Tag Archives: Craig Burma

Collaborative technologies require rethinking “dos and don’ts” for effective communication

Burma-CraigAs collaborative communication technologies improve, plan sponsors and Milliman colleagues continue adjusting business etiquette to best use these new instruments. Tools such as Microsoft LYNC, GoToMeeting.com, and Webex.com allow consultants to communicate remotely with plan sponsors to improve service, reduce cycle times, and ultimately reduce costs. However, these productivity gains were far from automatic when these technologies were first implemented.

The humorous YouTube video “A conference call in real life” struck a nerve with many early adopters who have shared similar experiences. The comedy demonstrates the challenges that collaborative communication technologies may present—system audio interruptions, technology incompatibilities, and ambient noise distractions (i.e., the barking dog). It doesn’t help that some of us have attention spans shorter than a child on cotton candy at a three-ring circus. Past the comedic relief, we realized achieving effective use of collaborative communication technologies requires further research.

A process improvement group studied Milliman’s use of collaborative communication technologies. We monitored meetings, collected observable data, and analyzed the results of more than 30 meetings. We were surprised to find the technologies worked fine; the business etiquette established for in-person meetings did not.

From our research, we edited our suggestions into 15 best practices for organizers and 15 best practices for attendees. Here they are:

15 organizer dos and don’ts

1. Don’t plan future sessions outside local business hours of any attendee.
2. Do become highly proficient in the technology before using it in a meeting.
3. Do join at least five minutes in advance to help people checking into the call.
4. Don’t troubleshoot tool issues in session; have a “phone only” option as a backup.
5. Do start on time by utilizing http://www.time.gov with whoever is there.
6. Do state session objective of the meeting within one minute and ask for concurrence.
7. Do take on-screen notes; open documents and annotate as needed.
8. Don’t take dictation; ask participants to instant message (IM) or email long content or updates.
9. Don’t assume silence as agreement; affirm key points by voice.
10. Do advise at five minutes remaining to “hard stop” session at time limit.
11. Do ask “any other items for today?” as a trial call close if session objective is achieved.
12. Do close by thanking everyone for their time.
13. Do summarize session outcomes in emailed notes.
14. Do show the date, time, and attendees on all notes.
15. Do email or post notes online within five minutes of session close.

15 attendees dos and don’ts (all apply to organizers as well)

1. Do read session objective four hours in advance; your mind will prepare itself.
2. Do have your computer and phone charged and in a quiet area.
3. Don’t use a speaker phone next to the keyboard you are typing on.
4. Do mention any nonobjective items at beginning—ask organizer to note.
5. Don’t be within earshot of a (possibly) barking dog or other audio intrusions.
6. Do actively use the mute button if no quiet place is available.
7. Do know when mute is on or off at all times.
8. Don’t listen for name to be called and then pay attention; it’s too late at that point.
9. Don’t put call on hold; everyone has on-hold music and we hear it.
10. Do say your first name and company in one-time sessions of multiple companies.
11. Don’t say your name each time you speak; we probably know your voice.
12. Don’t leave session before close; count on important items at end.
13. Do offer to take items off-line if a discussion is between two attendees only.
14. Do message or mention if you have to leave a call early.
15. Do continually assess session effectiveness and send feedback to organizer.

Milliman employee benefits consultants will continue to use collaborative communication technologies within their organizations and with plan sponsors. But as with the telephone, the fax machine, and email in their times, we will continue to update our “dos and don’ts” to make these interactions as seamless as if they were held in person. Adhering to these dos and don’ts will ensure time well spent for both organizers and attendees.

Google+ Hangout: Milliman mobile benefits app (Part II)

Employers can revolutionize the relationship between retirement plans and plan participants using the Milliman mobile benefits app. The app is designed to address employee engagement from a behavioral standpoint.

In this Milliman Hangout, Craig Burma discusses the app’s upcoming functionality and transaction enhancements to further boost employee engagement. For more information on the Milliman mobile benefits app, click here.

Burma provides an overview of the mobile app technology in this previous hangout.

Google+ Hangout: Milliman mobile benefits app

Retirement plan enrollment can overwhelm employees and discourage them from participating in benefits. Milliman’s mobile app targets and reduces choice aversion among participants, helping increase enrollment rates and maximize plan value.

In this Hangout, Craig Burma discusses how Milliman’s mobile app technology is helping retirement plan participants and sponsors meet their needs.

For more information on the Milliman mobile benefits app, click here.

Retirement account updates on the go

PlanServe Data Systems and Milliman recently announced their collaboration to deliver retirement plan information to participants via mobile applications using PlanServe’s Relevant Mobile Platform. This platform enables the mobile applications to deliver a rich experience for participants to understand, view, and manage their retirement accounts while on the go.

“The PlanServe methodology allows Milliman to roll out these new features to our participants faster, with less expense and risk,” said Craig Burma, principal and director of Milliman’s Benefits Resource Center. The new technology allows Milliman to provide retirement plan participants with fast and secure access to their account information. “By delivering rich XML data to our mobile apps, we can build a closer relationship with the participants on a day-to-day basis,” said Burma.

Simplifying access to defined contribution information portals

During a panel discussion on “Client Facing Technologies” at SunGard’s Annual Users’ Conference in Florida, I was asked: 

How does Milliman find it needs to communicate to its customers and what types of technology do you consider crucial to implement to address these communications?

My response is below.

I believe users “logging in” to Milliman websites will decline rapidly in the coming year. In the past, declining logins would be a troubling sign for a technology professional. Now it is the goal. 

That’s because secure and safe access to this information is becoming available through Milliman’s Secure Access Channels such as:

  1. Mobile applications downloadable on Android and iPhone/iPad devices
  2. HTML5 mobile sites using smart phone login credentials
  3. Single Sign-On (SSO) with client networks using Secured Access Markup Language (SAML)
  4. One-click email decisions such as “go paperless” that participants elect to do directly from their email message
  5. Pass-through logins accepted from “keymakers” like Facebook and OpenID.

Each Secure Access Channel breaks down the user name and password “barrier” created by participant websites and increases participant interactions with their employee benefits.

Milliman works with SunGard and other companies to assemble functionality, bandwidth, and access to secure information contained within our record-keeping systems while maintaining the same high standards of the Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization – SSAE No. 16.

Secure Access Channels are strategically important for Milliman. Together they change communication patterns in the same kinds of ways that interactive voice response (IVR) changed paper forms and websites changed IVR.

Finding the right “mix” of technology and business process improvement in each medium, and adjusting over time, will be the subject of my next post.