Dec
15

Top 3 Cloud Myths – What Does it Mean to You?

by Tim Sander

Top 3 Cloud Myths_Applied Systems BlogAccording to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), public IT cloud services spending will reach $56.6 billion by the end of 2014 and grow to more than $127 billion by 2018. While demand and spending for cloud services continues to trend upward, there still remains mystery and confusion surrounding the technology among some business and IT stakeholders.

Gartner recently highlighted some of the most discussed myths about the cloud, so I took a closer look at the top three myths that could potentially mislead your agency/brokerage.

MYTH1The Cloud is Less Secure than On-Premises Capabilities
Gartner says: “Cloud computing is perceived as less secure. To date, there have been very few security breaches in the public cloud — most breaches continue to involve on-premises data center environments.”

Applied’s advice: In today’s more digitally connected world, maintaining security and access to critical business information is a top business priority. With a cloud system, your critical applications and data reside in a secure data center. Our data centers deliver redundancy for power and Internet access, and a physical infrastructure that offers greater protection from natural and man-made disasters and other unpredictable business interruptions. With 99.9% uptime, Applied data centers deliver both data security and business continuity. Most locally deployed environments do not have dedicated security professionals that are monitoring the health and safety of the data. Just having a firewall is no longer sufficient. It is necessary to maintain a comprehensive security program with multiple layers of defense and monitoring. Applied has this multi-layer approach and professionals that are looking out for the interest of all data that resides in the Applied Cloud.

MYTH2The Cloud is Always About Money
Gartner says: “While it’s sometimes the case that the cloud always saves money, there are many other reasons cited for migrating to the cloud, the most common of which is for agility. Saving money may end up one of the benefits, but it should not be taken for granted.”

Applied’s advice: A cloud solution eliminates many requirements for hardware and software on premises and additional personnel to manage IT infrastructure. This frees up more time and money for core insurance activities like selling insurance. Additionally, your Internet-based applications and software update automatically with the cloud, so your business continually runs the latest applications without incurring delays or extra expenses that may be required with a manual updates. The cloud can deliver both cost savings and business agility.

MYTH3Migrating to The Cloud Means You Automatically Get All Cloud Characteristics
Gartner says: “Cloud computing has unique attributes and characteristics. Gartner’s cloud attributes include scalability and elasticity; they use service-based (and self-service) Internet technologies; they are shared (and uniform) and metered by use. The most common use case for the cloud, however, is new applications.”

Applied’s advice: The flexibility of a cloud solution can be ideal for insurance agencies that need to scale their business quickly to meet changing needs such as a business acquisition or rapid growth. The cloud eliminates the additional time and expense it takes to add or integrate new IT capacity, including applications. Since applications are hosted remotely in data centers and accessible via the Internet, your agents, CSRs, producers and others can access complete client information – anywhere, anytime – enabling them to provide clients faster service with greater flexibility that can lead to higher productivity. With Applied Online, agencies and brokerages benefit from more deterministic pricing based on individual usage, providing static budgeting for agencies and brokerages that is difficult to determine in other cloud environments.

How are you embracing the cloud? Share your thoughts below.

Learn more about the benefits of the cloud >

Tim SanderTim Sander, senior vice president of IT, Cloud Services, heads global IT operations for Applied’s Cloud Hosting and corporate IT services. He began his Applied career in 1987 as a systems technician and has held numerous technical leadership roles, helping Applied to evaluate and transition to new technologies. Today Sander is responsible for the company’s corporate IT services and oversees the operations of Applied’s four global data centers.

Oct
15

Who Are Millennials? Why Do They Matter To Your Agency?

by Christen Kelley

There are more than 80 MILLION individuals in the millennial generation including me. This generation is larger than the baby boomer generation and our 1.68 TRILLION dollars of purchasing power is transforming how companies market their products and services.

Who makes up the millennial generation?
Millennials are individuals born between the years 1980 and 1996. We have strong opinions and high expectations of businesses and employers. We are also considered the most educated generation as a result of growing up during the digital age. True digital natives, technology and social networking are a part of our everyday lives. In fact, we use mobile devices more than any other generation according to the YAYA Connection.

demographic statistics concerning millennials

Why millennials matter to your business
Millennials are transforming how insurance agencies operate, from how to market products and services to providing multichannel client touch points. With the proliferation of this new demographic, it’s imperative that your business develops a strategy to attract and retain this younger generation both as clients and employees.

Consider these millennial preferences when developing your strategy:

  • Millennials navigate seamlessly between devices
  • Always connected, millennials send upwards of 100 texts a day
  • 80% of millennials visit social media sites daily
  • An online search is the first stop to finding a solution for 71% of millennials
  • Once they go online for support, millennials expect a resolution within 80 hours
  • Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be early technology adopters than older counterparts

I encourage you to learn more about millennials and their growing influence in the marketplace. Our ebook, “Why Millennials Matter: Guide to Understanding the Insurance Industry’s Fastest Growing Consumer Base and Workforce” covers all aspects of working and selling to the millennial generation.

What are your strategies for attracting and retaining millennials? Share with us on your favorite social channel using the #futureofinsurance hashtag. 

Christen KelleyChristen Kelley, product marketing manager at Applied Systems, leads the marketing strategy for various products including Applied CSR24 and Applied MobileProducer. Christen enjoys presenting on the insurance industry’s latest topics and trends including mobility and multichannel engagement.

Sep
12

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Applied Net

by Earl Kelly

(as told by an 8-year conference veteran)

5-Tips-to-Get-the-Most-Out-of-Applied-NetIt’s that time of year again, when Applied software users join together at our annual conference to collaborate and brainstorm ideas to maximize the return on our Applied technology investment. Since my first conference eight years ago, the program has gotten bigger and better each year due to the expanded partnership between the Applied Client Network and Applied Systems. In fact, at this year’s conference there will be approximately 2,700 insurance professionals and 175+ educational sessions. That’s really impressive! So whether you’re a first-timer or just haven’t quite figured out how to get the most out of Applied Net, you’re probably going to ask yourself: What should I do? Where should I go?

To help all Applied Net attendees, here are my 5 tips for a great experience at the world’s largest event for independent insurance agents and brokers:

Tip 1: Build Your Agenda Online
Before the conference starts, visit appliednet.com or use the Applied Net mobile app to build your agenda in advance so that you’re ready to roll come Monday. Like I said before, there are more than 175 educations sessions to choose from! But there’s no need to get overwhelmed.

Here are my tips for choosing the most beneficial sessions:

  • Choose sessions related to your interests
  • Determine which sessions address your agency’s/brokerage’s challenges
  • Identify sessions that can help make your job easier
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for must-attend sessions talked about by your peers
  • Be flexible; don’t hold yourself strictly to the agenda you built in advance because it’s likely you’ll be interested in checking out others on the fly. Feel free to switch sessions as needed.

Tip 2: Download the Applied Net 2014 Mobile AppAppliedNet_APP
With the Applied Net app, you’ll have all of the resources you need at your fingertips to successfully navigate the conference. You can manage your session schedule, network with peers, get the latest Applied Net news, and more – conveniently from the app. There are maps of the entire venue to help you find you way around, as well as text notifications that tell you what’s going on and where to be throughout the day. You can also play the Click! game, which is a really fun scavenger hunt played through the app. You earn points by taking and submitting photos for each challenge. Best of all, iPad minis are given to the top 3 players!

Watch this short video to learn about all of the cool things you can do with the app.

Tip 3: Plan to Network, Network, Network
With 2,700 insurance professionals in attendance, you don’t want to leave your office without packing your business cards. Industry peers, Applied staff, Applied Client Network members and exhibitors are ready and willing to network with you. At my first conference, I didn’t bring any business cards and found myself writing my email address down repeatedly! Business cards also come in handy when you’re visiting booths in the Applied Net Exchange. Practically all of the exhibitors have giveaways you can enter with your business card. While you’re in the Applied Net Exchange, be sure to visit the Applied Client Network and Applied booths. There you can get answers to questions you might have about Applied software, demo the latest Applied solutions and learn the many benefits of being an Applied Client Network member.

Along with sharing your contact details and business cards with others, be sure to collect attendee information yourself. Connecting with peers and Applied Client network members who use Applied software is an invaluable resource. And if you’re a first time attendee, the First Timers Reception is a great way to kick off your conference.

Tip 4: Join the Conversation
Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, you can use the #AppliedNet hashtag to follow and join the conversation. Your posts might even show up on one of the jumbo social media screens set up around the conference. If you follow Applied Systems on social, you can get exclusive behind-the-scenes content:
Flat-Social-Icons_twitterFlat-Social-Icons_facebookFlat-Social-Icons_gplus
Lastly, a lot of the conversation takes place on the Applied Client Network forum. If you’re a member, you can keep up with your newfound connections on the forum website.

Tip 5: Take Lots of Notes
You’ll learn so many new things at Applied Net that it’s impossible to remember everything. Bring your tablet or smartphone and use the “My Notes” section of the Applied Net app to jot things down. You can also view session handouts from the app. I recommend downloading your handouts and reviewing them before the conference so you know what to expect. As you’re listening to presenters, think about tips they provide and points they make that can favorably impact your job or agency’s business. Don’t be afraid to ask that burning question that’s been nagging you for some time. Answers to questions and tips become important action items you can bring back from the conference.

Last but not least, have fun! The evening events are always unique, well-planned and allow you to unwind and mingle with your colleagues in an engaging atmosphere.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave your comments below, and to learn more about Applied Net visit appliednet.com.

DSC_0732Earl Kelly, Chief Information Officer, Greene Hazel Insurance Group has been in the Information Systems industry for over 20 years, and joined the Insurance industry in 2003.  In his current position he provides Support, Training, and Project Coordination for all aspects of the information systems on site.  His agency started with Applied TAM in 1988 and has recently moved to Applied EPIC. Earl  holds many certifications including Data Encryption and Security, Database Administration, Desktop Support,  Server Administration, and Disaster Planning.  At present Earl sits on the Member Relations Committee for the Applied Client Network, and is also a past president of his local user group the ASCnet North Florida.

 

Jul
15

Business Lessons from the #WorldCup: Win the Game by Going Mobile

by Tom Ives

PrintThe past few weeks have been a long and exciting journey for World Cup contenders. Following each game closely, I was on the edge of my seat. Brazil’s loss was a hard one to swallow, and Germany’s win over Argentina was epic. Regardless of where I was during each game, I knew the score and possession details within a matter of seconds through Web updates, a mobile alert, or live game stream.

On-demand, real-time access to information is the new norm – whether you want to know the latest news, weather conditions or game score, you can access that information anytime, anywhere and, more likely than not, ‘there’s an app for that,’ as Apple continues to tell us.

Here are some reasons why this year’s World Cup was the most mobile yet:

  • 2 out of every 3 American soccer fans used their smartphones or tablets for World Cup coverage
  • FIFA’s new website included the “Global Stadium,” which aggregated content from all 64 games, designed specifically for smartphone or tablet users
  • Visa used swipeless pin-and-chip technology during the World Cup to make transactions more seamless
  • Apple used iBeacon Bluetooth low-energy wireless technology to help World Cup attendees find their seats, send instant messages, and make purchases right with from their iPhones

Additionally, consumers watched the game on their TVs or in-person, while at the same time interacting on their mobile devices, creating a unique and personalized user experience.

How can mobile technology improve your agency?
Today’s consumer is “always-on” and connected, personally and professionally. Just as the World Cup embraced mobile technology, you must also adapt to the changing digital environment by being more mobile compatible. Mobility is a key factor in communicating to your customers and prospects.

Here are a few reasons why you should embrace mobility:

  1. Enable Your Agents 
    In an article from Insurance Business Magazine, Jim Schubert discusses how future insurance agents will be able to “sit across the table from prospects they found on social media” and service them using their iPads. Agents will be able to work more remotely with cloud-based mobile tools. Mobile connectivity reduces the need for office locations, resulting in lower overhead cost and increased efficiency, with less time in meetings and more time to service customers. Applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, PocketCloud, Evernote and Applied MobileProducer keep agents connected while in the field. Mobile capabilities become increasingly important during disaster situations, when it’s best for agents to be on-site and quickly to collect information.

    Takeaway: More mobile capabilities for your agents will allow them to more efficiently service customers.

  2. Be a Mobile Technology Leader
    Today, consumers are interested in keeping up with the latest technology. For prospective customers, knowing that you offer cutting-edge mobile technology, such as Applied CSR24 or Applied MobileProducer, could be a major factor in their buying decision. Using the latest technology shows customers and prospects that you understand the impact technology has on their lives and establishes you as a leader in technology adoption. Additionally, offering the latest technology will enable you to attract the younger millennial generation, as well as “Boomers” born between 1946 and 1964, who have shown a growing increase in mobile usage.

    Takeaway: Stay ahead of the competition by enhancing the mobile experience and catering to a new generation of consumers.

  3. Provide Customer Self-Service
    In an increasingly digital landscape, customers expect multichannel communication on their terms with 24/7 service and the ability to connect with you on social media channels from their iPhone or tablet. As part of the purchasing process, prospects spend time conducting online research, often on their smartphone. If your website isn’t mobile capable upfront, your agency could be omitted when prospects are making their initial purchase decision. As noted in Agents and the Digital Future, “customers who use emerging technologies as complementary channels to their purchase channel are significantly more satisfied than are those using only their purchase channel to meet their service needs.” Being present on channels that are mobile compatible such as social media, email, Web pages and apps will provide extra convenience for both customers and prospects.

    Takeaway: Take a “self-service” approach to mobile technology and think about what transactions customers expect to accomplish through mobile devices.

  4. Drive Mobility with the Cloud
    Cloud technology is rapidly transforming the insurance industry by driving greater connectivity and mobile access. The cloud is a collective term for a secure data center that houses information that can be easily accessed by a wired or wireless Internet connection. The cloud allows for greater accessibility, less worry about data backup, and more focus on the business of selling insurance. By housing all information with a cloud provider and connecting your mobile devices to the virtual environment, you are better enabling your agents to be mobile.

    Takeaway: Cloud technology allows agents to access data anytime, anywhere while keeping information safe and secure.

Businesses must keep up with mobility to engage and service customers. FIFA and World Cup sponsors like Visa offered mobile technology that created a seamless user experience and increased customer satisfaction. As an agent, you can do the same. Mobile technology enables your agents to work more efficiently, positions your business ahead of the competition with enhanced technical capabilities, and, most importantly, makes customers the top priority by offering them on-demand access.

How are you embracing mobile technology? Has it led to more sales or better customer service? Leave your comments here, and learn more about agency mobility by reading our resource brief on mobility best practices.

Tom Ives PictureTom Ives, product manager, Applied Systems, is responsible for strategy and design of Applied CSR24, Applied CertTrax, Applied InsWorld and Applied WebEngine products. Ives served most recently as a director of national accounts with Artizan Internet Services and various other roles for automation providers in the insurance industry, including sales, business analyst, system installer and software support.

May
30

Can You Weather the Storm?

by Greg Shiple

Over the years, I’ve personally worked with several customers who were impacted by large scale disruptions, including Katrina, Sandy, High River Flood and various tornadoes. In each case, those that were prepared from a business perspective were better prepared in their personal life as well.  Disasters do not discriminate against businesses or our personal lives, and our customers need us the most during times of loss.  Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be Prepared,” as disasters are truly a difficult time for everyone impacted.

Weather_StormIn 2013 alone, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the U.S. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.  As weather events continue to devastate much of the US, many people remain unprepared for dangerous high winds, heavy rainfall and other hazards. After disasters, you, as agents, are often a lifeline for your customers to begin rebuilding their lives.

Your Business Continuity Checklist
Some threats are predictable, while others give no warning at all and can shut down your business, leaving customers exposed. As we enter National Hurricane Preparedness Week, it’s the ideal time for agencies to prepare for the worst, so they can operate at their best when disaster strikes.

  • Make a plan: Analyze threats and determine how to safeguard your agency or brokerage to provide uninterrupted customer service.
  • Consider mobility: Use laptops and wireless devices to remotely access data, and host your company website in a remote location.
  • Protect data: Back-up daily in multiple locations and send your most recent back-ups to your system provider when disaster is imminent.
  • Prepare employees: Provide proper training and the information they need during a crisis, such as including emergency services numbers.
  • Prepare resources: Use a 24/7 phone service, contract with a disaster recovery company and consider an online version of your agency or brokerage management system.
  • Assemble claims information: Report claims right away and have first response from claims adjusters to ensure your customers can quickly start rebuilding.
  • Pack necessities: Include office and first aid supplies, energy sources, digital cameras, ACORD forms and bottled water.
  • Cultivate relationships: Connect with businesses that are useful during a disaster, including tree and debris removal companies, contractors and others that will respond to your customers first

How to Prepare Your Customers
Proactively communicate with your customers now and when your community is preparing for a pending disaster.

  • Share resources: Use The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to educate your customers on hurricane and severe weather preparedness.
  • Communicate across multiple channels: Write blogs, post on Facebook and tweet about how to prepare their business, homes and families for a disaster.
  • Create an emergency hotline number: Send your hotline number out to customers regularly.

Commitment to Customers Creates Loyalty to Your Agency or Brokerage
It’s important to demonstrate commitment to your customers by going above and beyond the call of duty. Be proactive and volunteer to help your community with clean-up efforts, and contact customers to see how they are coping and what you can do assist them. That level of service builds customer loyalty and trust.

How are you helping your customers prepare for a disaster? Has your agency/brokerage or another company in your community gone above and beyond to help in a time of need? Share your stories with us.

Greg Shiple, Sr. VP of Support at Applied SystemsGregory Shiple, AIS, Senior Vice President of Support, leads client technical support for Applied Systems in the U.S. and Canada. Greg began his Applied career as a programmer in 1986. Before he assumed his current role in 2007, he was responsible for data conversion development and systems development. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr
17

West, Texas – Looking Back a Year After the Explosion

by Tommy Muska
Tommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas, and insurance agent.

West, Texas Mayor and insurance agent Tommy Muska

A Day I’ll Never Forget
Last year, on April 17, two fertilizer plants exploded, and life changed in West, Texas. Nearby houses, the plants and the school were all on fire within minutes, and more than 200 homes were damaged or demolished that day.

I serve as mayor, a fireman and an insurance agent in West. As a fireman, I was at the plant immediately after it exploded. We had to totally evacuate the north side of town, so as mayor, I opened the football field and led the evacuation, and started running triage and search and rescue. It is a day I will never forget.

Fortunately, My Agency Had a Business Continuity Plan
The following day, it was insurance time. We used my wife’s antique shop as a claims center. Fortunately, my agency did have a business continuity plan in place and accessed Applied TAMOnline to service customers. As the calls came in, we looked up clients. We actually began pre-processing all of our clients on the north side of town because we knew they would be coming in with claims very soon. We proactively pulled their files and started the process.

It was an emotional experience meeting with clients – some had lost everything. They were shocked, dismayed and confused. They didn’t know what to do. So we took them by the hand and walked them through the process. If they lost their home, we got them a place to stay. We approached customers one at a time and personally walked them through everything. There were a lot of tears. The explosion and resulting fire did $250,000 worth of damage to my house, so I could relate to everyone who came into the office with home claims. Luckily, everyone had coverage and felt assured because of the policies we had put in place for them.

We Helped People Get Their Lives Back on Track
It was critical that we had a business continuity plan in place. I’m so thankful that we had already considered what to do in the event of a disaster and the technology was already there. Because we were able to access our agency management system through the cloud and stay operating during this tragedy, we greatly helped the people of West deal with the aftermath and get their lives back on track.

Do you have a business continuity plan in place? How do you help your customers safeguard and protect what matters most? Share your comments below.

Tommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas and Insurance AgentTommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas, is an insurance agent and volunteer firefighter. Following the April 17, 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion, he restored the small Texas town back to normalcy. Muska began his insurance career at Walla Insurance Agency in 1978 and in 1991, he purchased the business. In 1998, the agency incorporated and the name was changed to Muska Insurance Services, Inc. Muska holds an ACSR designation in commercial and personal lines.

Mar
19

How We Stay In Touch: Educating Consumers and Engaging Customers

by Tommy Dies

My “Ah Ha” Moment
The other day, a colleague suggested that we add an online chat feature to our website. I was hesitant at first, but he said to me, “People are going to communicate with you one way or the other. If they want to reach you, they will pick up the phone, email, send a letter or chat online, but they won’t do them all at the same time.” His point was that the online chat provides another channel for potential communication. That was an “ah ha” moment for me, thinking in terms of multichannel communication. You must mMultichannel communication devices.ake available every type of communication to reach consumers. Otherwise, you’re missing out on business opportunities. As an insurance agency, we have to constantly think about the future consumer and adapt our communication methods as technologies change.

A New Normal
When I was growing up, computers were new. I can remember being in college and using WebCrawler – one of the first Web search engines! Obviously, things have changed. My daughter, who’s in college, sends more than 10,000 texts a month. It’s outrageous, but that’s how she prefers to communicate. It recently became clear to me that there was a communication gap between us. For her, email is too slow – she wants instantaneous communication. Soon, this new generation will be needing insurance for their homes and families. The change in the core consumer is something we need to examine and embrace.  Independent agents need to realize that we are no longer the gatekeepers of insurance knowledge that we once were. People can search online for all the insurance information they need. In order to remain relevant, we need to position ourselves so that the consumer searching for answers finds us.

Engaging Customers
At Bryan Insurance we use FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a mobile app, radio show, YouTube channel and customer support software to communicate with our customers. I try to post things that are relevant to what’s happening in the world. It’s extremely important to post educational materials to build that trust and loyalty. For example, if there’s a news story about earthquakes, I might send out a post about earthquakes in Texas and how to insure against them. It is important to address what’s on people’s minds. I try to post information that makes people curious and think, “Wow, maybe I need earthquake coverage.” It’s meant to be thought-provoking.

Educating Consumers
Social media is about distributing information. One of my producers likes to say, “I’m not in sales, I’m in education.” We must educate consumers about their coverage and help them understand that, as insurance agents, we can provide guidance, not just products. Bottom line, if direct insurance writers are engaged in social media and we’re not, when it comes time for people to buy insurance, the direct writers will be “top of mind,” and we will lose business. If you push out educational content through a variety of channels, people understand we just want to help them, and that’s a value-added service.

How do you communicate with your customers? Leave your comments here, and join the conversation on Twitter @AppliedSystems and facebook.com/appliedsystems.

Tommy Dies, CFO Bryan InsuranceTommy Dies, CFO, Bryan Insurance, left an accounting firm 10 years ago to join Bryan Insurance which was an Insurance Journal “Best Insurance Agency to Work For in 2012.” He served on the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) Finance & Budget Committee and is part of IIAT’s Agency Financial Managers Affinity Group. He has held various local board positions and now serves on the Young County (TX) Appraisal District’s Appraisal Review Board and as a third-term Rotary Club board member. Connect with Tommy and Bryan Insurance on Facebook and Twitter @BryanInsAgency.

Mar
05

“Get Weather-Ready” Resources Insurance Agencies Can Share with Customers

by Greg Shiple

The value of the independent agent as a trusted advisor is more important than ever, especially in the case of extreme weather. This week is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For insurance agencies, this is the perfect time to advise your customers on the best ways to prepare for weather emergencies.

Free NOAA Online Marketing ToolkitNSWPW Logo
NOAA offers a free Online Marketing Toolkit that has everything you need to provide a tailored campaign for your agency to educate your customers about being prepared for severe weather, including:

  • “Get Weather-Ready” videos
  • Talking points
  • Blog post
  • Social media plan
  • Graphics and more

You can also share these resources with your customers to help them stay informed:

  • Know Your Risk: Hurricanes, tornadoes or storms – every state in the U.S. experiences severe weather. Visit www.weather.gov to get the latest on weather threats in your area.

How to Prepare at Your Agency
This week is also a good time to take a moment to stop and think about your business continuity plan. What is your course of action if staff cannot be in the office? What if your servers crash due to a power outage or flood? Will your agency be able to maintain uninterrupted access to customer data? These questions are important to consider so you can be prepared in the event of a disaster. Remember, if you aren’t prepared, you can’t help your customers protect what matters most.

Create a business continuity plan: Make sure your agency is protected in the case of a weather emergency. Follow these business continuity guidelines and use this checklist to ensure you are prepared. This industry brief and business continuity white paper also contain valuable information on disaster planning and preparedness.

How do you help your customers prepare for severe weather? Are resources like these helpful to your business?

Greg Shiple, Sr. VP of Support at Applied SystemsGregory Shiple, AIS, Senior Vice President of Support, leads client technical support for Applied Systems in the U.S. and Canada. Greg began his Applied career as a programmer in 1986. Before he assumed his current role in 2007, he was responsible for data conversion development and systems development. 


Feb
25

Moving Forward with Business Intelligence for Your Agency

by Mark Breading

Business Intelligence
Agencies and brokerages – large and small – are interested in the potential of business intelligence (BI) capabilities. Some have already implemented BI tools and are leveraging them to make better decisions, while others are in the investigation phase.

Business intelligence describes a class of automated tools that help to analyze and visualize information about your business so that you can make more informed decisions. Traditional or basic reporting is considered:

  • Static
  • Done at periodic intervals
  • Descriptive (i.e., it tells what has happened)

True BI ventures into the here and now, allowing a view into current results and enabling interactive analysis and ad hoc queries to uncover trends and investigate why certain things might be happening.

Agencies are already using BI tools to:

  • Gain more insights into sales and premium trends
  • Assess the profitability of the business they write
  • Track the operational metrics of an agency or brokerage

An SMA research survey of 202 agents and brokers revealed that about one-third of agencies are actively leveraging BI, while the other two-thirds have limited or even no usage of these tools. But there is an undeniable trend toward greater usage of BI as more and more agencies recognize the high business value of these capabilities.

The most logical questions, then, are how do you get started – or for those agencies with limited usage – how do you accelerate your BI program?

The best approach for most agencies is to link BI capabilities to the agency management system (AMS). The AMS is the hub of operations and has access to the data needed for the analysis.

Smaller agencies probably want to look at a solution that is packaged and has standard capabilities so that you don’t have to start from scratch to define what metrics you want to look at, how to visually display them, or how to interact to drill down for more detail.

Larger agencies can still benefit from that approach, but you may also want to consider designating a person to become the BI expert. Large agencies and brokerages may want to do more BI customization and even explore some of the more advanced analytics capabilities.

But even before you consider the technology approach, your first step should be to map out what you want to know about your business, how frequently you need to do the analysis, and how you want to view the information. Understanding the business value you hope to gain and the business capabilities you need will help to position you to have informed discussions with solution providers about BI options and approaches.

How is your agency using business intelligence today? Share your comments.

Mark BreadingMark Breading, a Partner at SMA, is the one to turn to for provocative thought leadership concerning insurance industry challenges, opportunities, and technology options. He has exceptional knowledge and experience in all aspects of Customer Centricity – CCM, CRM, customer insights, ECM, data and analytics, and more. Both insurers and IT solution providers look to Mark for everything from future vision to strategic key account marketing. Follow Mark on Twitter @BreadingSMA