Author: Ron Berg
Our distribution channel has never had difficulty highlighting the "independent" in independent agent. Agencies have different workflow needs among themselves even across multiple locations within the same agency. Carriers naturally have varying needs to generate quotes, policies, and endorsements. And our technology provider partners each have an innate need to set themselves apart with unique features and functionality.
What all this often results in, though, is too many different steps to the same end for our agency personnel and even our policyholders. What's an industry to do to drive consistency and speed of implementation?
Our work groups have been focused on these goals since ACT was formed. Each work group is made up of volunteers from our member agencies and brokerages, carriers, vendors, user groups, associations, and consultancies. Work groups begin with a goal in mind: addressing some form of technology workflow need. The groups then get together via web conference calls usually once per month and agree upon a primary strategy and tactics to address the challenge. Often, the groups are chaired by one or two people to keep the focus going.
It needs to be highlighted that there's never a requirement to be any kind of tech expert to participate in an ACT work group. In fact, the best insights and ideas often come from those who understand workflows but are not "techie" by any means. All voices and viewpoints are welcome, and most often, the entire work group learns by driving the issues forward, coming up with a consensus solution set either resources and education for agents or advocacy guidelines for carriers and vendors. Our entire distribution channel benefits!
To give you a better idea, here's a rundown of our current work groups, their focus, expected goals and resources, and chair(s):
Strategic Future Issues (SFI)
Chair: Rick Morgan
Focus: Identifying not only what's coming in the future but what will impact our IA channel the "hard trends." Every couple of years, the group creates a "Hard Trends" report, and it's now also focusing on deeper dives into the largest tech trends. Right now, it's working on the internet of things (IoT). Look for a resource in a number of formats in early 2018.
Changing Nature of Risk
Chairs: Steve Anderson, Jerry Fox
Focus: Taking its cues from the SFI Work Group, this group delves into trends that are changing how we address risk: connected homes, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and many others. Each topic has a two- to three-page Risk Advisory that details what the trend is; it's worldwide, economic and insurance implications; action for agents, carriers, and vendors; and resources for more details. These are meant to be strategic planning documents. Is it challenging to create these Risk Advisories? Yes. Do we have fun doing it? YES!!
Customer Experience (CX)
Co-Chairs: Ginny Winkworth, Shepard Bosworth, Dina Buxton
Focus: This group maps out the recommended technology implementations agents should take to address consumer and customer interface and ease of doing business. The group is now working to enhance their an interactive web experience that will leverage the recommendations document and help agents plan their next CX improvement.
Chairs: Steve Aronson, George Robertson
Focus: Bottom line, creating cyber-security tools for our entire industry. From our "Agency Cyber Guide 1.0" to a "Cyber Hygiene Toolkit" to an "Agency Cybersecurity Policy Template" and many other resources, this group is a key component in providing the education and resources to keep our industry and their customers cyber safe.
Focus: This group is just starting its critical actions working to update our past Agency Disaster Planning tool and reflecting on how office tech and tools have advancement and the precautions needed across the board. The group's goal is to have an updated document in early 2018.
Small Commercial Rating
Chairs: Jim Armitage, Mark Harrison, Brian Bartosh
Focus: Small commercial lines is the tech hotspot right now. This group is focused on identifying the agent pain points, carrier data needs, and vendor consistencies in order to make Bridging quotes for small commercial easy and consistent and to drive utilization far higher. The group has already created a "Carrier Bridging Best Practice Recommendations" document and is working to ease additional pain points.
Chairs: Joyce Sigler and Nick Khamarji Jr.
Focus: Short and sweet, this group creates education on the ROI of e-signature for agents, including training and troubleshooting tools, as well as advocacy for our carriers to accept legally compliant e-signatures from agencies along with their own proprietary e-signature solutions. Check out their work on the ACT eSignature web page.
If you're interested in joining any work group either to just listen and learn or to share in the efforts it's as simple as sending me an email. I'll get your name on our roster and include you in the calendar invites for meetings going forward.
And here's to those who continue to volunteer and participate in our work groups. Your efforts make ALL the difference, and I can't thank you enough. YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. Thank you.
Ron Berg is the executive director for the Agent's Council for Technology (ACT). firstname.lastname@example.org