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7 Steps to Better Agency Tech Decisions

The proverbial $1M dollar question…how do I chose an AMS or any agency technology?

At ACT, we are increasingly aware that all technology decisions are so much more specific to an individual agency’s goals and needs than ever before. Despite the differences among agencies, there are some very real things you can do to prepare for and navigate the journey of evaluating technology solutions for your agency. We've compiled a number of ideas and insights from ACT members and aligned them into 7 easy to follow steps for considering new agency technology.

7 Steps to Better Tech Decisions

1. PREPARE: Slow down to speed up  

Update your business plan. Remain as true to your agency’s goals as possible. 
Set your premium and/or revenue targets. Plan for your employee count over the next 3-5 years. 
Define your target business now and 3-5 years. PL or CL heavy? Life, Health, Benefits? 
Consider your number of agency locations now and in 3-5 years. If you are a member of any networks or affiliations, discuss if they offer scaled pricing or other strategic benefits such as data/analytics and training. 
Make a list of current tech and note its value to your organization. 
Determine the appropriate budget allocated for your AMS/tech. 
Document expenses that could be eliminated with the right AMS partner.

2. ENGAGE your employees and understand the current state

Ask your team what is working well. Understand their pain points. 
Determine if they fully utilize your current tools and technology? Why or why not? 
Use the data to validate KPI’s such as hit ratios, NPS, New Leads, hold times, x-sell ratios. 
Share your plans and efforts to consider a new AMS/technology and why employee engagement is critical. 
Offer to give key employees a seat at the table during all stages of your assessment.

3. TALK to your current technology partners

Determine if you are using their most current version and most aligned pricing tier,
Ask your team if they are trained and updated on all current capabilities. 
Document your learnings and ask your team how they leverage what they learned. Implement any quick wins you and your team identified. 
Be objective about opportunities to terminate or unsubscribe from a product. 
Identify features you were unaware of and can add with little/no expense. 
Identify features that compete or contradict other tech you are using. 
Clarify if they offer more seamless integration with a different provider, but you are using a similar product that does not integrate well. 

4. NOW WHAT? Before you make any technology decisions 

Layout a plan aligned to your strategic goals – intentionality will help product vetting and decision-making. 
Be clear about which specific part(s) of the plan you are going to focus. 
Document which internal processes are impacted, need to be built, eliminated, or altered. Have a change management plan – employee engagement is critical to the success of any change in an organization. 
Consider other resources for insight – be willing to ask for referrals. 
Your State Big I and their strategic partners. Agents Council for Technology (ACT) and any of their supporting partners. 
Other agencies with experience on this specific tool or change. 
Understand your budgetary situation … as well as the opportunity cost of investing in new and enhanced capabilities. 
Spend time calculating and understanding ROI. 
Remember: Less Can Be More. 

5. MOVING FORWARD: Selecting a new technology vendor

Contact prospective technology partners and share your goals. 
Ask how they can support your goals and long-term plans. 
Ask if they can articulate how they may not be able to help and who they may not be able to serve. 
Understand their sales/RFP process before you dive in. 
Schedule a no-commitment demo. 
Consider executing an NDA. Review their contracts for critical items like Exit terms and conditions - notice timing, fees, data extraction when leaving etc. 
Data conversion cost/process from current system. 
Cybersecurity and breach reporting terms - definitions, timing, to whom. 
Underwrite them as a business - time in business, financial health, testimonials, number of successful and unsuccessful implementations. 
Ask for details and demos about what data, dashboards, and reporting tools are available. 
Get clarity on their up/down time and service/support levels. 
Require details about their post-implementation training for your agency. Inquire about their having a user group and getting involved. 
Require a list of current functional integrations - IVANS, a CRM, your raters, etc. 
Make certain they support ACORD standards. 
Understand all costs, what is included vs additional, how they scale as you do. 
Understand their implementation timeline – when they can start, estimated completion date, and actual examples.

6. IT'S TIME to implement 

Consider involving your legal resources in contract review - does it reflect all you negotiated and what you believe you are buying.
Be clear of your rights & financial implications If they don't meet timelines or service levels. 
Address terminating current relationships if impacted by your change.
Align timing with terminated relationships to maintain business continuity.
Make certain you understand any obligations set for you in the contract and discuss with your team – address if these are problematic. 
Notify your staff of your plans - at many points along the way. 
Layout plans specific to this implementation: 
Data clean up. 
Possible agency service interruptions and customer communications. 
Clear responsibilities of your team members.
When key vendor activities will occur - onsite or remote. 
Establish employees who'll be most closely involved in the process. 
Establish clear understanding of how training and support for your agency works – with your vendor and with your team. 
Detail all impacted processes, those that can be eliminated, net new needs, and any training. 
Consider roles and job description changes – people and process are just as critical for success as any technology. 
Recognize your employee's efforts and celebrate success.

7. CRUSH IT! : You can do it! 
Test, learn, and evolve. 
Be willing to change and try new things - nothing works perfectly the first time. 
Get regular feedback from your team – and act upon it. 
Stay in contact with your new partner, share feedback, ask questions. 
Be transparent with all new processes, expectations, and results. 
Consider process & data audits, offer feedback and coaching. 
Be willing to make changes. 
Keep iterating, learning, and changing. 
Crush it!

Focus on your people, processes and technology. 

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Alexandria VA 22314
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