Monthly Archives: November 2014

Category: E-Business, Technology

2014 Holiday Gadget Guide

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Holiday-Gadget--451633531The busiest shopping month of the year is upon us. This week, people will be lining up outside the mall at 5:00am and marking their calendars for the best online sales. Just in time for the big rush, I have once again rounded up this year’s hottest gadgets. From the coffee lover to the traveler to the workout fanatic, you are sure to find something for everyone on your list.

AeroPress- $26- www.aerobie.com
My wife can attest that having gone through French presses, Keurigs, and everything in between, that this makes the best coffee, is inexpensive, and easy to use.  Cheap, easy, and good coffee. Use your own coffee without the waste of pods. What more could you want?

Microsoft Surface Pro 3- starts at $799- www.microsoft.com
Microsoft is right…This is the first tablet that can replace your laptop.  I have been using mine for many months now and it’s replaced my iPad (yes, I had one…once) and my laptop.  It runs a full version of Windows 8.1, so all your normal programs will work. Light, great detachable backlit keyboard and mouse, stylus, cameras, quick processors, and solid state drives make this a winner.

Amazon Prime- $99- www.amazon.com
Not a gadget but a service that has steadily grown well beyond its beginnings as simply a flat annual fee for “quick shipping for free.” Amazon has been quietly sneaking in new services to make the $99 spend worth it. Now, members not only get two day shipping for free on all Amazon Prime orders, but also get unlimited backup space for photos from phones and PCs (just added this month), Amazon Instant Video for free movies and TV shows (ala Netflix), and Amazon Prime Music for free music (ala Pandora One and Spotify), plus many other benefits.

Nod- $150- www.hellonod.com
At this point you’re used to gesture control on your devices — your smartphone, your tablet, the trackpad on your laptop — but true gesture-based communication with a device shouldn’t rely on placing your hands on a surface. With Nod, gestures are freed from the confines of touch, letting you control just about any connected device by simply moving your hands in the air. By placing the ring on your finger, you can type without ever touching a keyboard, turn down the thermostat using your nest, and play a song on your phone without any physical contact. Made from jewelry-grade stainless steel, and available in a range of sizes to fit your finger, it uses Bluetooth connectivity to interact with a growing range of devices and technologies.  You may never touch another device again.

Centr Panoramic Camera- $300- www.centrcam.com
Don’t let its small, unorthodox shape fool you — the Centr Panoramic Camera is serious tech. Already in use by the likes of Red Bull, National Geographic, and the Army, this camera will soon be available to consumers. The device uses 4 HD cameras to stitch together 360º 4K resolution footage in real time. Features include a splash-proof body, a quick-release battery, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE, 8GB of internal storage with MicroSD expansion, three microphones, and the ability to shoot 20MP stills.

iGrill Mini- $40- http://store.idevicesinc.com/igrill-mini/
Keep careful track of whatever you’re grilling, even when you’re in another part of your house, with the iGrill Mini. This connected meat thermometer communicates over Bluetooth with an app on your phone, alerting you when your meat reaches your desired level of done-ness. With pre-installed settings for a range of different meats— you’ll know instantly when your food is ready to eat.

Grillbot- $129- www.grillbots.com
Roomba meets your outdoor grill. This automatic grill cleaning robot features three wire brushes attached to three strong electric motors that work together to clean away burnt-on crud, an alarm and timer to let you know when it’s finished, a smart CPU that controls the movement, speed, and direction of the brushes, a rechargeable battery, and simple push-button operation.

Pocketfinder Luggage Tracker- $120- www.pocketfinder.com
You know it’s a bad sign when the airline can’t even tell you where your luggage is. With pocketfinder, simply tuck the GPS-enabled device into your luggage and you can track where it goes, where it’s been, how fast it got there, and alert you if things aren’t going as planned.  Beats wandering over to the luggage counter at the airport and telling them that your black bag is lost.

Tile – $25- www.thetileapp.com
Attach a tile to anything you don’t want to lose (purse, wallet, etc.) and using your phone, you can then locate it (as long as it’s within 100 feet) and save yourself the hassle and frustration of running around on a wild goose chase trying to find your wallet, remote, or keys.

Amazon Echo- $99-$199- www.amazon.com
Think of the soon to be released Echo as your home personal assistant.  Rather than finding your phone or tablet to see what the weather forecast is, simply speak, “What is today’s weather forecast” and Echo, with its four microphones and wi-fi connection will speak back the answer to you. Hopefully more useful than Siri, we’ll see if it helps or really just listens to everything you do and creeps you out.

Limefuel Portable Battery Pack- $29-99- www.limefuel.com
Sick of your tablet, phone, or other device dying while traveling or in a meeting? Limefuel has one of the largest battery packs available and can charge your phone and tablet at the same and multiple times.  Perfect for the road warrior and inexpensive too.

Microsoft Band – $199- www.microsoft.com
In limited supply, this may be one of the hardest gadgets to get for the holidays.  The Band combines the best of FitBit and other fitness bands with the smartwatch likes of the Pebble and Moto 360. Track everything you need to know about your health, see text messages, calls, and emails, and everything in between. The best part is that it works with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. An interesting hybrid in what soon will be a crowded wearable market.

Which of these gadgets is on your holiday shopping list? Are there any gadgets that I missed? We want to hear from you. Leave your feedback in the comments. Happy holiday shopping!

Category: Corporate Citizenship

Community service = corporate integrity

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C2C Final GroupHow do you assess the integrity of the people and company for which you work?

While being oriented to my new role in the corporate marketing department at Boston Financial, a colleague said to me, “One of the tools I use to assess the integrity of a team member is by the direction of their moral compass. If they express love for their family, give back to their community and do what they say they are going to do, then I know I can trust them to do the right thing at work.”

This conversation happened on day nine of my employment with Boston Financial, the same day I was asked to round out the team of staffers heading to volunteer at the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory the following day.

I love that I can volunteer eight hours each year as part of my work with Boston Financial. The company has relationships with myriad charities in the communities where their offices are located, and make volunteer experiences conveniently available through these charities. Or I can use my volunteer hours to support any local charity that feels near and dear to my heart.

Volunteering through the office indulges my natural inclination to serve my community, while also fulfilling my need to work.

More importantly, it helps me understand the moral compass of the business. One of Boston Financial’s corporate goals is to “make a positive difference in our communities.” Lots of companies say that. They kind of have to in today’s business climate. But, in my experience on the nonprofit management end of the spectrum, this “positive difference” often winds up being enacted in a once a year “forced fun” volunteer event, or comes in the form of “sponsorship” of community events or charities that are really advertising or business networking activities masquerading as philanthropy.

As my colleagues and I sorted donated clothes at the triage station at Cradles to Crayons – checking for tears, stains and cultural appropriateness – I realized that Boston Financial’s moral compass is strong.

Cradles to Crayons used to be five miles from our Crown Colony office just outside of Boston. But, as they grew they needed to move to a location with more space. Unfortunately, their new warehouse is now nearly an hour from the office, instead of 10 minutes. In spite of this loss of convenience, Boston Financial remains committed to giving the national nonprofit volunteer hours. That’s integrity.

The day I volunteered, there were 12 Boston Financial Associates on site, along with corporate teams from Dunkin’ Brands and Tufts Health Plans. Our team included a wide range of staff – from senior leaders like retired Chief Compliance Officer, Joan Dowd and Chief Administrative Officer, Lynda Kaplan to compliance analysts, TA support staff and people like me, a brand new corporate marketing specialist. Working across the organization together towards the common good? That’s integrity.

Making the decision come to Boston Financial after nearly 20 years in government and nonprofit service was not an easy one for me. But learning, after only two weeks on the job, that the business gives more than lip service to community involvement? This helps me know that I’m working for a company with a strong moral compass. I feel confident that, while I no longer work for a public charity, Boston Financial does the right thing by their communities, their associates, and their clients. That’s integrity.

Trust the Professionals

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PlumberIf you were looking to remodel your bathroom, would you rather work with a trained, licensed plumber, or would you prefer the part time plumber who feels qualified because he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before? How about the electrician? Do you choose the one whose experience is years of watching This Old House, or does the master electrician seem like the better option? The answers are, of course, fairly obvious. You want the experts. At Boston Financial, we have taken the same approach to our business analysis discipline.

With four Certified Business Analysis ProfessionalsTM (CBAP®), Boston Financial staffs a growing team of professional business analysts. The CBAP® designation is a professional certification for individuals with extensive business analysis experience. Requiring over 7,500 hours of hands on business analysis work just to qualify to sit for the exam, the certification requires a significant level of expertise and training.

Boston Financial created the Business Solutions Analysis (BSA) team to address a need for critical business analysis services. More than ever, our clients are looking to Boston Financial to develop and deliver solutions to help support and grow their business. In order to continue to support the evolving industry and client needs, the team recognized that the analysts had to continue to evolve as well.

Business analysis isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem on the surface. We realized we had to dig in and do the difficult work needed to further our professional skills. We determined we could leverage well established industry standards, best practices, and embrace more formal training. By focusing on mastering our analysis skills and competencies, we are much better positioned to support a diverse client base with a variety of business goals and objectives. So, we invested heavily… in ourselves.

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) provides an established foundation to define the standards and practices to hold ourselves accountable to. The IIBA helped guide the team to elevate the existing skill sets, develop leadership, and expand our business analysis network. The team embraced the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), the gold standard for business analysis practices, techniques, and competencies. We submitted ourselves to two business analysis boot camps, ditching the traditional cardio and weight training for much cooler exercises, such as requirements analysis workshops, facilitation techniques, and enterprise analysis training. Finally, we were ready to take the next step and become officially recognized as true business analysis professionals, CBAP®s.

Along with the four CBAP®’s on staff, several other analysts are actively pursuing CBAP® certifications in 2015. In addition, some of the intermediate level analysts are targeting the Certification of Competency in Business AnalysisTM (CCBA ®) as a precursor to qualifying for the CBAP®.

The payback on the investment has been immediate. The work to date has created a strong foundation for the business analysis discipline at Boston Financial now and in the future. Our clients can be confident in knowing that an independent organization has assessed the knowledge, skills, and expertise of individual resources. The staff is using industry standard techniques to execute on business analysis tasks, using a common language and proven practices. The analyst team is positioned better than ever to help deliver critical business solutions for all of our business partners. We are excited to continue to collaborate with our clients, and we have the right professional resources and breadth of experience to staff the most complex or high risk initiatives.

If you or your organization would be interested in learning more about the IIBA, CBAP® Certification, or the Business Analysis practice, we would welcome the opportunity to chat further.

In the future, when considering the next software development project, strategic partnership, or process improvement initiative, don’t let just anyone provide your analysis services.  Trust me, I’m a professional.

Category: Conferences and Events, Innovation

Human Centered Design Thinking

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Design-TeamI recently attended the 38th Product Innovation Management (PIM) Annual Conference. One of the major themes of this year’s conference was Human Centered Design Thinking. This latest catch phrase is the voice of the customer “on steroids”. It can help product developers, innovators, marketers, experience designers and customer service leaders view products and services through the lens of customers. It can provide insights into the needs, wants, and limitations of the end users of a product, service or process.

Ideally product designers should observe customers in their work and personal settings in order to experience a typical day. This will allow designers to see a customer’s likes, dislikes, pain points and frustrations. For example, observation of Millennials could assist financial services marketers, product managers and strategists in identifying effective tactics for marketing to and serving Millennials.

When I observe my millennial son, he is never without his iPhone, which is always Apple’s latest model. He has a financial advisor but doesn’t always leverage him because he can research anything on the internet. Further observation and questioning might suggest that mobile will become the primary means of interaction between Millennials consumers and financial services firms.

It’s human nature to sometimes jump to conclusions and come up with a solution right away. True innovation requires patience. Human centered design requires us to test the validity of our assumptions with regard to user behavior in real world tests with end users and re-validate these assumptions at every stage of the product design process. It enables us to develop effective solutions which hit the mark.

Category: CCO Forum, Compliance

Hot Topics of the 2014 CCO Forum

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Notepad-and-Pen-469825883Unclaimed property. Blue Sky administration. Information security. You don’t have to be a compliance guru to know these terms. They represent some of the key regulatory initiatives impacting the financial services industry in 2014. They were also some of the “hot topics” addressed at Boston Financial’s Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) Forum last month.

Just a few years ago, these topics probably weren’t on most people’s top 10 list. Why are they impacting the industry and our clients so deeply today?

For starters, perpetual change is the new norm in today’s regulatory environment. You only have to turn to the deluge of “proactive” rulemaking for evidence. And so the shifting nature of priorities and demands isn’t surprising. Another factor is the magnitude of the rulemaking: Every aspect of our business is now impacted by regulatory requirements at both the federal and state levels.

With this backdrop in mind, here is a deeper look at some of the “hot topics” discussed at Boston Financial’s recent CCO Forum.

Unclaimed Property and Blue Sky Administration: The aggressiveness of the states around regulatory enforcement and why was a recurring theme. Our industry panelists noted that maintaining compliance is challenging given the inconsistency of state laws.

Within the unclaimed property arena, firms also have to contend with varying definitions of “contact” and the disparate treatment of accounts by the states. Industry initiatives include working with individual states to get clarity around their laws, defining “contact” and developing systems to track it.

Similar challenges exist for Blue Sky administration, but there is also the added complexity of dealing with omnibus accounts. Our presenters recommended best practices relative to exemptions, minimizing expense, and oversight of the process.

Information Security: It’s not a matter of if your firm will experience a breach, but when was the prevailing view among our group of information security experts. They emphasized that the policies, plans, and practices a company has in place both prior to a breach and after a breach are a critical part of the firm’s information security program. Pre-incident planning needs to include a written security management and incident response plan.

Mike Rizzo, chief information officer at Boston Financial, noted that Boston Financial’s information security program is predicated on the following framework: identify, detect, protect, respond, and recover. Major elements of our program include risk assessment, security awareness, security policies and standards, and risk mitigation.

Other best practices identified by the group were prioritizing risks, conducting regular security assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities, and educating and training employees on information security. When responding to a breach, employing a variety of techniques that include forensics and preservation was another best practice cited at the Forum.

I had the opportunity to close out the Forum and noted that the industry must continue to be holistic and vigilant in its approach to risk mitigation and ensuring a strong control environment. Standard of care in the regulatory space is at an all-time high; even the smallest oversight can have devastating results. For a firm to be successful today, its business strategy must align within a compliance framework.