Companies such as Google and Amazon are setting the standard for creating productivity through automation—and the independent agency channel must follow suit.
Technology modernization has skyrocketed in the past year, changing our lives both personally and professionally. Having groceries delivered to your door used to be an expensive luxury, but now is an affordable convenience thanks to digital technology. Likewise, being able to work from home was only for the lucky few, but it has become a reality for millions.
As the need to work remotely accelerated the pace of modernization, expectations for how work gets done did too. Paper is now considered a burden and advanced technology has replaced manual spreadsheets, improving productivity by moving employees away from data entry and making them more engaged and efficient.
Companies such as Google and Amazon are setting the standard for creating productivity through automation, and it is critical that the independent agency channel follows suit. Otherwise, it risks being left behind—both competitively and by the workforce.
Like other industries, technology in the independent agency channel has flourished during the pandemic, focusing on the areas that agents need most to manage their business and service their customers. But is there a way to Google-ify your agency to ensure future competitive value?
The Google-powered technologies that ensure your staff are productive and profitable include a browser-based agency management system (AMS) to enable simpler workflows and fewer clicks; open application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow you to choose your own tech stack and eliminate multiple systems; and data lake technology to improve speed and gain more actionable intelligence.
A browser-based AMS creates simpler user experiences and streamlines frequently used workflows. For example, a typical customer service representative (CSR) using a desktop-based application had to take great care in typing new customer addresses to ensure they received critical information. Using a browser-based system, the CSR can start to type in the address and the system will automatically complete it for them while it verifies the address is legitimate.
While a browser allows for less data entry, it also increases the ability for more frequent feature releases. Gone are the days of massive annual feature releases that require an overhaul of your entire workflow. The browser-based system allows for smaller, more frequent product releases so your team can learn the system more quickly and get back to being productive.
Open APIs allow easier and more secure data exchange in and out of the system. For example, a typical agency that doesn't use open APIs struggles with disparate applications, creating more data entry to ensure all information is in both applications. Using APIs, integrations are built, deployed and maintained with greater speed and breadth, meaning more data in your AMS can be pushed to the integrated application of your choice. This eliminates duplicative data entry because information is automatically shared between the two systems.
Data lake technology eliminates the need for your IT team to rebuild databases to factor schema changes or maintain expensive licenses to store data offline. The openness of the database allows it to be easily joined with other databases within your agency and create dashboards on any platform. Now, data flows to the business intelligence solution of your choice so you can make the best decisions for your business at a lower cost.
Rich Belanger is chief technology officer of Applied Systems.