Evolving technologies make the Web a compelling place for agents
Not since the early days of automation have insurance agencies faced such challenges and opportunities affecting their core business. Things like the Internet and Sarbanes-Oxley already have altered the way agencies and others do business, and are likely to be even more pervasive in the future.
The real-time nature of the information age radically enhances an agent’s ability to interact with clients and markets but also raises the bar on performance metrics and accountability. The game remains the same, but the playing field continues to evolve–with the stakes ever increasing.
This does not mean that an all-Internet agency is all right, or a no-Internet company is all wrong. Somewhere in the middle, successfully married between legacy and new, a median exists of optimization specifically benefiting today’s agency.
Desktop Applications vs. the Internet
In the early days of computing, everything you needed for your agency was stored on your desktop computer. All of your programs and data were physically located within the box sitting on your desk.
As time went on, this information became distributed between networked computers, often referred to as local area networks (LANs), as well as your home computer or laptop. This made it possible to share resources across a broad area, but it often required multiple copies of the same program and made matching your programs and data with your current location an interesting challenge.
The Internet initially emerged as a convenient way to exchange information but has since evolved into a robust platform of distributed applications, information and communications. Today, net-based applications enjoy all of the functionality of desktop applications with the added advantage of geographic independence.
Common to all Internet applications is the use of the browser as the primary point of entry. Interestingly enough, this is itself a desktop-based application that provides a “window” into the world of the Internet.
All Internet browsers operate essentially the same way. You launch them from your desktop computer or laptop and they provide interactive communications with content and applications on the Web. Providers of Internet browsers include Microsoft, Netscape, Opera and others. Deciding which one to select depends on the base operating system you use and any specific requirements mandated by your software. For Windows users, the standard Microsoft Internet Explorer browser is typically fine.
Once you’re on the Web, a vast array of information and applications is available to you. Information is categorized through addressing, like that of your business or home. Instead of streets and cities, the Internet uses domain names to get you into the right neighborhood.
Even with addressing, finding specific information or resources on the Web can be more than a little challenging. The process of wandering through this digital ocean is referred to as “surfing,” however, as in its real-life counterpart, it remains a surface-level endeavor and subject to the whims of the currents.
To counter this, an important tool has emerged that is a “must-have” for business and personal use: the Internet search engine. Search engines restore order to the vastness and truly place information at your fingertips. Best of all, search engines are highly accessible and usually free. Search engine companies include Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others.
A browser without connectivity is like a window without a view–not much to see. A number of options exist for today’s agencies that range from simple dial-up to high-speed cable and DSL.