themselves or they staff, the past and what you ultimately ultimately know and what you’re comfortable with, is always going to be a big piece of the puzzle for the whole team and everybody that needs to be considered in the process, right? So what we do and this is in no way meant to be a slight to anybody, either in our business or any businesses out there. But it’s just a really pertinent point is that we, we really work to engage from the lowest common denominator up ultimately the journey in that you’ve got and what you’re going through. We find it really important to ensure that you support everybody through the change, and that along with yourselves, they truly believe that the way that you’re heading is beneficial, not not that it’s difficult. It may it may there may be Some hurdles along the way. But they have to see the those in that particular position where they’re going to see that there’s that polarization between where they are now and where they need to be, they need to see and understand the journey and get the engagement of the all of the stakeholders involved. So that then you have all of the aspects that you require, in that information gathering and and I suppose the decision making process around whether you’re going to do it, to make sure that you can take them on the journey and what the requirements are going to be to get there. There’s another side of that, too, which is not just the emotional, but the logical side of it.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, it’s it’s very interesting. I like what you said there, when the you know, starting with the concept of the past and understanding that there is a there is a history, there is a past, and it’s an important part of the decision making process, especially if you want people to engage in it, you know, engage and accept those decisions that are made. And you sort of also mentioned or touched on the idea there, you know, around, sometimes people can sort of get into the smaller all I was thinking at the time that the smaller decisions versus Is this a small decision or a big decision,

 

 

normal. And normally, they’re fairly large because of the type of business that we’re currently in. So the, the evolution of the business means that going from a small business to a large one, there’s more parts to the, you know, there’s more pieces to the puzzle that needs to be considered. But normally, you know, what we’re talking about here, and what I alluded to was then the logical side. So if you if you account for the people that you’ve got in that particular, it, you’re if you account for the emotional side, and you account for the people on what the requirements are going to be, and you ensure that you communicate it correctly. If you’ve then done the logical side correctly, which is if you usually there’s fairly significant empirical evidence and analysis that goes into the process of determining whether the solution is a fit for the business in the first place. And we’re going through that evolution where we’ve gone from a small business to a business that, that I would like to think that in the grand scheme of things and proportionally we’re getting to a bit of a scale. So we’ve moved away on a we are we are moving away quite rapidly from the structure within a business where you’ve got what I what I would deem to be the generalist model and you’ve got one or two people, you know, one or two men band with people doing a lot of different things, but not specializing anything, we’re in a position now to where we’ve got people starting to specialize in their roles, and really drilling into doing exactly what their, what their proficiencies are, I suppose. And that also then gives us the ability to measure the efficiency of those roles and potentially some of the deficiencies that may be there and look for ways to improve what we’re doing. In a lot of circumstances, it tends to be a new technology or a renovation of some of the existing that we’ve got, that probe will provide that solution I suppose the decision making process is fairly firmly grounded in increasing people’s ability in their current role. So a lot of what we’re doing now in our journey is not is certainly by no means about replacing people or not hiring people. It’s more about the transition that we’re going through and moving away from that generalist structure. And complementing the really skilled people that we have to assist them to do the roles that they’re basically attuned to doing without having to get into the into the into the other bits and pieces that they don’t need to be spending their time on.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, fair enough. So this is this comes from a motivational point of view of you you want to take the people that are doing these these jobs now and then just make those jobs more efficient in their structure rather than saying you know, rather than it being a problem just so we can actually get a better outcome here.

 

 

Yeah, totally totally. And in a business like ours that’s growing it’s really hard to it’s very easy to upscale technology because their capacity is almost limitless. So if you’ve got one if you’ve got one individual that has control over that, and and a software suite around them that has basically limitless capacity to take on extra burden and extra workload. The individual can orchestrate that and play conductor and the technology can always you can always capacity manage the technology a lot easier. So yeah, it’s certainly not about getting rid of the people because the people play a pivotal role in that it’s really about complementing them and making sure that what they’re doing can really be scaled up alongside the business Yep,

 

Fraser Jack 

and with the size of your business now I guess it’s easier if you’ve got one person in the business just looking at the technology and saying right let’s have a let’s have a look let’s review it let’s go through it let’s go through the pros and cons and and make some you know, make some calls around I could this sounds like it’s gonna looks like it could work and then we can go go make decisions is that how you’re winging

 

 

  1. probably makes sense, but we’re not quite there yet. A lot of our decision making processes actually born from the collegiate way that our business functions, we have really regular forums within the business we’re in which everybody is empowered to, to really bring to the table, any any issues that they may be having, or any of the problems they may be coming up against, as far as capacity is concerned, and we will absolutely hear them out. Because throughout this transition, and the things that we’re doing, the consistent feedback from the team is, is so important. Because that, you know, a lot of people have the potential just to suffer in silence and melt away in the corner, and you don’t know until you see it. But if we run it in that really collegiate way, and provide them a platform to have the discussion and suggest and suggest solutions, then we actually find that the people that specialize in those particular areas, they expose themselves to solutions that probably we are don’t, you know, somebody that’s in our marketing team, I don’t necessarily even organically with some of the algorithms and stuff that are used within social platforms and those sorts of things, I’m not exposed to that, because it doesn’t flash up in front of me where a lot of the solutions are going to be brought to the table by some of the people that are producing the work day in and day out, because within their little ecosystem, that’s the stuff that’s probably in front of them. So we really try to create a platform where those solutions can be brought to the table by people and we start with, we will literally then just start the project and, and synthesizing the information and the rationale behind it from from, you know, it could be the receptionist through to the head of the marketing department, it doesn’t matter.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah. Talk to me about the project because, um, you know, obviously, bringing the bringing the idea to light is one thing, but what about the actual process around how do you then break that down into a project and say, right, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna use it for this long, we’re going to do a trial or whatever, you know, and then and then we I guess we needed to work out whether we’re going to make a decision to, to or not to proceed with the, with the product,

 

 

a lot of a lot of this tends to be in response to either overwhelming feedback from the team, to find a support mechanism that ultimately allows them to be more efficient, or in light of a lot of the changing way that our industry is working. It’s a it’s a response to some of the legislative instruments that are put in front of us and the we’re currently having to react to. So the decision making process a lot of you know, a lot of circumstances This is sort of thrust upon us. But but like I touched on the, the, the process that we undertake, from a structural point of view, is more towards the aspirational goals and what we want to be doing and where we want to be taking the business. So we tend to be looking in our circumstances towards the best client experience and outcome that we that we possibly can and how we can support that internally. So all of all of the decision making processes fairly heavily wrapped around our, our business values. So there’s an overlay of of the client, the the putting the client at the fore of everything that we do, and making sure that all of the decisions that we’re making are going to have that that specific effect, we’re guided on this journey in a lot of certain circumstances, by historically some of the gate posts and tipping points that we’ve seen, and we have, we have a business coach that we utilize external to our business. So most often, it will be proposed costed out, the standard sort of business case around around the problem put in front of the leadership team and our CEO, run past the business coach, because the business coach has just that much breadth of knowledge that there may be, you know, and we don’t a test to have all of the answers put run past the business coach as to what they have done previously. And whether they see this as as a, you know, a logical step and a logical way forward. And then and then once we’ve agreed in principle that it’s probably a good way forward, we would then likely engage the partner on the journey to come along and offer them our problem statement. And we’re we’re looking to take it and try to cut through, try to cut through the sales part of it and just get down to we’ve had a look at it, we’ve researched it, we’re comfortable, we’re only getting that, you know, we’re only scratching the surface. Now talk us through the semantics and the logistics of how this will actually happen in principle based on the way that our business runs and getting them to know that the structures rhythms, routines and and cadence within which we work over here and making sure that it’s going to be a fit.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, fantastic. Thanks for Yeah, we’ll probably get it into that sort of that sales, like you said, getting through In the next episode with regards to expectations versus reality in the, in the sales prices. But look, it’s really good to know that. And I think it’s a great idea that you take these decisions back through your business coach who’s going to ask some interesting and confronting questions to make sure that that is the right decision you’ve made. Mitch, thanks so much for being part of this episode. We look forward to catching up in the next one.

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

Thanks.

 

Fraser Jack 

Thanks for joining us, Vicky.

 

Vicky Andrews 

Thank you for having me, Fraser.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. Now, I do want to give the listeners a quick overview of your role at the moment.

 

Vicky Andrews 

So I’ve currently I’m working with Telstra. And I entered the business in a learning and development role, but very quickly transition to our agile transition and transformation. I’m sitting as an enterprise agile coach, working across a few of the functions and currently in Strategy and Finance.

 

Fraser Jack 

Thank you so much for joining us, I really appreciate your efforts. Now, in this episode, we’re talking around technology decisions. And obviously, I’m sure you make a fair few of those decisions in your role. And I thought we might start with a process that you and I have discussed before actually around. How do you make technology decisions and whether you do or don’t proceed with something?

 

Vicky Andrews 

Yeah, so currently working in Telstra, now agile model, we implement a bit of a mindset shift first, and then some of the skill sets and processes. So the technology decision definitely starts for us with a mindset of being open to more of a human centered design process, or I’m not sure whether you know what that is.

 

Fraser Jack 

Tell us about the Human Centered Design,

 

Vicky Andrews 

user experience, just want to keep the human at the center of it all. So previously, I’m sure many people would say, Telstra, may have been a bit of more of a government type centric organization who built a lot of amazing things, but maybe not exactly what the customer was after. So the process now is around keeping that customer centric model whilst we iterate and iterate and deliver small, incremental pieces of a product, and keep taking feedback and improving on that. So that hopefully, the end product is actually what the customer wants.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, so Gone are the days where you build a massive infrastructure, and then try and convince people that they need it.

 

Vicky Andrews 

Correct? Correct. And it’s very hard sometimes with some of the really expensive projects, and it’s almost finished, to actually call out and say, actually, we need to stop because no matter how far down that path we go, nobody actually wants it

 

Fraser Jack 

can be pretty expensive decision if it’s made in the wrong way. Obviously, you’re you’re used to making decisions for large business and large, you know, large organization was trying to relate relate this back down. It’s very similar, I guess process for small businesses, especially when it comes to small businesses making decisions around technology. You mentioned agile, and we should probably open that can of worms up and sort of talk about that decision making process around agile and how that works, and how small business can implement.

 

Vicky Andrews 

Sure. So agile is both a way of thinking. And it is a fairly logical system and process that we use so many tools involved in it. But if you’re thinking about it, I guess from a small business sense, it’s about breaking things down into what we call sprints. So when I say sprint, everyone often thinks of fast, it’s going to be a fast, deliverable. Sexy, not the word sprint resonated from a distance back in the day in the Olympics, so it’s the 100 meter sprint. So sprint is really breaking things into manageable time chunks. Sure, we’d love to deliver fast, that’s a bonus. But in Agile, yeah, it’s all about these incremental Sprint’s and pausing for that moment to have a retrospective on what we’ve actually achieved together. And what we’ve actually about to deliver.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, nice. So when you’re talking about the sprint, you you obviously have a start line finish line, as with any small project, and I guess when when small businesses are thinking about decision making around technology, it’s around saying, Okay, great. If we, if we do this small thing, get to the end and then reevaluate is that probably the best way of looking at it? Yeah, sort of.

 

Vicky Andrews 

So we try to break it up first with a bit of prioritization. So the simplest form of that with some of the smaller teams in Telstra, even is on this Moscow approach, so there must have should have could have, and we like to say White House for now. So Moscow is a pretty easy acronym for us. And we put those mastheads into the sprint. And then if we managed to get those achieved, we can always add in an item that’s a should have or would have. So that’s the simplest form. The more complex ones, we move into a DBS formula. It’s quite mathematical.

 

Fraser Jack 

That took us four

 

Vicky Andrews 

DBS. So that’s a little mathematical formula for desirability plus viability divided by feasibility. And we really want to look at all three of those categories in isolation. So there’s no point in saying that something like seven g hypothetically, is a desirable thing for our customers. If the vibe Ability if that is just going to cost too much, and no one’s going to buy it. So you’ve got to really look at them siloed. And then finally, the feasibility if we don’t have the technicians or the ability to build it, there’s absolutely no point in attempting something that’s desirable and viable to our customers. So the formula works quite neatly. And we don’t use a one to 10 scale, we use a Fibonacci numbering sequence, which allows for a more of a distribution of the eventual number that we land on.

 

Fraser Jack 

Okay, so let’s dive into this a little bit deeper. Because so we’re using the Fibonacci sequence, which is obviously the numbers we you take the previous two numbers and you add them together, and it makes the next number. A bit like the the waste was a snail shell, it grows, is it? And, and so then, so then if you take the concept of Dvf, desirability, how do you then prioritize or using the Fibonacci numbers to come up with a desirable number.

 

Vicky Andrews 

So we try to start somewhere where we think is probably mid ground, you just have to do a relative estimation and say, Look, we think this one’s our middle, we’ll give it a go. We’re trying to use blind voting tools. So we’re all used to the loudest person in the room influencing or just someone who’s got a great story to tell makes everyone else vote their way. So we use some digital tools like planet poker, or some simple tools, like 123, raise your card, so that you have to vote on your own. And then we add those all up. And we come up with a mean number for those. So the highest number in the D score is the most desirable.

 

Fraser Jack 

Excellent, so that becomes, you know, how badly do we want this thing?

 

Vicky Andrews 

Yeah, how much does it solve your pain point?

 

Fraser Jack 

Okay, so this is the desirability piece, talk to us about the viability piece.

 

Vicky Andrews 

So quite often, internally, we may look at viability as a revenue stream, or it could be avoidance of risk. So it’s quite viable if we do this, because it will avoid a big penalty. So those are a couple of clear examples for ourselves. When a customer is looking at it, they’re probably weighing up about i’d love it. But would I really use it? Like, how viable is it that I would actually buy this, we’ve all got plenty of things in the cupboard that we love that we didn’t really need or use. So pretty important to combine the two and add the D and the V together.

 

Fraser Jack 

Excellent. So we’ve got to be nachi numbers for the desirability and the viability and then then what are we doing,

 

Vicky Andrews 

want to see if it’s feasible for us to get it done. So the lower the number means the less complexity, uncertainty and effort required. So if we think it’s pretty simple, not a lot of effort for us, and we could really nail it, we’ll give it a one. If we think any of those are a bit on the high side up that goes on the scale.

 

Fraser Jack 

Okay. So the feasibility scale is the opposite of the other D in the V. So we have to, you know, a one is the best case scenario, it’s very easy to do. And the harder it becomes the higher the number, correct.

 

Vicky Andrews 

Yeah, and by the F score, so that’s why

 

Fraser Jack 

Excellent, so the D plus the V divided by the F gives you a number. And then and then we can look at that versus other software or other processes or systems or where we’re spending our money and work out for our prioritization.

 

Vicky Andrews 

And with the total score, we like to buy or work on the highest number first.

 

Fraser Jack 

Fantastic. So there you go. There you go. That’s a great little system and decisions from a large business point of view. But certainly something that a small business can also look at implementing or putting in place when it comes to prioritizing what they’re going to do.

 

Vicky Andrews 

And I think the the biggest part of it is that line voting and, and being able to recast the vote, so as a coach, I quite often look at the back end scores. And I may call out I can see someone there as score that, you know, a lot lower than everyone else, is there something you’d love to share that we may not all know about? So it could be that there’s an amazing engineer in the room who actually knows it’s not that feasible, and the rest of us think it is and by them sharing and feeling psychologically safe to share why they score differently, then we might all recast the votes with that new piece of information.

 

Fraser Jack 

Excellent. So that sort of goes back to the the the blind voting is good, but the blind voting can also be skewed.

 

Vicky Andrews 

It can definitely happen. Fantastic. Vicki, thank

 

Fraser Jack 

you for so much for coming on and chatting us today that how you make take decisions and from a large business point of view. I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode. Thanks for having me. Welcome Ivon Gower to this our first episode in the series.

 

Ivon Gower 

Thanks, Fraser. It’s great to be here.

 

Fraser Jack 

fantastic to have you here. Now tell us a little bit about a quick overview of you and what you’re doing in your position at the moment.

 

Ivon Gower 

Sure. Well, I’ve worked in the financial planning industry for over 20 years, across a number of companies varying sizes, and often moving from the kind of operational roles paraplanning type functions through to technology roles. And when I when I look the way I work, I get frustrated personally by doing the same thing over and over again. So whenever I’ve worked in these operational roles, I’ve had this natural desire to jump into a technology solution. And try and find a way to to solve that problem to make it more efficient. I’m the kind of person who happily spend a day trying to shortcut a five minute task, so I never have to do it again. And over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazing people across the industry, people who’ve really sort of shaped the industry, people who continue to shape it today. And over that time, it’s kind of brought me to my current role. I’ve recently started at Morningstar, as the Director of Financial Planning products. It’s great title, but essentially what I do day to day, is work with the adviser logic community to develop an implement on our product strategy.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, fantastic. And as you mentioned, many, many years of, of technology decisions. And of course, this episode, we’re really honing in on the idea of how people make technology decisions, and all the different things that go through their head at the time. And so certainly very qualified to talk to us about that particular subject, perhaps. So tell us about, tell us about yourself, you’re obviously making a lot of decisions. And as you mentioned, in in your time of both, you know, working from a back office point of view and efficiency point of view, how do you go about decision making?

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

It’s a deep question, right? And an interesting one, I think, you know, if I, if I look back, and and I was just saying to my 16 year old self, one day, you’re going to be telling people how you make decisions, I’d venture to say, I probably would have choked on my Bacardi breezer. At the time, it’s what I’d say is, right, I’ve I’ve bared witness to how a lot of different businesses make decisions. And I’ve seen some, I’ve seen it work really well, where it’s where a lot of science has gone into it is in the big end of town where where these big organizations have a lot of money have a lot of resources to support the decision making process. And I think we can leverage that from a smaller business in an individual perspective. So I’ll talk you through the process for, for the big corporations, they will often start by drawing up this list of needs, they do some work into understanding what what they want out of a technology system. And then they’ll go through an RFI Request for Information process. That’s really them, sort of casting a broad net, and saying, Hi, everyone, this is what we want, can you respond as to how you could do that? from that? They’ll get a smaller pool, a shortlist? And they’ll go through the request for proposal, which is the RFP process. And that gets really detailed in terms of, you know, tell us vinda? How would you work with us, you know, what we need? What can you do, you get into pricing, you get into the long term vision of the product, you look at gaps, and, you know, would you be prepared to fall to sort of fill these gaps for us. And then they often go into a proof of concept, which is where they’ll, you know, have a set time, and they’ll say, we want to really use this and and experience what it’s like to use, then they make a decision. And then it’s planning and implementation. And that process sometimes takes years to fulfill. They have specialist people procurement project, people working on it. Now, in a smaller business, you don’t have the luxury of those resources, you don’t have the luxury of that time often. But you can still leverage the process. So as a starting point, what do you need? what’s important for your business? To get out of technology? What are your fundamental processes that you’re trying to, that you’re trying to achieve? And then have a look around? Right? The best process, I believe, is to constantly be looking at businesses. So you know, don’t be afraid to call up and say, I’d like a demo of your software, I’m probably not interested in buying at the moment, but I’m interested in seeing what’s around in the marketplace. That means that when you do reach a point where you’re making a decision, you’re kind of on the front foot, you’ve got your shortlist already. And then you can go into more detailed discussions with maybe a couple of vendors, including your existing provider, if that’s if that’s relevant.

 

Fraser Jack 

It’s really it is really an interesting process and I love the way that you’ve got to have the actual decision making process of the actual maker decision time in there. And often often when you go through those RF RFI RFP, you know, those dates are already set out. So it’s part of the process as well sort of brings deadlines and decisions to things. And also I like the concept of you know, having a look around often because you know, that list of needs, sometimes it’s hard to, to define exactly what you

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

want. It definitely is. And I feel that kind of grounds your decision, right? It helps you over time to understand whether it’s been a successful decision or not. It really helps you not to get too far away from yourself and to focus on what is going to be successful for your business. Understanding that piece when you look at You know, the trial process, the PRC, for big business, the trial for small business means that that gives you the opportunity to then really hammer those things that you need to do. And that I feel is critical. It’s something that’s often missed in, in smaller businesses who who explore rather than really try and use during a demo. And it makes it a much smoother transition. If you decide to go ahead.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, do you think people get get a little bit caught up on this list of needs with must have versus one, two halves, as in as in quite often, we think, oh, that’d be really good to have that. So I’m gonna throw that in there. But really check that their whole challenging process of, you know, going back to your list before you go out and say, Why do I really need this? Is this what you know, this is the ultimate process? Was this something that I don’t necessarily need, but what you must

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

have the must haves, right? I think you need to focus on those, the, they’re nice to haves, they’re a bonus, they are nice to have. But I think when you’re looking at nice to haves, that’s the opportunity to also be open to see what your software partner is bringing to the table, you know, what do they have now that you might want to utilize in the future? And where are they going? Right? Where do you think your practice is going, versus where is the vendor going, where is the software partner going, because that I think helps you to align your goals with theirs. And if you can get on the same page, then that’s a journey you can both go through together. Whereas if you start that relationship, and you’re going in one direction, and they’re going in and other, then it’s, it’s probably gonna be a challenging one to to make successful.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, when I think of that direction, conversation is an interesting one, too. The The, the idea of wanting stuff is great. But often it’s the frustration of dislike, or not wanting something that often drives that, that direction,

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

it can be quite emotional. Right? It’s, you know, and I think that’s why, when you look at that, that sort of process of scanning the marketplace and understanding what else is out there, it helps to put things into perspective, because, in in any business, with any technology, you will experience good days and bad days, and being able to put that into perspective, is really important to navigate the troughs because it will help you just focus on the longer term and appreciate that, you know, a day or so of, of inefficiency, that’s then resolved, can really help to shape the business.

 

Fraser Jack 

That took us through some of the advantages and disadvantages of the idea of, you know, slowly, incrementally changing stuff over time versus, you know, wiping, throwing everything out and starting fresh,

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

the old knockdown or rebuild, knock down and rebuild or renovate, right? I think, I think that comes into this view of, we need to make change. So we’re not satisfied with the status quo. How do we move forward, and sometimes when you just knock it down, you are forced to rebuild. And so that that can be a useful process to go through? It’s not to suggest that you can’t just sit back and reevaluate, but it depends where that motivation sits within the practice. So can you can you sort of I guess, corral the team around a project where you say, we’re sticking with this technology. But we’re going back to basics, on our objectives, we’re going to start to, to look at what we can do with an open mind again, versus we’re going somewhere else, and we’re really going to rethink it. And we’re going to go for it. And there’s no right or wrong answer there. I think it depends on the business. And it depends on on their approach to the tech.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned, as you mentioned, the team’s approach to the tech and the team’s adjustment to the tech. Talk to us about the idea of prioritizing. How do you how do you I mean, obviously, you’ve been in plenty of businesses where you’ve built a lot of software, there’s a whole there’s a whole series of prioritization that goes on constantly, this one over that one. And I guess the idea of pipelines are only so big you can you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything. How do you go about prioritizing within your own businesses that say advisors can learn from

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

so we build a roadmap. And the roadmap is based on a vision. And having a having a vision is kind of like a Northstar. This is where you feel the industry is going and how you’re going to support the industry to get there. When you can start to map out. In order to get there in say five years time. We need to go through this process and here’s what we can release from time to time that will add value to users but get us further along that journey. When you when you have that guiding principle it helps everyone then to evaluate their own needs against that direction. It’s not to say that people will raise ideas or concerns. And you’ll say, No, we can’t do that, because we’ve got around over there, you know, the, the roadmap is always organic, and there’s always capacity to fit extra things in. But it will help people to understand that, you know, when I’m asking for this, I’m also asking for that to be deferred. And if I really buy into this long term view, there’s, I want to I want to get there as soon as possible. I want to contribute to it. I have feedback and the feedback that I’m providing in relation to this vision is, is something that’s really going to be realized.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yeah, I feel like everybody, everybody wants everything now. And we’ll probably get into this in the next conversation without talking about expectations versus reality. But often often the reality actually is around the the law as you said, for something to be started something else has to be stopped.

 

Mitchell Ramsbotham 

Exactly right. And it’s it’s a tough decision to have the, you know, the optimal approach is just to be clear on what people might miss out on if that we reprioritize and, and then to to have that conversation and see what the outcome is.

 

Fraser Jack 

Yep. Fantastic. Thanks for having thanks for coming on. This episode does some good stuff around the either learning from a larger business from the RFP or RFI RFP process all the way through to the decision making. Thanks very much. We’ll see you in the next episode where we talk about expectations versus reality.

 

Ivon Gower 

Thanks, Fraser.

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