Our original design idea was for the Assistant to audibly read back the template questions to the advisor, with only one question on the screen at the time. What we found during prototype testing was that the most effective way to help guide advisors through the important questions was to display the questions on the mobile screen that could be scrolled through at their own pace, and leave the audio readback component out of the new enhancement. Our final Assistant design was the result of client engagement and listening to what our customers really needed, not what we thought they needed.

Hortz: This seems to have been an extremely iterative process with a great many feedback loops with your endpoint advisor clients. What exactly do you look for during those exchanges and how do you know when you are on the right development track?

Westphal: In order to create something truly innovative when it comes to dictation, you know you are on the right track by ensuring you have multiple channels and opportunities for feedback on our product or service design. From initial prototype testing, to a closed beta release of approximately 100 customers, to an open beta with hundreds of users, we followed a development process that deeply engaged with our clients as we developed, not after. Our agile approach to the Assistant design, with probing questions leading to thorough understanding of client needs, has, in my opinion, has resulted in a feature that truly changes the way advisors perceive the benefits of dictation. We can definitively say the Assistant was the product of input and direction from our advisor clients. In other words, the Assistant was really built for advisors, by advisors and their experiences.   

Hortz: What have you learned that you did not originally think out or plan for when you started the process?

Westphal: The process of designing and building a new mobile app for our clients took us down a path that evolved into a redesign of our entire dictation and transcription platform. Certain functionality and security of our new mobile app required the latest technology that could support the operational process in order to best position Mobile Assistant for the future. Operationally we realized that we had to be positioned to scale at the pace needed to support the financial industry and an increasing adoption of dictation as an industry standard.

So, for both scalability and security benefits, it became clear that migrating our system from an on premise datacenter to the AWS cloud environment was the right decision, and the right time. This migration project is a huge investment of time and money, but 12 months into the 24 month project, we are already realizing the benefits. Our system is faster, allowing our transcriptionists to work more efficiently, and it has given us the ability to include enhancements to our new mobile app such as audio playback in the notes section, and has made us even more secure with two factor authentication.

Hortz: Can you illustrate for us the new advisor experience your enhancement provides?

Westphal: For the first time in the dictation experience, the advisor has the ability to concurrently generate precise recordkeeping for compliance and regulatory protection and accurately capture and document all the important details and next steps from a client meeting. This is a substantial time savings.

But, more importantly, by creating templates designed specifically for certain types of meetings, there can be a strategic focus to each dictation and that leads to a more detailed collection of facts and insights and organizes the data in a way that very often reveals opportunities the advisor may not have not previously realized. Building in templates with pre-populated questions prompts advisors for the right information and takes away the burden of remembering those questions.  Advisors, who have struggled with note taking in the past, now have a guide to maximize their client interactions.

Hortz: What best advice can you give advisors that are trying to integrate new technology to their firms?