Monthly Archives: September 2013

Category: Conferences and Events, Event Center

Can I Outsource THAT?!

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BridesmaidsAt the NICSA General Membership Meeting in Boston last week, I had the opportunity to channel my inner “Sham-Wow pitch gal” to promote Boston Financial’s Event Center. The session also included presentations from Cipperman Compliance Services, Heng-Tian Services, Keane, and ZS Associates.

The moderators created a highly unusual, but extremely enjoyable and informative, session format where the presenters had at least as much fun as the attendees. The soundtrack from “The Price is Right” set the mood.  We were under some pressure with a time limit of 5-7 minutes per pitch. If the time limit was exceeded, bells and whistles would sound and the presenter would be immediately escorted off the stage! Needless to say, each of us finished with time to spare.

Even after almost 20 years of supporting special events for our clients at Boston Financial, many people still aren’t sure what we mean by “events.”

It was fun to explain what we do, by contrasting business events, such as closed fund payments to investors or making contact with inactive shareholders, to a social event that everyone understands – a wedding.

“We do not dress bridesmaids in identical dresses; we do provide private labeled, customized solutions!”

The other presentations covered a range of outsourcing opportunities including compliance, unclaimed property, and sales and marketing.  Heng-Tian, a company that works closely with State Street Corporation and Zhejiang University to provide IT outsourcing, pitched their services as innovation outsourcing.

Is there a service that you wish you could outsource, but don’t know how or to whom? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Category: E-Business

Responsively Transactional

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Responsive DesignResponsive design is a hot topic for addressing mobile needs. A website utilizing this approach will adapt its layout dynamically to the screen size being used for viewing. In planning out how to provide this kind of adaptive experience, the complexity increases with secure transaction focused websites. There are five critical areas to consider that can differ significantly between public content driven and secure transaction focused websites.

Content Strategy

The first area is Content Strategy. On both sides, the focus is around making presentation succinct given the smaller screen real estate. However, for the public side, it is presentation of narrative content which can be trimmed down to its core message. That sort of challenge increases when dealing with data heavy workflows. How to focus those workflows and which should be available for mobile users become the primary questions.

Context is King

The next critical area is Context. In Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, Josh Clark summarizes three context-related factors that help formulate mobile strategy. These three factors affect how or why a user will utilize a mobile website or application:

  1. Micro-tasking – using the device to accomplish quick tasks and activities
  2. Location – finding things close to the user based on their current location
  3. Entertainment – using the device to pass the time

While public mobile websites often involve a combination of all three factors, the primary motivation for secure site users is micro-tasking – viewing account balances, performing a purchase or sale, etc.

Navigation Simplicity

Simplification of Navigation is another critical area and an example of what sets public and secure strategy apart. With public, the focus is on stripping down navigation to the basics. There’s less need for multiple levels and trails given the succinct content. With a secure transactional website, there is a deeper need for helping the user understand where they are, where they are going and how to get back while performing transactions.

Collecting User Input

The fourth consideration is User Input. With public websites, user input is limited due to the focus on content. With secure, the user is presented with data points and entry fields that have to be displayed and collected. It’s not a choice. These are sensitive financial transactions. Therefore, making sure that the forms are set up as mobile input friendly is critical.

Visual Breakpoints

The last consideration is what is sometimes referred to as Visual Breakpoints. Breakpoints define the visual experience within certain ranges of screen-sizes. As screen sizes get smaller, layouts will adjust based on screen real estate. These breakpoints are relatively straight forward when dealing with content wrapping. Much more planning around breakpoint ranges and handling layouts is involved when addressing data and form heavy websites.

Summary

While these five factors are only part of defining your responsive mobile strategy, they are key considerations when building a secure transaction solution. Success depends upon understanding how transaction focused websites present different challenges than traditional public websites. What challenges are you finding when developing transaction focused responsive mobile websites?

Category: Client Forum, Innovation

Innovation: Some See Flaws, Others See the Future

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Movie CameraHave you ever shared a great innovative idea and then heard all about why it will never work? At our 2013 Client Forum, Scott Kirsner showed us why that is a good thing. “If no one is battling you or explaining why it will never work, it probably isn’t a good idea.”

Scott illustrated this concept by way of Hollywood while wrapping up the first day of our forum. During his session, “The Art of Innovation: What Hollywood and the Financial Services Industry Have in Common”, he shared entertaining examples about the role of innovation in Hollywood. Using a variety of movie clips and trivia, we could see that as new technologies were introduced (sound, color, video tape, You Tube), the industry put up a fight.

In 1982, the president of the Motion Picture Association perceived the VCR as the threat to absolutely demolish the movie industry, comparing it to the Boston Strangler. Fast forward a few years and home video introduced a whole new revenue stream which proved to be a blockbuster bonanza for Hollywood. Sometimes, innovation that looks like it will ruin your business may actually be the future of your business.

New ideas keep industries and businesses alive, but it can be a real challenge to get them adopted and embraced. With innovation, some see flaws where others see the future. Therefore, we need to rise to the challenges and expect that innovation and new ideas will continue to move the needle quickly.

Continuously focus on innovation. The next bonanza may be right in front of you.

Learn more about Scott Kirsner here.

Category: Conferences and Events, Innovation

Disruptive Innovation

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IdeasYesterday morning I attended an Innovation Forum in Boston. It was hosted by the Boston Chamber of Commerce and attended by over 200 people. The guest speaker for the event was L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT. He discussed ways in which different entities (universities, government, businesses) are collaborating in order to support our innovation ecosystem. One example he discussed was digital learning offered by Harvard and MIT, an example of “disruptive” innovation. Why disruptive? It changed the rules that college level classes must be paid for and take place in the classroom. Similarly, we must think outside the box when considering innovative product ideas for our clients.

Category: Client Forum

First be a Scientist – A Big Data Approach

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Big Data CitiesJameson Toole is a Data Scientist and PhD candidate at MIT. We were thrilled when he agreed to speak at the Client Forum in Boston as Boston Financial celebrates our 40th Anniversary.  Our company and industry have changed in countless ways over the past 40 years, and Jameson’s talk underscored this in covering a hot topic that didn’t exist just a mere five years ago.

Jameson is working on a fascinating project as he studies big data and cities, and the systems that sustain people.  He says that 50% of people now live in cities and that number is growing.  This is a great time to study this, as everyone is carrying a cell phone around, and the aggregate data that can be analyzed is incredible.

Jameson said that a data scientist must be knowledgeable in many things, and have contextual awareness.  A data scientist should not be isolated to crunch numbers.  They need to be part of strategic meetings.  At the end of the day the infrastructure is not very important.  Success is driven primarily on context and in essence, asking the right questions of the data.  If you have context, and understand the need, you can form good questions to answer with the data.  His key message is to be a scientist first.

Jameson described a number of fascinating case studies and analysis he has been working on.  One illustrative example shows a visualization and time lapse animation of all the calls in Boston day or night, over a period of months.  He paused the animation at an obvious spike in calls, and pointed out that happened on Valentine’s Day evening, and theorized on what the calls might have been about (e.g. dinner reservations).

In another example, he referenced an app installed on his phone.  It records his location every 15 minutes, and then he can analyze his movements around the city over time.  He says that his team analyzed data from a large population of people and determined people have 4 primary locations on an average day, perhaps things like home, work, gym, or a coffee shop.  And while everyone has a different set of 4 locations, they visit them in the same order.  In expanding to the top 6, there are over a million different ways to move between 6 locations. There are over 1 million ways for individuals to travel between 6 locations, yet 90% choose one of only 17 patterns.  Understanding the behavioral patterns of movement of 90% of the people could lead to some truly innovative, breakthrough applications and solutions.

At the end of the day, Jameson says that people are very predictable and there is an amazing set of data that can be analyzed to do incredible things.  There are business applications that will allow location services, directed advertising, and the like.  In our industry, it could be about custom selling methods, location services, and predictive analytics on consumer sentiment.

But he wants to focus on people and cities, solving problems (e.g. traffic congestion) and improving life experiences.  I think that is a great application worthy of praise.  Perhaps even a few bucks if his projects show up on KickStarter someday.

Remember his name.  Jameson Toole.  A scientist, first.