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The Connected Business of Insurance

IVANS Index: May 2018 Results for Premium Renewal Rate Change

June 07, 2018

by Brian Wood
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IVANS Index is a data-driven report of current conditions and trends for premium renewal rate change of the most placed commercial lines of business in the insurance industry. Data collected in the IVANS Index enables insurers to determine competitive rates and the most profitable lines of business for investment. To learn more about IVANS Index, read IVANS Index: Get Ahead of Renewal Pricing for Your Clients.

May Results Show Uptick Across Majority of Major Commercial Product Lines
The latest IVANS Index results for May 2018 showed that the majority of standard commercial lines products are trending positively, except Commercial Auto and Umbrella, which experienced a slight downward tick while still remaining in positive territory.

Highlights from the May 2018 results include:

  • Commercial Auto: 4.04%, down from 4.54% at the end of April.
  • BOP: 4.02%, up from 3.86% the month prior.
  • General Liability: 2.37%, up from 2.16% at the end of last month.
  • Commercial Property: 3.20%, up from 2.98% at the end of April.
  • Umbrella: 1.54%, down from 2.31% the month prior.
  • Workers’ Compensation: -2.71%, up from -2.93% at the end of April.

May’s IVANS Index figures show that premium rate change across the industry still remains steadily positive, with average variance from month to month across nearly all lines, except for Umbrella which experienced the most significant trend change. These numbers demonstrate that the Commercial Lines market remains hard and further provide guidance on the most profitable lines of business for both insurers and agents.

Analyzing more than 120 million data transactions, the IVANS Index premium renewal rate change measures the premium difference year over year for a single consistent policy. Inclusive of more than 30,000 agencies and 380 insurers and MGAs, the IVANS Index is reflective of the premium rate change trends being experienced by all agencies and insurers across the U.S. insurance market.

For further insights into premium renewal rate change across the industry, download the full IVANS Index report now >

Brian Wood, Vice President of Data Products Group for IVANS, develops innovative and data-driven applications, tools and services for the insurance industry. Prior to this position, he co-founded EvoSure, which was acquired by Applied in Sept 2015. Brian spent 10 years with Marsh & McLennan as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Analysis where he developed global insurance distribution platforms. Brian began his career in insurance building the first company to bind insurance online, insuranceOrder.com (a Trilogy company) which was acquired by Marsh & McLennan in 2001.

Spring into the Digital Age of Insurance

May 24, 2018

by Reid French
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Our 2018 Digital Agency Survey indicates that the national average for digital technology adoption among independent agencies is 44%. Given this score is exactly the same as 2017, it reveals that agencies have yet to fully embrace the opportunities that digital technology affords to service and support connected consumers in the digital age.

Technology expands your business’s communication channels – to clients and insurer partners. It effectively mobilizes your staff from their desk to your customers and prospects in the field. Digital technology also elevates your role as a trusted advisor, making you present at all moments of opportunity – anytime, anywhere. There is significant opportunity and competitive advantage to be had for agencies willing to adopt new technologies and implement digital transformation strategies.

The 5 Pillars of a Digital Agency

The Digital Agency Survey evaluates adoption of the five core capabilities of a Digital Agency, including a management system, insurer connectivity, mobility, cloud and data analytics, which work cohesively together to drive digital transformation.

Here are a few key takeaways from this year’s report:

  1. 97% of survey respondents use a management system
    This almost ubiquitous adoption by agencies worldwide confirms that the management system is the foundation of their business operations and indispensable for their day-to-day operations. Managing separate, disparate systems is both costly and time consuming to agencies. In fact, studies show that switching between different systems can reduce staff productivity by as much as 30%. Using a single application to manage your entire business, including personal lines, commercial lines, and employee benefits, eliminates the need for multiple systems and creates standardized workflows so that your staff can be more productive and make better business decisions faster.
  1. 77% of survey respondents receive download directly into the management system
    Some download types, such as Personal Lines, are more widely received, but overall, use of download services is strong and growing among agencies throughout North America. This strong showing reinforces the importance agencies place on digital connectivity with insurer partners. Through increased connectivity, agents have greater access to markets and automated servicing, providing instant access to the latest client information – from quotes to policy details to claims management – at a moment’s notice and when clients need it most.
  1. Only 45% of agencies have mobile access to management system information, and even fewer, 24% and 18% respectively, offer clients mobile apps and self-service portals
    Given that more than half of all consumers first use mobile devices for anything they do online, agencies must embrace mobile technology now for both clients and staff. Today’s consumers demand anytime, anywhere service and businesses that don’t provide this risk losing their customers to alternative providers. In fact, studies show that 52% of consumers would switch providers for greater online service. Your staff also demand greater flexibility and servicing options. Giving staff remote access to information and tools within the management system empowers them to quickly respond to client and prospect service and sales requests.
  1. 65% of agencies host software in the cloud
    Studies show that 60% of small and medium-sized businesses that experience a cyber-attack go out of business after six months, which is why 65% of agencies rely on the cloud. Hosting the applications that your agency relies on day in and day out in the cloud ensures continuous business operations and data security. By leveraging software that is always accessible and backed up by redundancies, your business is available to customers – even during a catastrophic event that historically would have completely disrupted agency operations. Additionally by eliminating the time and expense managing IT systems, more of your staff’s time can be spent selling insurance and servicing customers.
  1. Only 20% of survey respondents use data analytics applications
    Year over year, agency use of data analytics applications to gain insights from their management system data remains virtually unchanged. Ambivalence to adopting data analytics is likely due to the misconception that it is too complex and technical for agencies to manage on their own. However, data analytics solutions have rapidly advanced and are extremely accessible to any business regardless of size, revenue and/or IT resources. Agencies need to gather, process and get insights from data in real time across the entire business. Making the shift from being a data-generating organization to one that is data-powered gives agencies a competitive edge through enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization. Studies also show that information-centric organizations realize 20% more profit than their competitors.

Why Becoming a Digital Agency Matters
While the independent insurance agency channel has progressed in its adoption of technology, this year’s results indicate that there is still considerable opportunity for agencies to digitally transform their business to provide complete connectivity to staff, insurers and insureds. When you think about the core promise of insurance — to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives — it is vital to use digital technology to ensure your agency will be there when your customers need you most.

For more industry insights and to learn how technology can help your business grow in the digital age of insurance, download the complete Applied Digital Agency Annual Report.

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays a prominent role in developing and fostering relationships throughout the Applied community. French came to Applied in 2011, after serving as chief operating officer at Intergraph Corporation, a global company at the forefront of geospatial and computer-aided design software. Early in his career, he was a strategic planner for the Walt Disney Company, and he managed investment banking transactions in the technology sector for Robinson-Humphrey. French holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. He sits on the board of directors for Applied, Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK) and The Lovett School in Atlanta.

There’s Gold in Them Thar Management Systems

May 10, 2018

by Brian Wood
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The phrase “there’s gold in them thar hills” is probably best known as being uttered in various Bugs Bunny cartoons. However, Dr. Matthew Fleming Stephenson first said it to persuade miners to stay in Dahlonega, GA instead of heading to California for the Gold Rush in 1849. Today, over 100 years later, I still hear the catchphrase being used to bring attention to an opportunity where there are riches to be found. Mining for valuable resources still happens today and in the insurance industry, that mining is for data.

Data is the rich and growing renewable resource of the information age. And the good news is you don’t have to head west to find it. There is an enormous amount of valuable data related to your customers, insurers and agents within your management system just waiting to be unearthed. Like mining for gold though, data requires the right set of tools and processes to be extracted and understood. Data analytics applications turn information into visual insights for faster, more informed decision making. Reliance on outdated, manual reporting is no longer sufficient. To survive and thrive in the data-driven digital age, agencies must embrace new approaches that enable them to maximize the value of their data.

“Information is money. The ability to extract the right information at the right time holds an immense value and should be the goal of every executive, manager and employee”

Tomasz Sloniewski, Analyst at IDC

Why Tap the Gold Mine?
“Information is money. The ability to extract the right information at the right time holds an immense value and should be the goal of every executive, manager and employee,” according to Tomasz Sloniewski, Analyst at IDC. In fact, Gartner reports mirror this sentiment and have found that information-centric organizations are 20% more profitable and 110% more valuable than their less analytically driven peers. By becoming data-powered businesses, agencies gain a competitive edge through enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization.

Specifically, data analytics empowers agencies to:

  • Determine how profitable their book of business is
  • Adjust sales practices to improve profits
  • Reduce time wasted on unresponsive policyholders
  • Increase per agent and per customer profitability
  • Maximize overall business profitability

What Kind of Data Can Be Mined?
Although data analytics solutions have traditionally focused on areas of interest to agency principals and owners, these applications have evolved to provide more expansive insights of value to the entire business, including Sales and Accounting departments. With this in mind, consider data analytics to evaluate the following core areas of your business:

  • Book of Business Performance
    Understanding your client data enables your agency to identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, as well as analyze potential growth and new market opportunities to drive business profitability.
  • Financial Performance
    Analyze the overall performance of your business to ensure you’re on track of reaching your goals and measure year-over-year performance to compare the outcomes of different strategies.
  • Staff Performance
    Your staff keep your business running. It’s important to look at employees’ books of business over time and how quickly they are completing tasks so you can identify any workflow bottlenecks that may impact the growth and profitability of your business.
  • Insurer Partner Performance
    Lastly, it’s important to look at your insurer relationships to see which are the most responsive, providing the best services and driving the most revenue.

Data: The Gold of the Digital Age
It’s hard to imagine analyzing so many metrics when traditional reporting is complex and time-consuming. Data analytics solutions are automated and utilize real-time information to ensure greater productivity and timely decisions. To be competitive in the digital age, processes need to be automated, employees more productive, and decisions made in an instant. With data analytics successfully woven into the fabric of your agency, you position your agency to retain current customers, acquire new customers, streamline operations, increase profitability and remain a viable competitor now and in the years ahead. 

Ready to turn your information into insights? Download the Data Analytics: Turning Information into Insights white paper to learn how to achieve data analytics success.

Brian Wood, Vice President of the Applied Data Products Group, develops innovative and data-driven applications, tools and services for the insurance industry. Prior to this position, he co-founded EvoSure, which was acquired by Applied in Sept 2015. Brian spent 10 years with Marsh & McLennan as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Analysis where he developed global insurance distribution platforms. Brian began his career in insurance building the first company to bind insurance online, insuranceOrder.com (a Trilogy company) which was acquired by Marsh & McLennan in 2001.

Applied Net: Why It’s a Must-Attend Event for Insurance Brokers and Agents

April 26, 2018

by Applied Communications
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Applied Net is the largest gathering of independent insurance agents and brokers in the world. Each year, agents and brokers across North America, the UK and Ireland come together to discuss the latest technologies empowering them to compete and thrive in the digital age of insurance.

To be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville October 15-18, Applied Net 2018 will feature inspiring keynotes, more than 200 educational sessions, and an innovation showcase to explore how brokerages, MGAs and insurers must incorporate digital technology into their organization’s DNA and transform business and customer service models. Applied Net also includes highly anticipated nightly events to network with other agents and brokers while experiencing world-class entertainment.

Lisa Colwell, operations manager at Wilson Insurance Ltd. in New Brunswick, Canada and multi-year Applied Net attendee, sat down with us to discuss her favorite parts of the conference and why she recommends every independent insurance agent and broker attend.

Q: What is the best part of the conference?

A: My favorite part of Applied Net is networking with other brokers because I’m able to learn about how they’re using digital technology. I’m all about taking the most out of the content and bringing it back to my brokerage. I usually have information overload on my way home because I want to implement so much.

Q: Do you have an example of content that you’ve brought back and implemented into your brokerage?

A: I attended absolutely every Applied Epic session at last year’s Applied Net in Las Vegas. At the time we were in the process of deciding if we would move to Applied Epic. The sessions were great and worth the time, especially since we implemented Applied Epic at our brokerage this year. I’m looking forward to attending more sessions in Nashville.

Q: Can you tell us more about the feeling of community you get from Applied Net?

A: It’s great when you find somebody who’s in the same situation as you because the relationship continues even after the conference. I’ve gotten emails from brokers I connected with at Applied Net asking, “How did you go about doing that?” It’s really nice to make lasting connections with other agents and brokers at Applied Net.

Q: Do you feel that Applied Net is a good place to discover new technology?

A: Applied Net is a great resource to stay on top of what’s out there and how brokers can keep up with digital technology that makes their businesses better. Applied CSR24 would’ve been unheard of a few years ago in our industry. I’ve always found that the conference is a great way to get that introduction and speak with the people who have it. Whether it’s Applied CSR24, Applied Rater or anything else, it’s great to be able to ask, “What do you like about it?” “What would you give as a takeaway if I were to move forward?” There’s a lot of helpful experience sharing.

Q: Do you feel like Applied Net pays for itself in terms of how it helps your agency?

A: Yes, absolutely. As I said before, the toughest part is coming back to the office on your first day back when you’re on that information overload – you’ve got a list of 30 things to do because you’re so energized when you leave the sessions. My advice? Pick three ideas to implement first, then go on to the other 27!

Q: What other parts of the conference do you enjoy?

A: The evening events are always unique and fun. I really enjoy the networking, so it’s nice to get a relaxed atmosphere, have a conversation and get to know people. It feels like a family since everybody understands our industry. Unless you’re in it, you don’t really get it, so it’s nice to troubleshoot with members of the community.

Register now for Applied Net 2018 and discover how to take advantage of the opportunities available in the digital age of insurance to prepare your business for success today and in the future.

Learn more about Applied Net >

IVANS Index: 2018 Q1 Results for Premium Renewal Rate Change

April 12, 2018

by Applied Communications
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IVANS Index is a data-driven report of current conditions and trends for premium renewal rate change of the most placed commercial lines of business in the insurance industry. Data collected in the IVANS Index enables insurers to determine competitive rates and the most profitable lines of business for investment. To learn more about IVANS Index, read IVANS Index: Get Ahead of Renewal Pricing for Your Clients.

Q1 2018 Results Show Positive Uptick in Premium Renewal Rate Change Average Across Nearly All Lines of Business
The latest IVANS Index results for Q1 show that insurance industry premium renewal rates are up quarter-over-quarter across nearly all major commercial product lines, except Workers’ Compensation. Commercial Auto, Business Owner’s Policy, Commercial Property, Umbrella, and General Liability show positive results compared to Q4 2017; however, Workers’ Compensation demonstrated slightly negative premium renewal rate change during the quarter.

Key findings from the 2018 Q1 results include:

  • Commercial Auto: Premium renewal rate change averaged 4.20% for Q1, ending at 3.87% in March.
  • BOP: Quarter premium renewal rate change averaged 4.00%, representing an increase over last quarter’s average of 3.85%. BOP renewal rate change finished the quarter at 4.29%.
  • General Liability: Q1 premium renewal rate change experienced an uptick at 2.01% compared to Q4 which averaged 1.86%. General Liability renewal rate reached 2.24% at the end of March.
  • Commercial Property: Q1 premium renewal rate change increased quarter-over-quarter, with an average rate change of 3.11% as compared to 2.91% in Q4 of last year.
  • Umbrella: Quarter premium renewal rate change spiked in March, finishing the quarter at 2.13% and increasing the Q1 average to 1.49% from 1.34% in Q4.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Premium renewal rate change dipped again in Q1, averaging at -2.47% as compared to -2.32% in Q4.

Commercial Auto
Premium renewal rate change for Commercial Auto insurance averaged 4.20% in Q1. Insurance buyers in Florida continue to experience a premium renewal rate change higher than the average, with Q1 rate change for Florida buyers averaging 8.58% premium renewal rate change versus overall Commercial Auto at 4.20%.

BOP
March marked the quarter high for Business Owner’s Policy at 4.29% premium renewal rate change, with the low in February at 3.80%. BOP for real estate firms is increasing faster than other industries, with Q1 2018 rate change at 5.66% versus the national average at 4.00%.

Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ Compensation rate change averaged -2.47% in Q1 versus -2.32% in Q4 2017. February marks the lowest premium renewal rate change of the quarter at -3.61%, with March being the second lowest at -2.79%. Social services experienced more variable average premium renewal rate change for Workers’ Compensation than the industry average. In Q4 2017, social services averaged a 0.74% premium renewal rate change versus the national average of -2.32%.

Quarter-over-quarter, premium renewal rate change continues to show significant positive momentum across the majority of commercial lines. Analyzing more than 120 million data transactions, The IVANS Index continues to serve as a product and pricing tool for our insurer customers and provides the industry’s only data-driven insights for our agencies as they provide renewal guidance to their customers.

For further insights into premium renewal rate change across the industry, download the full IVANS Index Q1 2018 report now >

Survey Says: Insurance Agencies Progress Towards Digital Transformation

March 29, 2018

by Kris Hackney
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Technology is rapidly changing the world we live in. It has created a new kind of consumer who expects mobile access to information and online self-service from every company they do business with – and insurance is not immune. It’s critical for agencies to adopt a digital strategy in order to serve customers the way they want to be served. History shows us that failure to embrace digital transformation can put your business at risk of not surviving long term.

To better prepare agencies for digital transformation, Applied Systems recently hosted a Digital Transformation of Insurance webinar. During this webinar, we explored the drivers of digital transformation in insurance, how other industries have reacted to change, the opportunities technology provides agencies and steps to successfully navigate digital transformation.

I always like to hear from the audience during webinars, so we included a few quick polls to gauge where agencies similar to yours are in their digital transformation journeys. What struck me about the results was how many attendees have made progress towards digital transformation, and that obstacles still remain even for those who have made a strong start.

Here is a closer look at the poll results 

Question #1: What do you think of when you hear the term “digital transformation”?
As noted in the news daily and discussed at every industry event, the insurance industry is undergoing digital transformation. But what exactly does the term “digital transformation” entail?

In a world that is all about anytime, anywhere access to information, I was not surprised to see that most of our attendees associate mobile technology with digital transformation. However, each of these responses – internet of things, mobile technology, data analytics, going paperless and the cloud – play an important role in digital transformation.

Wikipedia defines digital transformation as “the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.” This definition covers three vital components of digital transformation:

  • Change: Digital transformation is not about simply making traditional methods faster and more convenient, but enabling new approaches to innovation.
  • Technology: Digital technology used to be computer-to-computer, but now it encompasses mobile, the internet of things, wearable technology and much more.
  • Human: No business is immune from digital transformation. It involves all generations and spans all industries.

Question #2: Where are you in the process of digital transformation?
Most leaders would agree that digital transformation is necessary, but vary with respect to which transformation stage they are in.

I was encouraged to see that a majority of our audience (81.1%) has at least made a start in their digital transformation journeys. For those not yet on the path to digital transformation, I understand that simply thinking about the implications of transforming your organization can be overwhelming. For some, taking those initial steps — deciding what digital transformation means to you, identifying necessary changes, setting specific goals, etc. — is the hardest part. For others, the challenges they encounter further down the road to digital transformation can hinder their progress. Which brings me to…

Question #3: What is your biggest challenge related to digital transformation?
For those organizations who have not yet “transformed,” we wanted to better understand the hurdles they are trying to overcome to achieve their goal.

I was not surprised to see that almost half of our attendees cited cultural resistance as their biggest obstacle. Many leaders fail to recognize that change takes time. Instead of preparing their culture for change, most leaders believe it’s best to move quickly and jump right into it. Unfortunately, about a week in, they realize they should have prepared their culture because they don’t have any support. You can change technologies very quickly in the right circumstances, but altering the way employees think about their roles, the business, and your culture doesn’t happen overnight. People must acknowledge and buy into the need to change at the most basic level. To help create a more receptive environment, include employees in the planning process then clearly define goals, roles and processes.

Despite what obstacles you’re facing, nothing is insurmountable and every challenge must be faced head-on to ensure a successful and sustainable business now and in the future.

Embracing digital technology for a brighter tomorrow
When you think about the core promise of insurance — to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives — it is vital to use digital technology to ensure your agency will be there when your customers need you most.

For more insights into how to successfully navigate the digital transformation of your agency, watch the Digital Transformation of Insurance webinar I recently hosted.

Kristin HackneyKris Hackney, executive vice president of customer experience, is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM.

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend Applied Net 2018

March 15, 2018

by Applied Communications
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Each year, thousands of insurance agents, brokers, industry experts and Applied team members from across the globe come together to collaborate on industry topics, discover the latest innovations and network with industry peers and leaders. As the largest gathering of insurance professionals, Applied Net provides the arena for agents and brokers to discuss how to embrace digital transformation and capitalize on new business opportunities.

Applied Net 2018 is sure to be bigger and better than ever. Here are the top 5 reasons why 99% of attendees say they would recommend Applied Net to a colleague:

  1. Build your industry and technical knowledge
    Choose from more than 200 educational sessions taught by peers, subject matter experts and industry leaders. Applied Net provides attendees 4 days of jammed-packed learning opportunities that are sure to deliver valuable insights.
  1. Explore the latest innovations and products
    Discover how to connect your staff to customers and insurer partners in more ways than ever before. With 100+ insurance companies and industry partners exhibiting, the Applied Net Exchange is the forum to uncover the newest innovations and services driving the digital age of insurance.

  1. Grow your community
    Cultivate relationships at the world’s largest gathering of insurance professionals. Applied Net provides the opportunity to meet industry leaders paving the way and to network with a community of 3,000+ of your peers.
  1. Network at exciting events
    Look forward to unforgettable experiences in the evenings at exclusive networking events. A lively assortment of entertainment presents the perfect setting to connect with fellow attendees.
  1. Be inspired by our engaging keynotes
    Get inspired by extraordinary keynotes from Applied leaders and engaging guest speakers. Past speakers include Captain Sully Sullenberger and Madeleine Albright, who shared their unique outlooks and approaches on business, leadership, customer experience and more.

Applied Net 2018 takes place October 15 – 18 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. Attend Applied Net to learn how agencies, MGAs and insurers must incorporate digital technology into their organization’s DNA to compete and thrive in this new digital age.

Register Now for Exclusive Early-Bird Discounts >

A Digital Transformation Roadmap

March 01, 2018

by Reid French
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For years, we’ve been talking about the impending digital transformation of insurance. Well, it’s no longer just coming – it’s here. While digitally transforming your business may have previously been optional, it’s now an imperative to deliver on the core promise of insurance: to safeguard and protect what matters most. The question that remains is will you embrace the digital transformation of insurance or will you ignore it?

Making the Case for Digital Transformation
If we examine how other industries have reacted to digital transformation, you will find that existing industries have either ignored digital transformation, most often to their peril, or they have embraced it, most often to great success despite the fear of change. Think of Blockbuster. The organization did not react or evolve its operating model when digital transformation took place. Blockbuster, which had studio relationships, content and a rich customer database, should never have allowed Netflix to become the king of streaming as this technology became available. They chose short-term profitability over long-term survival. History shows us that those who move swiftly to innovate, to adopt technology, to advance customer experience are the ones that fare the best during digital transformation, enhancing revenue growth and profitability in the process.

Why Should Your Agency Digitally Transform?
Digital transformation strengthens an independent agency’s core value as a trusted advisor and ensures longevity via a more competitive and sustainable position in the marketplace. Specifically, digitally transformed businesses stand to reap rewards related to customer retention, employee retention and return on investment.

  • Customer retention
    By delivering the excellent customer experiences consumers expect, such as online portals and mobile apps, you create happier customers, which ultimately drives business returns through enhanced retention. In fact, organizations that prioritize customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors.
  • Employee retention
    To attract and retain talent now and in the future, agencies must make their businesses more appealing to a workforce that expects instant access to information, both in the office and while on the road or at home. Adopting a digital transformation strategy that provides the best software tools to your team will enable higher retention and easier recruitment.
  • Return on investment
    Digital technology empowers employees to focus their time and effort toward selling insurance and servicing policyholders by reducing manual tasks and processes. In fact, digital agencies realize a 144% higher revenue per employee than non-digital agencies.

Next Steps
The digital transformation of insurance is underway. Becoming a digital agency requires solid planning, resource allocation and effective change management. With a clear transformation strategy, you can build an agency that is more valuable to your customers, your employees and your owners, remaining relevant during this time of change in our industry.

For insights on how to successfully navigate the digital transformation of your agency, download the 7 Steps to Digital Transformation eBook today.

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays a prominent role in developing and fostering relationships throughout the Applied community. French came to Applied in 2011, after serving as chief operating officer at Intergraph Corporation, a global company at the forefront of geospatial and computer-aided design software. Early in his career, he was a strategic planner for the Walt Disney Company, and he managed investment banking transactions in the technology sector for Robinson-Humphrey. French holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. He sits on the board of directors for Applied, Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK) and The Lovett School in Atlanta.

How to Lead Change Management: 6 Guiding Principles

February 15, 2018

by Kris Hackney
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Today, it’s critical for agencies to evolve business operations and adopt technology to keep pace with consumer demands. But with adopting the latest innovation comes change, and there’s no way around it – change can sometimes be difficult. No matter if it’s a big or small change, change must be managed with strategy and proper direction. In fact, about 70% of all change initiatives fail because of inadequate planning. Don’t let your business be a part of that statistic.

Why do so many change initiatives fail?

Many leaders fail to recognize that change takes time. Instead of preparing their culture for change, most leaders believe it’s best to move quickly and jump right into it. Unfortunately, about a week in, they realize they should have prepared their culture because they don’t have any support. You can change technologies very quickly in the right circumstances, but altering the way employees think about their roles, the business, and your culture doesn’t happen overnight. The time required to transform hearts and minds must be built into your change management plan.

Key principles to change management

Change management is the discipline of leading individuals, teams and entire organizations through organizational change via a combination of behavioral and social sciences, information technology and business solutions. By understanding the basic phases of change and valuing your staff, you can prepare your culture for change and avoid common pitfalls of failed change efforts.

To successfully navigate change requires an explicit focus on 3 core principles:

  1. People
    The people who make up your organization are one of the most crucial elements for change management success. People must acknowledge and buy into the need to change at the most basic level. Once buy-in is established, employee engagement at each stage needs to be closely monitored to address any resistance and create a shared sense of urgency for change. Continual, transparent communications will foster listening and provide a sounding board for issues and concerns. To help create a more receptive environment, include employees in the planning process then clearly define goals, roles and processes.
  1. Process
    Processes detail how the work gets done, providing a plan for introducing and systemizing your technology strategy. Risk can be managed by putting a robust governance structure in place, where processes are documented to establish a foundation for ongoing growth. Finally, processes should be continuously updated based on best practices and lessons learned.
  1. Technology
    Technology investment must encompass all aspects of your business, from managing internal staff to connecting to customers and insurer partners. It must integrate all applications to deliver a consistent user experience and create a single view of your business. Agencies will not succeed managing separate, disparate systems that create multiple sources of data. When selecting the technology right for the business, it must also be flexible and scalable enough to support current and future growth.

6 ways to successfully navigate change

Before diving in head first, it’s important to have a clear conception of what you’re trying to achieve. With this vision in hand and the 3 core principles in mind, agencies can better strategize initiatives that deliver value.

Here are 6 guiding principles to help you map out a successful change management program:

  1. Begin the journey with the end in mind
    First, you need to determine the ideal end state and create a game plan to achieve these goals. That idea can’t be too static — you need to allow for alterations along the way — but you need a clear vision of the end state to get everyone moving in the same direction. People don’t need every tiny detail about the future state, but they do need a rough idea of where we’re going. They need to be able to visualize that there is a better place waiting for them out there and they need to be able to imagine themselves in that place.
  1. Define technology requirements and design
    Once you have set your end goal, begin to identify the areas of deficiency in the agency’s current technology strategy. Rethink how the business leverages its IT investment, weaving digital technology into the fabric of daily operations to become a digital agency. When considering the technology to adopt, be sure to invest in technology that both your customers and staff expect in today’s digital age. Keeping customer experience top of mind throughout this stage will make sure you future-proof your agency for success in the years to come.
  1. Identify and manage key stakeholders
    To succeed with change management, you need to identify the people who will be most affected by your proposed changes. These people will become either the strongest resisters or your most powerful champions for change. Ensure their commitment and enthusiasm by involving them in the creation of your change management vision.
  1. Develop metrics and milestones
    In order to know if the changes you made were successful, you need to define the keys to success and employ necessary tools for tracking your progress. It’s also important to schedule milestones which people will be able to see and celebrate. This will provide proof that efforts are working and add to the motivation to keep going.
  1. Deploy communications and training
    A clear vision of your goal won’t help much if you don’t share it. Do everything in your power to get your vision across and instill a sense of mission in employees. It’s also important to remember that communication isn’t one way. The stakeholders that are closest to the thing you’re seeking to change often have insights that you don’t. It’s important to encourage their feedback and continuous dialogue throughout this process. As things change, continue to educate your entire organization on how the change will benefit them and offer training on new procedures and systems.
  1. Continually reassess and make adjustments
    You must understand that no change program goes completely as per the plan. As you lead your organization through change, new and unexpected challenges will arise. The success of your change management depends upon adjusting to those challenges.

Why is change management important?

In too many situations, change has resulted in a significant amount of waste and anguish in organizations. Useful change tends to be associated with a multi-step process that creates power and motivation. It requires dedication and must be driven by high-quality leadership who demonstrate their commitment to its success. The rewards for those organizations that manage their change efforts well have improved their competitive standing and positioned themselves for a far better future.

Kristin HackneyKris Hackney, executive vice president of customer experience, is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM.

2018 Digital Technology Survey: Share Your Feedback Now

February 01, 2018

by Reid French
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Technology has changed the way we live and work. All of us are experiencing a more connected life in a more connected world. These connected experiences have impacted the expectations of insurance consumers and businesses across our industry.

For years, we’ve been talking about the impending digital transformation of insurance. Well, it’s here. While digitally transforming a business might have seemed like an option only for early adopters, it’s become an imperative for us all.

Now that the digital transformation of insurance is here, how well are agents and brokers adopting digital technology?
To establish an industry benchmark and track digital technology adoption among independent insurance agencies and brokerages, Applied developed an annual Digital Technology Survey. Now in its third consecutive year, the survey gives agents and brokers across North America, the UK and Ireland an opportunity to anonymously participate in this study, which determines an average industry score for digital technology adoption at an independent agency or brokerage.

This score is relevant because it reflects the progress agents and brokers have made in their adoption of digital technology. Regardless of where your business ranks compared to your industry colleagues, understanding the role digital technology plays in delivering on the promise of insurance – to safeguard and protect what matters most – in a world more connected than ever before is the first step to ensuring your business thrives today, tomorrow and in the years ahead.

How to Participate in the 2018 Digital Technology Survey
Simply complete the online survey by answering questions about the five competencies of a digital agent/broker, including management systems capabilities, data analytics, insurer connectivity, the cloud and mobile. Agencies/brokerages scoring 80% or higher across all core competencies are considered to be digital agents/brokers, having adopted most of the key drivers of digital transformation.

The results of the survey will be published later this year in the “Applied Digital Agency/Brokerage Annual Report: 2018 Digital Technology Adoption Benchmarks and Trends.” By taking the survey today, you’ll be among the first to receive the report upon its publication.

I cannot thank you enough for taking the survey and contributing to the annual report. Know that all of us at Team Applied are here to enable your agency or brokerage to thrive during the Digital Transformation of Insurance.

Select your region below to start the survey:

U.S. Survey >

Canada Survey >

UK Survey >

Ireland Survey >

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays a prominent role in developing and fostering relationships throughout the Applied community. French came to Applied in 2011, after serving as chief operating officer at Intergraph Corporation, a global company at the forefront of geospatial and computer-aided design software. Early in his career, he was a strategic planner for the Walt Disney Company, and he managed investment banking transactions in the technology sector for Robinson-Humphrey. French holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. He sits on the board of directors for Applied, Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK) and The Lovett School in Atlanta.