Advisor Group survives because, for a $1,000 fee, independent financial advisers affiliate with one of Advisor Group's broker-dealers for access to an array of services, including technology and regulatory compliance. The brokers are usually small businesses, and the more time they spend on chores like filling out forms and collecting paperwork, the less time they can spend with their clients.
Five years ago, IT at Advisor Group was considered a support function, Ballard says. "The business had no confidence that the IT organization could support the business model of providing tools to advisers," but the business also realized that under the status quo, it was in deep trouble.
Ballard met with leaders throughout the company, then personally visited the advisers and broker-dealers to figure out what they really needed. He learned that the existing, primarily paper-based tools were adequate and that competitors didn't have anything better. But Ballard quickly realized that his company could leapfrog the competition if IT could provide a one-stop, accessible-anywhere portal with automated versions of those tools.
The online CRM portal isn't revolutionary, but it makes a significant difference in the day-to-day work of advisers, Ballard says. Every time advisers can take advantage of pre-populated forms, that's one less time they have to start from scratch for each new transaction with an existing client. And allowing electronic signatures and digital images of paperwork means transactions can be completed on-site rather through mail and faxes.
"Now we like to say that we've got what everyone else has, but no one has what we have," Ballard says.
Organizing for Success
Boeing makes its money in two very different markets. The commercial air division sells planes and related services, while the defense division relies primarily on winning government contracts. CIO Kim Hammonds has spent the last few years positioning her group to make it easier for the defense sector to achieve that goal, and they are succeeding. In 2010, Boeing's UK defense subsidiary won a $1.1 billion contract to support the British Ministry of Defence's sea, air and land logistics. The organization that is providing that logistical support: Boeing IT.
Support in this case involves building data centers, integrating the ministry's approximately 200 logistics applications, and more. This is only one of several big contracts that Hammonds' IT staff is part of, and she has plans for that role to grow by working even more closely with company leaders. "I want to heighten awareness of this capability," she says.