How to simplify technology decisions by asking four fundamental questions about your agency
In an interview with Business Week in 1998, Steve Jobs stated that “simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” These words apply to agents and their approach to determining meaningful and measurable ways to incorporate technology into their practice.
“Insurance plus technology, or “insurtech”, is driving industry evolution. By the end of 2021, global insurtech investments reached $15.4 billion1. These investments helped fund initiatives that expedite, automate, and quantifiably improve processes for insurance professionals and their clients.”
In the midst of this movement, agents are undergoing monumental change. At an average age that exceeds 50, agency owners are approaching retirement. They plan to perpetuate the business by handing the operations to digital natives, which seek tech solutions to compete with direct-to-consumer players and startup businesses that are not grounded in analog processes. To accomplish a succession plan, agents seek guidance on how to determine which technology partners exist, how they fit into the value chain, and which combination of solutions to choose.
On the other side of the conversation, tech companies are typically led by product developers that realize an opportunity to eliminate “business as usual.” They introduce functional applications that enhance marketing, quoting, sales, and servicing, and we have witnessed a focus on agency enablement as solutions pour into the market.
The advancements in insurtech require the distribution channel of local insurance agencies to change. Efficiency gains through automation and machine learning have lessened the reliance on human capital. As a result, agents seek guidance on ways to introduce technology into their practices while increasing growth and retention. Let’s move beyond the why and share how to take action.
In order to prioritize technology in your agency, you must first focus on achievable, short-term and bite-size changes that are tangible and possible. Hard work that is measurable is found in the execution layer, and results are incremental. Posing the following four questions with leadership and individual departments contributors as an inclusive agency exercise yields alignment and focus:
- What specific actions do we need to take in the months and years ahead to best allow us to fulfill and achieve our purpose and our core values and beliefs?
- What 5 specific moves or actions must our business take, or what talents must we apply, in measurable terms, to meet or exceed our 3-year targets?
- What 5 specific moves or actions must our business take, or what talents must we apply, in measurable terms, to meet or exceed our 1-year goals?
- What 5 specific moves or actions must our business take, or what talents must we apply, in measurable terms, to meet or exceed our quarterly goals?
Notice that the focus is not on technology and that questions two, three and four repeat while backing everyone into foreseeable milestones that drive accountability in 90-day increments.
Think about the approach with a real-world example:
“Agency team members may say that they want to automate all non-value-added tasks in three years; so in the next year, they must adopt technology that eliminates manual entry. Therefore, an immediate first-quarter action should include vetting and selecting an e-form supplier with pre-fill data capabilities. This logical approach to a seemingly larger challenge three years in the future backs us into action items now. Technology is secondary to the stated goal and perceived benefits of that goal. Technology will help you get there.”
There are approximately 36,000 independent insurance agencies and hundreds of worthy tech solutions dedicated to helping improve the distribution channel model. All parties are under pressure to evolve their businesses and desire ways to gain relationships with one another. Once you can address your needs in a simplified and concise manner that aligns with “who you want to be when you grow up,” then you’ll be prepared to advance to the next step in the technology journey and learn ways to measurably vet and select partners that will deliver on your goals.