Manulife empowers Advisors to take control of their online presence with Veriday’s Digital Agent solution

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January 20, 2014, Toronto – Veriday, a leading digital marketing automation firm specializing in online brand transformation for investment advisors and financial institutions, has just deployed their Digital Agent marketing solution to Manulife Financial. In a relationship based business, Manulife understands that a robust online presence for advisors and insurance agents is no longer an option, but a must. Digital Agent enables advisors to easily take control of their online presence and become digital marketing experts.

“Clients and prospects today want online engagement. They want access to relevant and timely information and empowering our advisors with a comprehensive website solution to fulfill this need helps them to grow their practices and reach while strengthening existing relationships,”

Veriday’s Digital Agent is the result of over two years of in-depth research with professionals across the financial industry including major banks and boutiques. “Our goal was to build a solution for advisors to increase the return on their digital marketing investments while maintaining brand consistency and minimizing regulatory compliance risk. Working directly with marketing and compliance specialists during the development of Digital Agent, has ensured our platform is leading edge, robust, and intuitive to use,” says Marc Lamoureux, President and CEO, Veriday.

Digital Agent empowers marketing and compliance teams to push out well executed pre-approved content that help the advisor create a stronger online presence with minimal effort. The platform features drag and drop components such as financial calculators and access to a built-in library of professionally written content. Advisors can also author and create content for approval creating a website that is tailored to their practice. A digital marketing dashboard of robust data and analytics helps them easily gauge the impact of their online presence.

As the need for online and social media presence continues to evolve, Veriday is at the forefront of social trends and is already enhancing their platform to provide a central hub for integrating all of the advisors’ marketing efforts including social engagement, eNewsletters and digital campaigns.  “It’s an exciting time as the financial services industry has realized that they must help advisors adapt to changes in client online engagement. Digital Agent is also mobile ready which has become critical as investors are embracing this technology. Best of all, our underlying platform is based on standard enterprise technology which ensures that integration with dealer systems is cost effective and efficient,” notes Lamoureux.

Announcing French Language Support

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Parlez-vous Français? If you do the I have some news for you. French language support is here, and it’s here to stay.

Digital Agent now has the capability of fully supporting the creation of both a French and English website. Digital Agent’s French support allows advisor users to author content in both French and English without compromising a visitor’s user experience to the website. Visitors can toggle between the two languages to suit their browsing needs.

Pre-approved content features have also been enhanced to accommodate for French. This means that content stored in the pre-approved content library and subsequently used on advisor websites can also be bilingual in nature.

What about creative corporate artifacts? No problem, Digital Agent gracefully handles French logos, standard footer elements like links and disclaimers and can even handle other colour palettes if needed.

Stay tuned for more languages that will be added in the coming months!

If you’d like to see a demonstration of this new feature or a full demo of Digital Agent, please contact questions@digitalagent.ca

Ant Colonies Solve User Interface Challenges

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I just read a great article on Embracing Complexity by the Harvard Business Review and I got a crazy idea about using the same “ant colony” metaphor to breakdown user interface design and architecture.

There is a lot to learn from an ant colony and these lessons can be applied to many complex problems as the article describes. It is difficult to understand how an ant colony works if you just look at the individual ants. Just like in a complex system, you can’t fully understand it by simply looking at the individual components.

A great lesson from these ant colonies is that ants don’t get the “global system” however their local interactions results in this complex system; the ant colony. Nature is full of these complex & adaptive systems that just work; no leadership; no congress; no committee to make decisions. However us humans like to think of things as “cause and effect” and in software engineering this translates to “sequential programming”. We look at the systems we are trying to build as a chain of steps; doStep1(); doStep2(); etc. We need to break out of this cause & effect paradigm. We can take this a step higher and even compare this to the most popular software engineering process; the waterfall.

We can look at application user interfaces as complex systems that is broken down into individual components that communicate together in the “local” context i.e. the current user view. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. These applications we are building are really event-driven just like any system that exists in nature. Decisions lead to cascading events. A user clicks on a button, some components choose to respond to that event. Or the server emits some signal that some other components would choose to respond to.

So how do you take these lessons from an ant colony and apply it on your next UI project? Think events, stop thinking functions.

  1. Break your UI into small components and widgets with related functionality
  2. Use the publish/subscribe mechanism within your framework. You can have a look at my post about Dojo’s Publish and Subscribe.
  3. Design your components to communicate with each other using events. Widgets communicate with other widgets around them i.e. local communication
Embrace complexity in your UI projects – it will only get more complex for you as your users demand richer interactions.

 

Innovation as a Swear Word

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If you work in a large corporation, or perhaps even a small one, here are a few pointers to turn ‘innovation’ into a swear word. Note that the goals of doing this are really to decrease your organization’s competitiveness, create unhappy workers and demonstrate a general lack of respect for the livelihood of others.

  1. Don’t reward “out-of-the-box” thinkers. After all, who needs to retain good talent? There’s obviously plenty of that out there.
  2. Make sure you continue to use and embrace the processes that are broken and if someone points out an improvement, be sure to discipline those actions. In fact, just go ahead and put them in the storage room. And don’t forget the red stapler.
  3. Always believe that everything is okay and that no changes will ever be needed.
  4. When encountering an issue in your department or work, just point the finger at someone else and ensure you don’t lift another finger to solve it because someone else will obviously figure it out.
  5. Whenever possible, try to squeeze your valuable partners and vendors for everything they’ve got until they either go out of business or stop wanting to do business with you. After all, who needs external subject matter expertise. You can obviously do it all yourself! While you’re at it, attempt to solve world hunger on your own because everything is core to your business.

If you’ve got more to add to this list, please feel free to share. And if you’re actually following some of these principles, know that running downhill will always be easier than running uphill but that racing to the bottom won’t necessarily imply that you’re a winner.

Music Meets Technology

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I am classically trained in tabla, a drum that originally comes from India and I’ve been a software developer for the past decade. In my experience, the theme of “collaboration” often arises in both music and software development. Steve Jobs describes the creative process as “just connecting things”. Similarly, collaboration can be described as connecting things that come from different origins or the act of creation.

These days musicians of different genres of music are creating more unique collaborations than ever before (i.e. Jazz meets Indian classical). To do this, musicians need to figure out how to communicate in order to create music together. Often this is unchartered territory that is organized by relying on the foundation of their daily practice.

Similarly developers need to collaborate on several different levels. They need to work with other individuals of different backgrounds (education, working style etc.) and make systems communicate (i.e. the inclusion and customization of open source code within your application). They too, might be travelling unchartered territory so will need to rely on basic principles learned during previous working experiences to make progress.

Below, I describe 3 basic principles that I believe will increase the chances of collaborating with others in music and software development.

Show up

Creativity still requires a systematic approach. Professional musicians make sure that they practice daily, stay on top of the music scene by regularly putting out recordings and perform often. Similarly developers need to make sure the stay on top by showing up to work (even if you work from home – ha ha) but also by being diligent about steadily working towards solving a problem by working smarter and not harder. I had a manager once who said that he always made sure he learnt at least one new thing each day. By doing this you’re ensuring that you are steadily working towards solving your problem and not being lazy.

Steal like an artist

Paraphrasing Austin Kleon: “steal like an artist”.

Nowadays material is rarely purely original, so choose ideas that make sense and re-use them! For musicians, you cannot “steal” a main melody line unless you sample it and pay royalties. You can definitely try to mimic the feeling or concepts behind a piece though. This might be an instrumentation configuration, a stylistic approach or even the bass line or beat. In software you cannot steal software implementations, but you can “steal” approaches to software design such as the Agile approach philosophy, architectures or design patterns.

Use  Etiquette

In both music and software development there are known etiquettes that when followed will make you easier to work with. An example of following etiquette in the musical sense is by listening to musicians that you are playing with and responding. Conversely, an example of not following etiquette is when a musician does not listen to anything else but themselves. A guitarist can play the meanest lick but if it’s not placed in the right part of the song it might sound irrelevant. Similarly developers can step on each other’s toes when checking in their code and not paying attention to merging conflicts. The developer might have written a great piece of code, however if it is not checked in properly it will not be effective or may clobber someone else’s work.

In both software development and music the end product is tangible, however, it’s only you as the artist or developer that intimately knows the details of the process you used to get there. In my experience in order for the collaborative process to happen, you need to: show up, steal (like an artist) and use etiquette.