Emma Ann Hughes 

Lessons for platforms to learn from Bill Gates

Emma Ann Hughes

Emma Ann Hughes

Technology moves so quickly that not having the newest version of your chosen toolset can be a serious disadvantage.

In the past few weeks we have had many calls from exasperated advisers unhappy with what they were told would be an upgrade of Aviva’s platform and Aegon shifting Cofunds across to their fund supermarket.

Both pulled the plug on old systems, spent a few days shifting advisers across to what they proclaimed would be the new spangled one and then switched it on.

When I think of technology upgrades, I always think of the joke about Bill Gates in the South Park movie.

Mr Gates promised so much with Windows 98. It failed to meet the high expectations.

As a result of this backlash, in the South Park film a US general calls Mr Gates in when his presentation software starts playing up.

He says to Mr Gates: “You told us Windows 98 would be faster and more efficient with better access to the internet.”

Mr Gates begins to reply with, “It is faster with over five million…”, but the General doesn’t let him finish and instead just shoots him.

The issue with Windows 98 was not that it wasn’t in some ways better than previous versions – it was more that Mr Gates had promised so much, but it was very different from the older versions and therefore infuriated some users.

Personally, when I look at how I engage with technology, the best upgrades were the ones that didn’t arrive with lots of fanfare, but appeared gradually over time and didn’t dramatically change the way I used software or a device, but dramatically improved my engagement with it.

Aegon this week has had a tongue lashing off some advisers.

Aegon circulated its upgrade strategy among many advisers so that each party knew what was involved in their upgrade.

By setting expectations and communicating clearly, platforms greatly increase the chances of a positive result.

However, the criticism of the upgrade from some advisers shows even an open communication strategy before a big change doesn’t solve everything if it then fails to deliver everything that was expected.

This is further compounded if you don’t have enough support staff to talk to people about any problems post-upgrade.

Over the next few years, advisers will see many platforms upgrade for many reasons, including new features, a better user experience and compatibility updates.

Only this week Standard Life revealed plans to boost its platform.

It is vital platforms do this work but if most advisers are anything like me then I am sure they feel it would be good to see steady changes to features over a period of time, rather than a big bang switch off and switch on again.

Let’s hope, moving forward, everyone involved in the process of upgrading the platforms you use has a 360-degree view of what works well with the current system to enable them to quickly identify what needs to swiftly be rolled back if it isn’t right and quickly fixed if it is just a glitch.