Does Your Agency Need a New Agency Management System (AMS)? – Episode 014
In this episode of “The Digital Broker” podcast, Steve and Ryan discuss reasons why your agency may be in need of a new Agency Management System (AMS).
You will learn:
- How often you should evaluate a new AMS
- Specific issues that could indicate it’s time for a new solution
- How to get your colleagues’ support
Agency Management Systems (AMS) are the core to any agency’s operations. Historically, they’ve been great at handling the back office operations of an agency rather than the client facing operations such as marketing and sales. Because of this, one could argue that an AMS is more like a “policy management system.” (1:50)
As the world continues to become more digital, more open technically, and more software moves to the cloud, the AMS vendors really need to catch up. Many have software that is outdated compared to the user experience that people are familiar with today. They tend to be “closed” off from other software which has held them back from innovation. In most industries, software
are now “open” and easily integrate with other software via APIs, something covered in detail on episode 8, “APIs and Why Your Agency Should Care.” (6:00).
With the ongoing changes and advancements in technology, along with the changing expectations of an agency’s clients, it’s crucial that agencies assess whether it’s time to change or upgrade their AMS. But when? how often? what are the indicators?
How Do You Assess Whether It’s Time For An AMS Upgrade? (8:25)
The thought of changing (or upgrading) an AMS at an agency is usually coupled with resistance and pain because of how large of an undertaking that can be. The first reaction that most people have when they experience a problem with their AMS is to assume there must be something else out there that’s better. That’s not always the best frame of thought. Rarely do people question whether they’re leveraging their current software to its fullest capabilities.
A great place to start is asking yourself whether the pain of change is worth going through. This overarching question forces you to pose much smaller questions that can guide you through the decision process. For example, when looking at the difference between Applied’s Epic AMS compared to Vertafore’s Sagitta, you’ll find that the differences are marginal. It’s more about how you use these software (and the training you put behind them) that will dictate the experience you have rather than the differences in their capabilities. Jumping from one to another isn’t necessarily going to solve your problems. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. (8:25)
How Often Should You Evaluate Your AMS? (10:00)
AMS vendors are actively making updates on a regular basis to stay competitive. As a result, your agency should be allocating time every couple years to survey the market. The demands of your staff, as well as your clients are changing at an exponential rate. It’s important to understand what is out there to stay competitive and ensure that you’re utilizing the best solution possible.
The two most recognized AMS vendors are Vertafore and Applied which are the AMS solution for around 80% of all agencies in the country. Both companies have robust software with a suite of many tools, combined with large marketing and sales teams across the nation. Because of their market dominance, many industry professionals are unaware that there are roughly 40 different vendors in the market. Many of these smaller AMS vendors focus on specific niches (ie. built for smaller agencies, designed for specific lines of insurance, etc.), but they still could be a solution for your agency and should be looked at. They might not have all the bells and whistles but they might do exactly what your agency needs for a fraction of the cost. (10:00)
Indicators That It’s Time Your Agency Should Assess An AMS Change
There are many factors that can impact your decision to make a change. Rarely will any factor alone be enough to justify such a large undertaking. It’s important that you become aware of the following indicators:
How Long Have You Been On The Same Platform? (12:50)
If you’ve been on the same platform for a very long time, then you owe it to yourself to see what else is out there. Vendors are regularly making updates and you could be overlooking something new that your competitor has taken advantage of or that your agency could significantly improve from.
Before you jump out there and start looking, create a list of the core requirements that your AMS must have. This will keep you focused on what’s non-negotiable.
Is Your Current AMS In The Cloud? (19:15)
The “cloud” is where software has evolved to in most industries and there are reasons for it. There are many benefits of having a cloud based software, including security, speed, support, and functionality. Upgrades and updates to a software in the cloud can be quick, seamless, and sometimes automatic, whereas updates/upgrades on an in-house software can sometimes be a tedious and messy.
If your agency is still being ran on an in-house AMS then at the very least you should survey the market.
What Are Your Fees and Costs? (19:45)
Many software will slowly increase their fees overtime as they add in new tools and functionality. If the cost of your AMS is becoming an issue or have ballooned since initially onboarding, then you may want to assess the market. You may be paying higher fees for new tools that you’re not even leveraging. If your agency doesn’t need all the new bells and whistles, it might be better for your bottomline to go with a smaller AMS vendor that charges less.
How Much Paper Do You Have? (20:40)
If your agency’s operations are very paper dependent, it can be an indicator that your AMS is not improving the efficiencies of your agency and your team is defaulting to paper as the better option. Heavy amounts of paper can also be an indication that your team is not trained well on your current AMS. Regardless, this is a good indication that it’s time to assess your current situation. The outcome may not be switching to a new AMS but it may lead to leveraging your current software more.
Will You Be Needing To Hire Younger Staff? (22:20)
The younger generations entering the industry today have much different user expectations when it comes to software. They’ve grown up their entire lives with the internet and have higher demands from the software they use. Their expectation of software are that it will be easy to use, easy to navigate, easy to look at, and very fast.
If you’re trying to attract and retain young talent, the software you use internally can have a large impact on onboarding and growing a young team.
How Does The AMS Store Data On The Back End? (23:00)
The way an AMS stores data and files can impact what the software is capable of doing. Many software may look and feel similar but could be built completely different on the backend which will dictate how flexible they are with integrating or optimizing to your agency’s workflow.
Specifically, it’s important to understand how the data is stored and segmented. This will determine how well your IT department can pull the data and analyze it. It may also impact your ability to plug into other tools (ie. business intelligence software, sales software, etc.)
How Do You Get Colleagues To Support Your Desire To Assess a New AMS? (15:40)
Change is pain and the thought of switching to a new AMS can scare a lot of people in your agency. Don’t let that be a reason to hold you back from looking around every couple years. If a colleague or “higher up” implies that the agency doesn’t have enough time to look into other options, then investigate why your agency doesn’t have time. What are the reasons? You may find that your agency’s lack of time is ironically a result of inefficiencies caused from your current outdated software.
Always remind those who are pushing back that assessing other options requires no-commitment. There’s nothing to lose by seeing what else is out there. You may find that your current solution is still the best option but you won’t know until you do your homework.