Mixing Cloud Apps with Management Systems Brings Your Agency to the Next LevelIt’s amazing how much time can be spent during the day with small tasks like checking e-mails, reviewing documents or scheduling meetings. Throughout the days and weeks, the extra minutes spent on these daily tasks can add up to hours wasted. Moving these tasks to cloud applications and integrating them with your agency management system can save your agency time and money. Not only will it make sharing information easier, it will also give you access to the most up-to-date versions of documents and meetings at all times.  Besides these benefits, using cloud applications for your e-mail, document sharing and calendars means this precious intel is backed-up regularly and securely.

Let’s take a look at two options for mixing time saving cloud apps with your agency management system.

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is essentially the Microsoft Office suite brought to the cloud. Many had complaints about the previous Office 365, and the current version is a more than worthy response. Office 365 combines e-mail, calendar and doc sharing in an all-in-one. Those used to using Outlook will love Office 365 as it has a familiar look and ease of use. The benefit here comes from its cloud capabilities as you can access your e-mail from anywhere, which, in the current fast-paced market, is nearly essential. Also, Office has site mailboxes where you can store e-mails pertaining to a certain project or client and can share with all those involved.

If your agency uses Partner XE as your agency management system, you can easily integrate Office 365. Partner XE is designed to work with Office 365, allowing you to easily import and export contacts, calendars and e-mail communications with clients. Such integration between your e-mail and agency management system ensures E & O compliance and allows everyone at your agency to access the most up-to-date client communication. This means being able to meets clients’ needs faster and more effectively, and it greatly enhances internal collaboration.

When it comes to document sharing, Office 365 definitely has the edge. Since it’s a Microsoft product, you can do all the same things you can with the Office suite on your desktop, but you can access it at any computer with an internet connection. Since it essentially offers the full Office suite as cloud-accessible, Office 365 does come with a price tag. Depending on your agency’s size, you can pay anywhere from $5-$15/user/month and add up to 300 users.

Google Apps

Although Google made its name as a search engine, it’s making its legacy with its cloud applications. One of the first cloud apps Google introduced was its Google Calendar, which is easy to use, and gives you the benefit of sharing your calendar with others. Google’s document sharing app, Google Drive, is great for real-time editing with multiple users simultaneously, but lacks in having all that is offered in the Microsoft Office suite on your desktop. Its Word and Excel get the job done, but you don’t have a lot of font choices or formula options.

Gmail, Google’s e-mail app, does a great job of keeping e-mails grouped in “conversations” and allows you to put emails under multiple categories, which serve as folders. Gmail uses rich text format and is able to sync with Google’s document and calendar apps well so you can be updated via email when changes are made.

Although Google’s systems work great for many small businesses, relying on Google’s apps can pose a problem for many agencies as Google does not play well with others. For businesses that use all Google products, these apps are a dream, but for insurance agencies using any type of agency management system (which is most), it is difficult to get Google to integrate. However, there are ways around Google’s lone-wolf persona: for example, SIS can work with agencies to get Partner XE to integrate with Gmail by linking it to Outlook.

Your agency can use all the Google apps for free, or purchase Google Apps for Business at $5.99/month or $50/year to obtain a custom e-mail domain, among other benefits.  Due to its noncompliance issues, we suggest using the free Google apps, notably the doc sharing for real-time editing, as a supplement to your management system and not rely wholly on it.

No matter what type of cloud applications you use for your e-mail, calendar and document sharing, it’s better to go the cloud way than not. The benefits of using cloud apps are so great that they are quickly becoming the norm, especially in small businesses. SIS sees the writing on the wall with using the cloud, as evidenced through its innovative cloud-based agency management system, Partner XE. To find out more about Partner XE and other great ways to improve your agency’s performance, call us at call us at 800-747-9273 or email sales@sisware.com.

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