There was a time, not too long ago, when an agency principal needed to know little about automation, and when incorporating technology into a strategic plan meant making sure the office had a fax machine, photocopier, PCs and voice mail. Staffing for automation involved training your staff on word processing and, perhaps, spreadsheet software.
Times have changed. Staying competitive means going beyond phones and faxes. It even calls for more than just installing an agency management system. Today, successful agencies must use all the features of existing systems, and understand and use new solutions. And they must incorporate workflows that make the office operate more efficiently.
Managing New Technology
For smaller agencies, its tough to justify a full-time technical expert. What happens instead is that the CSR supervisor doubles as an onsite technical expert or some similar arrangement is made. While this works to a degree, to delegate all automation responsibilitytactical and strategicleaves agency principals in the dark on this key component of an agencys operation and success.
Principals cant afford to do that. Instead, we must lead technology. We need to understand how automation impacts workflow and vice versa, look at the big picture, and make decisions on the role technology will play in our offices.
It is equally important for principals to be involved in automation and workflows, so we can better deal with our carrier partners. Carriers certainly have no shortage of technical talent. As they go headlong into launching a new Web site portal, unveiling a new online capability or functionality, or turning off paper without full consideration of the impact on an agent, we must speak up. Its increasingly critical that the voice of each and every agency principal is heard by our company partners.
Get Involved with Tech Groups
I have found tremendous pleasure in being involved in agency technology planning and implementation. I take pride when automation and workflows come together to boost efficiency. And I relish seeing more productivethus happieremployees. But I also enjoy working with other principals, producers, carrier staff and vendors to help drive the technology direction our industry is taking.
I encourage more agency principals to get involved. Many technology groups exist that are dedicated to advancing technological needs of the agent through discussion with companies, vendors and other agents. Some groups center around agency management systems, while others are consortiums geared toward technology or agency operations.
The good thing about these groups is you dont need to be a computer geek to fit in at their meetings. In fact, most meetings are business discussions on workflow and how to capitalize on agency management systems and other technology.