While the initial TODO list might be staggering, this article attempts to address the technology components that need to be in place to ensure as smooth a launch as possible. Technological requirements will differ based on numerous factors, but what will not differ is that it is an essential element of achieving success.
Consultancy, Vendor Selection & Project Management
This may sound like a message from the Ministry of the Bleeding Obvious, but there is a fair amount to do in terms of vendor selection, product selection and managing the implementation of all these various elements. This translates to a large amount of time which will be significantly longer if the individual managing the process is not familiar with the current technological landscape. It pays to engage with an independent consultant that can assist in identifying the various requirements and then apply them to the current marketplace in terms of suitability of vendors and systems. There are of course the alternatives of either having a tech-savvy team member take responsibility for managing the process or engaging with a technology partner that is going to feature prominently in your overall technology environment and have them manage all elements of the process. Regardless of which option is selected the individual managing the process should have awareness of: different vendors and their offerings, different systems and possible suitability, nuances of integration with prime brokers and market data feeds and finally experience in co-ordinating everything to work in harmony.
Network Requirements and Infrastructure
The first port of call is to assess the infrastructure requirements, once they have been agreed key decisions such as cloud computing vs. on-premise solutions can be easily made. Certain elements such as data circuits and telephony need to be prioritised due to the length of time these usually take. Following on from these the relatively simple matter of workstations and other peripherals can be decided on. All of the above elements need to be brought together with delivery, installation and testing. Other items that should be addressed at this point are identifying who will host your email and ideally they can also host your website. Your domain name will need to be chosen and registered, the website requirements agreed and the website design company identified and engaged.
The systems that are referred to include portfolio management, order management and accounting software. Due diligence of vendors here is essential and particularly the support capabilities of said vendor, not only that service desk hours match your operational requirements, but that also the appropriate level of service is available at an acceptable cost. Will the vendor be able to service you as a customer both today and in the future? How complex are the systems to integrate? What are their maintenance agreements like and what do they cover? How easy is it to use your preferred market data vendor with these systems? All questions that need to be considered.
Data & Research
This is impacted primarily by the nature of the required data and the requirements of the above mentioned software. This includes both market data and market research. Installation times can also vary greatly, so they need to be confirmed.
Possibly the trickiest part where all the software, data and processes needs to come together and be tested. Integration refers to not only the integration between the systems, but all data flow which encompasses the market data, prime broker data, etc…
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
These overlap a great deal, but are subtly different. While business continuity deals with the continuation of the mission-critical processes and how the business and its employees continue to operate, disaster recovery focuses on the infrastructure, both hardware and software, necessary to run the business e.g. phones, email and systems. Additionally, the value of having comprehensive procedures cannot be underestimated when it comes to attracting investment.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Rank requirements in terms of priorities and identify your nice-to-haves early, they will make a large difference in terms of choice. Costs, timings and effectively risk can quickly escalate when looking for the perfect solution.
Do not underestimate the impact of your systems and technology as a whole on attracting investment, this refers as much to infrastructure and software as it does to processes and procedures.
Managing IT effectively requires a specific skill set and an up to date understanding of the latest technologies, whilst many people within the finance sector will have the ability to perform this role to some level, their time is often better spent on the business as a whole. It’s time consuming and there are service providers, consultants and contractors that can be leveraged, each of these suited to different requirements. Do you really want to spend days writing VBA code and nights rebooting servers?
George Toursoulopoulos is a technology specialist and Director at Synetec, one of the UK’s leading providers of bespoke software solutions.