Earlier in her career, Crystal Andrus would visit her prior company’s corporate offices occasionally. While there, she noticed a sign on a woman’s desk that stuck with her.
It read: “Structure Sets You Free.”
“The first time I saw it, I did not understand the underlying message. I need freedom to get things done for my clients, I don’t need structure. I don’t need the roadblock. Then, the lightbulb turned on,” says Andrus. “It’s something that has now resonated with me for years. It’s now obvious to me. When policies and procedures are established and having set a program in place, structure sets you free because you know that certain things are documented and will be taken care of.”
Today, as Head of Client Success at JIFFY.ai, an autonomous enterprise cloud platform serving the wealth management industry, Andrus knows first-hand that structure is essential in technology, automation, and financial services—but so are flexibility, innovation, and creativity.
For example, in working with a financial firm attempting to make a large-scale transformation through technology, structure allowed changes and innovation to be made more quickly because there was a well-understood process and governance in place.
“I’m not an advocate of increasing or introducing bureaucracy, but unless you are a small organization, structure is necessary to ensure critical steps are not missed,” says Andrus. “At first, it is a heavy lift to make sure you identify all the stakeholders and spend the time and resources to set up governance—but once you have that in place, it becomes very powerful.”
Andrus says JIFFY.ai is laser focused on further advancing the client success organization to facilitate faster and smoother transformation—a type of hyper-efficient change management capability that can work with any or all elements within a wealth management firm.
Structure is the key ingredient to effective change management.
“With structure, you can be more creative because there’s less administrative and busy work along with less concern about missing an important step that could derail your efforts,” Andrus says. “Take a step back and think strategically about how you spend your time—what is the return on investment of the activity you’re doing? What would be meaningful to you? What might be more meaningful from a personal or professional standpoint?”
Andrus has identified five elements of successful change management: People, process, governance, request, and audit.
Successful change management starts with identification, answering the who, what, when, why and how of a process or a problem, but the actual ‘beginning of the beginning’ is answering who the process owners are, Andrus says.
“When we’re looking at all the different systems we touch, we need to think about who owns that system, who provides access to the system, and who owns the process,” she adds. “Are the different systems involved in the process? What is the IT element InfoSec? Any time we build something or change something in the future, or if the financial services firm changes things on their own, we need to clarify the change management procedure, who signs off on the change, and how it is communicated. We need to have strong governance in place to ensure elements are not missed. It results in a better experience.”
JIFFY.ai usually starts with the firm’s existing organizational structure and then builds flowcharts and graphs around it to understand who owns certain process elements and who owns them. Software can handle a lot of the data processing work. Still, at a fundamental level, JIFFY.ai’s process involves two-way conversations so that people understand a project’s why, how, and what.
“The second step is to check whether there’s a change management process in place,” Andrus says. “If there is one, how do we complement it? Or, do we build it together from the ground up?”
It is important to note here that not every process is worth preserving. For example, changing a new account form at a firm might require two months of back-and-forth through governance meetings and then a period of communicating to employees and ultimately investors before it can be put into effect.
Sometimes, there are concrete, time-locked steps in a process that cannot be avoided, and that’s not always a bad thing, according to Andrus. Preparing and communicating changes well and on time are key to successfully implementing change.
“When you can rely on a process, you have more freedom to be creative,” Andrus says. “That’s more freedom to spend time with your team and your clients and do whatever is best for you and your organization.”
“The third step is establishing a change control board,” says Andrus. “That’s the standing governance committee or a prioritization committee: A group that is empowered to decline, authorize and prioritize any change. Many firms already have something like this in place, and if not, we create one with them. We remain as flexible as possible with what the client may already have in place.”
JIFFY.ai partners with firms to create change management concentrating on organizational management governance structures. Ideally, these structures will piggyback on what the firms already have in place, as JIFFY.ai’s goal is not to be a roadblock but a conduit to change.
“The fourth step is to develop a process to submit any change request,” says Andrus. “This can be as simple as a new account form to onboard advisors and hundreds of new client accounts—do we have a process in place for that from submission to evaluation to authorization of change to managing and controlling that change?”
“Audit is essential,” says Andrus. “This means utilizing a change control log. You can find samples of these online. You can start by using a simple Excel spreadsheet. That’s easy, but make sure you’re highlighting who made the change, what was the change, what’s the priority of a request, what the expected resolution and how it fits in with your organization’s other priorities.”
Changes happen all the time in financial service organizations. “Whether it’s a new federal or state-specific regulation, especially when you have business in multiple states; new technological enhancements like onboarding a new component of your tech stack; or onboarding a new advisor group, you have to have the right policies and procedures in place to ensure these changes are implemented smoothly,” Andrus says.