Technology is constantly evolving and innovations are made every day. The latest information on the tools available—in agency management systems; data storage, backup and recovery technologies; and mobile device management software—helps your agency enjoy the best that today’s technology landscape has to offer.
What can technology really do for your agency? Jeff Yates, ACT executive director at the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, said his team recently reviewed best practices studies to evaluate the effect of enhanced agency productivity. “The revenue per employee back in 1993 was $83,000 in a best practices agency. It’s now $183,000,” primarily due to advances in technology, he said.
The most efficient agency management systems are “organized to be workflow driven, so it’s easier for the user to get their tasks done as quickly as possible and better service their clients,” said Reid French, CEO of University Park, Ill.-based Applied Systems Inc. Agents can run their entire operations, including billing, creating producer commission reports and helping CSRs support the renewal process. French said agencies use management systems to protect themselves from E&O exposures, and that transaction time stamping offers a detailed record should anything unfortunate happen. After tremendous growth in the user base over the past several years, French said, “we’re really pleased to see where it will go over the next 10 to 15 years.”
Few agencies today store data onsite on a single storage platform. “The market is trending toward, and needs, both a combination of onsite and offsite storage as part of a data protection and disaster recovery solution,” said Brian Findlay, director of global storage at Imation in Oakdale, Minn., a company that specializes in scalable storage and data security solutions. Cloud storage is a great “pay-as-you-go storage medium,” he said, and it doesn’t require large investments in infrastructure. However, one common misconception Findlay corrects is that cloud storage is entirely replacing onsite storage arrays. “People aren’t going to be going just directly to cloud. You need to have that onsite storage for fast recovery.”
Managing a flurry of company-issued and personally owned handheld devices has become easier with the proliferation of mobile device management (MDM) platforms. “The better solutions can accommodate hybrid environments, both from a corporate-liable and from an individual-liable policy management perspective,” said Troy Fulton, director of product marketing at MDM provider Tangoe in Orange, Conn. With mixed environments common, agencies no longer need to worry how they’ll support each producer’s device of choice because today’s solutions “provide the flexibility with respect to department, location and employee” to ensure each device is managed properly, Fulton said. Robust MDM platforms can push IT policies to nearly any device, bringing authorized access to email, data storage and even applications under agency control.
Agency management system vendors, too, are looking at the mobile device landscape as a call to action. Tablet support is being added to some of Vertafore’s products, according to Winterburn, and a team is working now to develop a workable, intuitive user interface. “There’s getting to be a standard look and feel of technology—an almost instant type of recognition of what’s going on on the screen,” he said. Developers are busy making the systems’ UI “more familiar and simple,” which Winterburn said is necessary to truly take advantage of evolving technologies such as tablets. It’s all about “creating more of an intuitive approach to navigation in general,” he said.