Inventor and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is known for many things. One of which is knowing the value of planning. It is Franklin that both said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Clearly, Franklin owed some of his success to the art of thinking ahead.
So, too, should you with your agency, specifically during an agency management system conversion. This seemingly overwhelming task is manageable: if you break it down and make a plan. We’ve heard time and again from our partner agencies how strategic thinking and planning made all the difference in their transition.
Below are the areas they considered, along with their advice on how to make the switch as painless as possible.
People and Processes
“We started with online, do-it-yourself training to get familiar with the system. That was really helpful…and a team of three folks came out for a week to assist us. It was hands-on, in-person training. That was icing on the cake. It helped us become comfortable with the system so we could use it on our own. – Jeff Cole, Cole Harrison Insurance
The first areas to target are your processes and the people related to them. Get your staff on board by allowing them to test the system and take their opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Next steps include:
- Determine how elements like checks and invoices will look on the new system
- Audit your workflows and define the most efficient ones
- Get your team trained: plan regular, weekly sessions four to six weeks before your switch
- Empower staff as super users, using them as resources during the transition
“One thing we tried to do was clean up our data before we moved it over. We knew if we put garbage in our system, we’d get garbage out. The SIS team was great in working with us to make that happen”. – John Horvath, Neverman Insurance
Data is a huge part of your agency. You want your data to be clean and complete once it’s in your new system. Get your data to transfer by following these guidelines:
- Clean up your data: get rid of duplications and old accounts and ensure currents records are accurate and up-to-date
- Reiterate good data entry practices to keep data clean
- Communicate with your new provider to learn what will convert smoothly and what won’t
- Create a back-up of your data! This an important safety net
“(W)ere there a couple of things we had to edge around or plow through? Sure. Were they insurmountable? No. Going from a frankly archaic agency management software to Partner XE, we saw way fewer hiccups than I ever anticipated”. – Andrea Nelson, Unisource Insurance
Anyone who has been though a management system transition knows that it takes some work, but the effort is worth the pay-off. The key is preparation and being clear with expectations:
- Be honest with your staff: remind them successful transition is a team effort and it’s about how you tackle hiccups together
- Have patience – with yourself and your team – knowing there will be growing pains, but this, too, shall pass
- Pick the right time, paying attention to when you’re less busy and can dedicate time and effort to a successful transition
- Take advantage of support and training
Get to Know Your Provider
“The training has been top-notch…there was a whole team that came out and worked with us for multiple days and stayed in contact after…they were in constant contact…That is a huge compliment to SIS.” – Britt Linder, Peterson Insurance Services
Who your provider is makes a huge difference, especially during your agency transition. Look for a provider who will:
- Walk with you through the conversion process
- Be available before, during, and after your transition
- Communicate the transition process clearly and honestly
- Provide varying levels of support and training depending on your needs
Want more tips to ease your transition? Check out our Conversion Checklist eGuide and other resources at sispartnerplatform.com.
Switching your agency management system is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as an agency. Choosing a new system is a feat of its own, and only the first step in your system conversion process. However, switching systems doesn’t have to be painful! Preparation is the best medicine to save you and your agency from headaches.
Check out what 9 things to look for in an agency management system and provider
6 Tips for Making Your Transition Easy
1. Get team buy-in
Start the process by ensuring key agency team members view the system. Just as you would when purchasing a car or a home, your team should test out and poke around in each potential system. Make sure the work they do day in and day out are just as easy, if not easier, in the new agency management system.
After the “test drive”, ask for (and take!) advice and opinions. This small act helps agency members invest in the new system, making your conversion process easier.
2. Pick a strategic start date
Even the best conversion processes have some hiccups and hang-ups. Give your agency space by scheduling your transition during a less busy time of year. Determine when you have the least amount of renewals or select a time around a holiday. A strategic start date will manage stress.
3. Get your data ready
Data transfer can be the most difficult part of converting from one management system to another. Think about how your data needs to be managed to get it ready for conversion. Take the opportunity to clean your data and create a plan on how to re-enter or capture and save all the data that will not convert.
Get ready for your management system conversion with our Conversion Checklist
4. Audit your workflows
This fresh re-start in a new system is the perfect time to roll out the most well-organized operations you can achieve. Gather your team and go over every workflow, from documenting prospect interactions to processing a renewal. This is your chance to make sure your workflows are the most efficient and up to E&O standards.
5. Be deliberate about training
Learning a brand-new management system isn’t an easy task. Ensure your staff has all the training resources they need to make it as smooth as possible.
Plan ahead: four to six weeks before your switch, schedule an hour a week to train as an agency or department. Conduct your workflow audit during this time and go over how to integrate them into your new system. Have each team member teach a different session to empower them and create power users within your agency.
Read more on the “how” and “why” of management system training
If your new management system offers onsite training BUY IT! We’ve seen hundreds of agencies transition from dozens of different systems, and each has pointed to onsite training as essential to a smooth transition. This training should happen after your team has started on your new system so you can ask pointed questions about workflows.
6. Be patient!
Have patience with yourself, your team, and anyone involved in the transition. Switching agency management systems is not an easy task. It’s a major change for any agency, needing to relearn the daily tasks you used to know by heart. But, after a few weeks, those tasks get easier and soon it will all feel back to normal. As a leader in your agency, being patience and supportive of your team is vital.
Finding the Right Partner
At SIS, patience and support have been what makes each agency transition successful. We’re determined to be with your agency each step of the way, from sign-on to go-live. Nothing can replace that personal attention and always-extended helping hand.
You can find out more about our training and support services on our website, sispartnerplatform.com. Or, you can give us a call at 800.747.7005, Option 6. We’re here by the phone ready to help.
Are You Using the Instructions?
How many times have you started something without reading the directions first? Whether it’s a “some assembly required” Christmas gift or that “but it looked so good in the store” table from Ikea, chances are it ends in frustration. Like it or not, you’ll end up using those directions—like you should have done in the first place. Why do we resist taking advantage of the help that’s right in front of us?
Many agencies do the same with agency management system training. System training is part of what you’re paying for—why not take advantage? All the old reasons come up: “It’s so busy right now. We just don’t have the time,” or “Everything’s working fine. We don’t need any training.”
And we all know if something is important enough, we find the time. For your agency, management system training is that important.
Why Take the Time to Train?
There are many reasons why training is vital to agency growth. For one, it gets your staff on the same page. Everyone learns the same methods at the same time. This uniformity is helpful as you work to document and streamline your operations.
Training also empowers agencies members to understand and utilize time-saving enhancements in your system. Good providers update their systems regularly, adding new features and enhancing others to quicken workflows. But, if your staff isn’t trained on these enhancements, chances are they’ll continue using a new system in an old way. Slowing down for a short time to train staff may seem inconvenient, but you’ll really save time in the long run.
Find out how to streamline operations and maximize agency efficiency
In that same vein, training helps your agency do more without spending more. When used to its full capability, your agency management system allows your staff to get more done with less time. You gain all the benefits of hiring new talent or upgrading systems without any of the cost.
Discover the management system enhancements your agency needs
Finally, investing in training simply means you’re getting your money’s worth. Training should be part of your provider’s services. If you’re not taking advantage, you’re essentially wasting money. It’s time to start putting that investment to work.
How to Get Training Started
If you haven’t had agency management system training before, you may not know where to start. Follow these steps to get training up and running at your agency:
- Determine where you need to improve: focus first on areas where you feel you’re moving too slow or aren’t seeing a lot of progress. Tackle these points in your training first.
- Decide who needs to be trained: does your whole staff need a reboot or should you focus on one department first? Figure out groupings and target trainings for each.
- Get in touch with your provider: find out what types of training (in-person, online, self-directed) they offer and decide what combination works best for your agency. Get their advice on how to structure training to best fit your culture.
- Delegate a point person: depending on your staff size, this may be one person overall or one for each training group. This person will be the “go-to” once training is over to help people put what they’ve learned into practice.
- Take advantage of continuing education: find out what your provider has to offer to keep you up-to-date with best practices and other training materials.
Read more on accessing continuing education around your management system
Get Those Instructions Out!
There’s more to an agency management experience than a top-notch system—you need to be able to use it. With regular trainings, you can be sure your agency is utilizing your system to its fullest, maximizing your agency’s efficiency and getting the biggest bang for your buck.
At SIS, we’ve seen the value of training in action. That’s why we provide targeted in-person and online trainings for our agency partners, and offer anytime access to great training resources on our PartnerNet user portal. Through a comprehensive KnowledgeBase, QuickGuides, and webinar recordings, as well as regular Regional Learnings, we keep our Partner XE community connected, informed, and educated.
We’re more than bells and whistles, we’re a partner working with and for our agencies to ensure they’re getting the most out of the Partner XE system. Find out more by reading what our clients have to say or get in touch at https://sispartnerplatform.com/contact-us.
Going through a management system conversion can be a trying time. Much is riding on your data’s safe arrival, and the process can be stressful. Unfortunately, some agencies overlook conversion history when seeking a new provider. For those agencies, once conversion starts they wonder if it’s all worth it.
I’m here to tell you conversion can and should be relatively stress-free – if done right.
In my role as Manager of Conversion and Implementations at SIS, I’ve personally helped hundreds of agencies through a positive conversion process. And I’ve heard horror stories of conversions gone wrong with other providers. In my experience, the success of conversion depends on what the agency puts in and the experience and expertise of the new provider. Too often agencies come at conversion with dread and anxiety. These feelings are heightened when a provider expects the agency to do the brunt of the conversion work.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Let’s start off by looking at “the good” in the agency conversion process.
Prep for your management system transition with our Conversion Checklist
The Good: A Fresh Start
Converting to a new management system is a little like moving: there’s lots to be done, but you get a chance to start fresh. Think of your conversion as “spring cleaning” for your agency. Often some of the positive outcomes of a change include:
- Getting all team members on the same page: No more confusion about best practices and most efficient paths. Each employee will be trained to know the system in the same way.
- Improving workflows: This is your chance to reevaluate your current workflows and processes, establishing the best methods with your new system.
- Cleaning up your data: Take the time to rid your agency of duplications and old policy data. Start off fresh, and set up regular check-ins to keep your data clean.
The keys to harnessing “the good” of agency conversion are communication and planning. Consult with your team before the conversion starts so you’re on the same page. Create a plan together and you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
The Bad: Accounting Conversion
The bad news of conversion is some items will not carry over automatically. One item that stands out is accounting data. But, it’s not all bad. As with the rest of conversion, your agency gets a fresh start with accounting. It’s a great opportunity to:
- Clean up unwanted accounts and hit the re-set on data entry
- Determine how checks and invoices will look on the new system
- Hone how to set up employees and commission
It’s not often you get this chance to clean house and start anew. Take full advantage of this opportunity to establish and maintain accurate accounting records.
Find out how to get your agency finances in order
The Ugly: Agencies Bearing the Burden
I wish I didn’t need to mention “the ugly.” But, I still hear stories from agencies going through this every day. Some management system providers don’t do a full data conversion, instead offering only an initial load (i-Load). This means only carriers that download are added to your system. In our opinion, this shouldn’t be considered a conversion at all. Agencies get stuck doing the bulk of the work, of manually moving all of the items not included in a download. That can be a big mountain to climb
And unfortunately, it can get worse. Some providers make agencies do the painful task of importing data themselves. Agencies have to put all client and policy information in Excel and import into their new management system. In this case, you shouldn’t even pay for the conversion – you’ve done it all yourself! The results of such “self-conversions” are disastrous at worst and extremely time consuming at best. The whole process typically takes months of work for an agency.
Get tips on vetting potential providers to ensure a positive conversion
The Key: Get More than Just a Provider
So, how do you guarantee you get only the good in the conversion process? The key is finding more than a provider, but a partner. That’s our goal at SIS. Our experienced team works with and for our clients through the conversion process, staying connected throughout and providing continual support after go-live.
With over 500 agency management system transitions and counting, we’re comfortable with the process and pass that serenity on to our clients.
Find out more about us and our Partner XE system: contact SIS today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.747.7005, Option 6.
Choosing an agency management system can often feel like buying a home. It’s a big decision and will impact your life for years to come. The process can be overwhelming and time-consuming, making it one you don’t want to repeat. (more…)
It may be a surprise to some, but emotions around an agency’s insurance software can be strong. Commitment to brands run deep. If you’ve been using a certain product for years, you’re hesitant to put your trust in something or someone new. Think iPhone vs. Android – it’s almost impossible for someone to switch camps. Independent insurance agencies face a similarly daunting task when thinking about switching management systems.
Wondering if it’s time to break-up with your management system? Check out our eGuide on signs it’s time to let your management system go.
Along with the pain of ending a long-standing relationship, the uncertainties surrounding the new relationship can be difficult. A management system may have the capabilities an agency needs, but what about the provider? Will they live up to expectations? Building trust, following through on commitments, and making a successful transition are all responsibilities borne by the new software company.
When an agency commits to a new provider, many experience a “what did I just do?” moment. They feel burdened with learning a new system, adapting their workflows, and building a new partnership. The weight of these uncertainties forms clouds of doubt.
Successful Transition Tips
As a National Account Manager at Strategic Insurance Software, I focus on guiding agencies through this seemingly ambiguous transition period. One of the best parts of my work is building trust with agency staff – being the friendly face to validate anxieties, answer questions, and instill confidence. My goal is to get an agency back to working as – and in most cases more – efficiently than before.
In my experience, successful transition requires:
- Walking “shoulder to shoulder” with agency staff, especially during data conversion and post-implementation
- Enabling individuals to let go of the “old way”
- Providing staff buy-in on new systems and operations
- Encouraging patience and a willingness to try something new
Change as an Agent for Growth
When preparing agencies for change, I use the analogy of being suspended in the air between two trapezes. Letting go doesn’t mean you’re falling – you’re grasping something new and moving forward.
I take pride in helping agencies grab the next trapeze to grow their agency. It takes hard work, patience and willingness to make a change. But, when someone has their “aha!” moment, there is a great degree of satisfaction. Letting go can feel uncertain, but it’s the only way to the other side. I’ll meet you there.
SIS is proud to have led hundreds of conversions from over twenty different agency management systems. To learn more about SIS’s comprehensive StartRight implementation process contacts us at email@example.com or 800.747.7005, Option 6.