In our  blog The 5 C’s of Digital Transformation Strategy we discussed the 5 basic elements of driving technology adoption in order to achieve your stated ROI.  This blog will cover the first two in greater detail: Contextual Design, and Collaboration.

What is contextual design and why does it matter when evaluating or building, your tech stack? The answer comes down to truly understanding the users’ needs……..all of them. Your firm’s tech stack is not just for you, your team, advisors, clients, or your business.  It is for all of them, and your design needs to reflect that all-in context. 

Your ultimate contextual design should consider these 6 basic items to design your technology around the “Who, What, Where, and When of all users:”

  1. Capacity – What is the volume of data, transactions, and simultaneous users your tech stack needs to handle today and tomorrow? One of the common pitfalls of tech design is failing to plan for the future.  Build in the ability to “scale up” in the future so that you don’t find yourself having to do this all over again.
  2. Diversity of Data – What data will your technology need to ingest and deliver? This is a critical step in understanding your true integration needs and data models and ties directly into your product offerings, clearing partners, and other third party and internal systems.
  3. Functionality – At the beginning of any tech review and platform evaluation, clients walk through the candy store saying, ”I want that, and one of those, and this, and oh yes, two of those.”  At the end of the day, they can’t really assemble all of it and need to focus on the firm’s NEEDS vs Wants.
  4. Configuration – Configuration can have very different approaches, depending on if you are building a new tech stack or updating your current one. The simpler you can make your tech stack the better. In general, strive for the fewest and broadest number of providers with proven track records that handle your business. Once you’ve built out the base, that is often the time to plug in a few other best in class niche tools to both round out your platform and provide your firm with differentiation in the market.
  5. Accessibility – Many firms are surprised when they really think about the access to their technology for ALL of its users, particularly over the past couple of years with the explosion in work-from-home arrangements, and where home might be. Serious consideration should be given not just to basic access to the internet for all users, but also what information you are pushing out and the bandwidth it takes to display it properly for the end user. What about clients on extended vacations away or who are off the grid? Internet access is one thing; data volumes can be another. Don’t forget to deploy ADA standards, too. As society ages, tech savvy individuals are growing older too. How many of your applications offer the self-selection of font sizes for your displays, or are truly mobile-friendly?
  6. Total Cost of Ownership –  What can you afford to budget for all of the above? What is the true Total Cost Of Ownership? This determination should include not just the licenses, but also hardware, storage, API calls, staffing, call center support, training, maintenance, and updating are all required. Don’t forget about Business Continuity and redundancy, too. All in, what will your designed tech stack cost to operate over the next several years, and do you have the ability to budget for that?

It takes a strong team and effective collaboration to design your firm’s tech stack.  You will need extensive input from your full user base, coupled with industry benchmarking that draws on proven tech stack designs. The invisible pitfalls are many when evaluating technology, if it hasn’t been your focus. Technology changes rapidly; even if you’ve done similar design work before, the odds are that you haven’t done it completely, or recently. 

Building and refreshing your tech stack is like open heart surgery for your business. It provides the life blood for the entire firm’s operation. Your design must be right, and the team designing and working on it have to be specialists in this field.

Oyster Consulting has designed and led successful Digital Transformations and tech stack revitalization efforts leveraging these basic steps and many others that cater to your firms’ unique needs, capabilities, and vision. Our consultants’ extensive leadership and practitioner careers allow them to provide practical solutions, industry intelligence and comparable benchmarks by which your firm can be measured. Our industry insights help you make the right decisions to move your firm forward. 

About The Author
Photo of Jeff Wilk

Jeffrey Wilk

Jeff Wilk started his career as an Advisor and has a strong track record of executive success in strategic planning and execution, business assessment, transformation and growth. Jeff was directly accountable for several mergers/acquisitions, product and digital platform transformations, patent-pending products, and operating model RFPs and overhauls, including delivering the industry’s first “Robo” platform.