Planning and prep are essential for a successful transition
Time is money. That is the permeating thought process behind migrating to an enhanced automated management system for your insurance agency. More automated processes and tracking allow you to put time back in the hands of your producers.
[I]f you try to implement a system without any workflows in place and without fully understanding what it can do for your agency, there will be missed opportunities.
However, this is much easier to consider in concept than in actual practice. It is true that upgrading your agency management system leads to improved workflows and efficiencies, but Applied Client Network member Laura Whaley stresses that substantial planning is needed for a smooth transition to a new system.
Her firm, AssuredPartners of Ohio, undertook the transition from Applied Systems’ TAM product to its newer, more automated Epic solution more than a year ago; and the change has already improved the agency’s ability to run reports, cross-sell and reduce E&O exposures.
Whaley, IT application specialist at the company, says the broker’s motivation for the transition came from the top, as it was rapidly acquiring agencies—all of which used management software programs from various vendors with various processes. It was important to ensure that all agencies were on the same system and speaking to each other clearly, which precipitated the standardization project.
Based on her organization’s experience, Whaley outlined her advice for other agencies going througha similar transition and shared insights on how to avoid potential pitfalls, who needs to be included at the outset, and what you just can’t always know when conducting such a major transition.
Have a team in place from the start. Whaley stresses the importance of having staff from every facet of the organization and every division taking part in the transition. Just prepping for the migration took a year and a half, she says, but if you try to implement a system without any workflows in place and without fully understanding what it can do for your agency, there will be missed opportunities.
“We had a rather large team of employees from various departments with different strengths that were involved in the project from the very beginning,” Whaley says. “This was important when developing procedures that worked for management, front-office and back-office staff together. We divided responsibilities based on strengths and time commitments.
“When we went live, we had a good core of Epic ‘power-users’ to assist, in addition to our migration team. We also had a training and quality control director who worked hand-in-hand with the project team and the IT staff. We were able to triage and address specific problems between our training help desk and our IT help desk much more efficiently during our go-live than if we had just had a few people on the ground.”
Make sure everything is trackable and has proper workflows. Even though it takes a lot of time, doing the proper planning at the outset will save your business time in the long run.
“We spent months and months developing, testing and restructuring workflows that were consistent across all departments to give employees at all levels the ability to look at an account and see the full picture,” Whaley says. “Epic provides easier navigation between activity, attachment, transaction and policy and has more structure to the servicing side of things, which in turn has significantly reduced our E&O exposures. You can’t just make a change to an application without there being a record of it.
“In addition to reports also being much more advanced, the integrated ability to distribute items such as change requests, emails, proofs, etc., is a very favored feature of the new system,” she adds.
Through the “Opportunities” function in Epic, Whaley’s organization can input a cold lead and track that opportunity throughout the sales cycle. “The ability to track where you are in the process and history of an opportunity is extremely important in an agency of our size,” she notes.
Take advantage of advanced reporting features. When transitioning to a new system, it’s important to fully utilize the capabilities of the new software. The entire reason for upgrading is to make your processes more efficient, so it is worth the time to explore the many features of a new software program and use it to its fullest extent.
Whaley says her firm has been able to use the reporting functionality in Epic for better cross-selling. “We are now able to run reports on what types of coverages we write, so that we can more easily cross-sell,” she says. “There is a new feature that allows you to see all the income on accounts with the same address, which also helps you to drill down on opportunities.
“The level of reporting goes far beyond anything I could do in TAM,” she says. “In addition to the level of info you can report on, the fact that you can schedule them for distribution either via PDF or Excel or even send them to their Quick View is amazing! This allows management to focus on more important things rather than using time to run repetitive reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.”
Train, retrain, but always tweak. Training agents on how to use a new system is crucial, with the goal of getting them to turn their focus back to just selling and bringing in new business. AssuredPartners of Ohio’s producer training took about four hours, including such things as how to search within the system for clients, policies and claims.
Whaley’s agency gave the staff a few months to learn the database and system on the back end; however, she stresses that it’s still a learning process for staff, as the new system is completely different from what they were used to. She recommends offering periodic refresher training, re-running workflow processes with the staff to make sure they are using the new system to the best of their ability.
The transition was not without its challenges. “The hardest part for us was getting used to workflows in a more structured system,” Whaley says. “We worked for months on workflow manuals. We tested them with a small group of people and tweaked them as needed. We provided the staff months to use Applied University as well as in-house training.
“However, come ‘Go-Live’ we were finding that what we thought would work well really didn’t in some instances, or that there simply were more efficient ways to get similar results. A year after we migrated, we did an optimization session during which we made some global changes to our workflows. We have spent hundreds of hours on them and still continue to tweak and retrain employees as we move forward.
“A big part of our staff had been with the agency for many years on TAM, so moving them to a newer, more advanced system with more specific ways of doing things has slowed our productivity in some areas.”
You can also look to your new system to help with training. AssuredPartners of Ohio uses the “Reports” tool within Epic to look for areas where account managers need to be trained. In this, you can run activity reports to determine whether they are struggling to move through the process or missing certain steps within the workflow, which can show where they would benefit from additional training and help reduce overhead costs.
Look beyond your singular agency. Whaley says the new system enabled AssuredPartners’ Ohio agencies to help others during recent natural disasters. “We have offices in Florida, and in recent months these states experienced hurricanes and flooding,” Whaley says. “Our Ohio offices were able to assist them with servicing and claims processing while they were without power or unable to get to their offices.”
Ultimately, Whaley notes, “A lot of agencies would approach the migration step totally differently if they understood everything their new software could automate.”
Brian Langerman is chief executive officer of Applied Client Network, the international association of users of Applied Systems software. www.appliedclientnetwork.org.