Data: The Ultimate Decision Driver
Operations | Connections Editor | Oct 15 2019
It is widely understood that maintaining and analyzing critical data is key to running a smooth insurance operation. Data plays an integral role in extracting intel with regard to a variety of important business decisions.
Colleen Lazanich of CalNonProfits Insurance Services, Kristen Tucker of Riemer Insurance Group and Tiffany Johnston of Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Inc. (FBBI) provide insight on how they are able to use data as a driver of success in business.
Why is it important for agencies and brokerages to use data to manage their business and drive decisions?
Colleen Lazanich (CL): You can’t see trends if you don’t look at metrics. It’s much more proactive to look at the data from the beginning and be able to see what’s going on, and then make business decisions ahead of time.
Kristen Tucker (KT): We’ve made it an initiative since last year to start using data more. We are trying to clean up our data in the system because, as we know, garbage in, garbage out. We’re in the process right now of developing KPIs (key performance indicators) for our staff so we can better measure the success of our employees. We’re just beginning to embark on that journey.
Tiffany Johnston (TJ): Using the data from our client base enables our management team to make smart decisions in a timely manner. We get a real picture of the data instead of speculating.
What are the most common types of decisions made with the help of data?
CL: Looking at renewal retention, which leads into staffing, and looking at how much new business is coming in the door. Are we losing business? Do we need to cut staff? We may have budgeted for a new staff member, but we haven’t grown as much as we planned to, so can we still make the new hire? And, for the staff that we have, how efficiently are they working? I think managers have to have that information to make decisions. There will always be people who are overworked, but you wouldn’t know it unless you looked at the data. To keep employees happy and satisfied in their jobs, you have to distribute the workload evenly.
KT: Work allocation, for sure; dividing the work amongst team members. We have to make sure the balance between them is fair so we can provide the best value to our clients. It’s helpful to analyze our book of business and determine if we need to shuffle things around. We use other employee reviews or customer surveys to get qualitative data in addition to the numbers we pull from the [software].
TJ: Agency growth projections via analysis of expiring policies, along with retention analysis and tying in sales performance and account-rounding opportunities. Decisions on perpetuation, recruitment efforts and market expansion. Investments into new software to streamline work efforts. For example, while evaluating the work activities and efforts performed by an account executive (AE), I noticed that they were heavy on certificate and evidence of insurance activities when our intent was for that AE to act in a consultative, inside-sales role instead of as a processor. We may decide that the team is not set up appropriately, maybe we need additional staff or to centralize those processes or to purchase a product such as [Applied] CSR24 to help reduce the time this AE spends on process functions.
What systems are utilized in your agency to manage and extract data for intel?
CL: We use all of the [Applied suite] products. For analytics we use Applied Analytics and [Applied] Epic. Analytics gives us high-level, pre-designed dashboards, but sometimes a report out of Epic is better if we’re measuring new business or sales performance.
KT: We use Epic and Applied Mobile. Right now, we are beginning to pilot CSR24, so once we launch that broadly with all of our customers, we’ll be able to start reporting more from that. We used to be on Applied TAM before we converted to Epic, so we used to combine a few different things that are now all covered with Epic.
TJ: FBBI uses Epic. We strive to always be on the most current version in order to take advantage of all new features. Along with Epic, we use Analytics and Mobile.
Is one type of software more intuitive when it comes to leveraging data to drive business decisions?
CL: I find both Epic and Analytics intuitive. I thought reporting out of Epic directly was a little frustrating in the beginning. (I was really good at taking one giant data pull from a report and drilling down to what I wanted to find out.) Now, I would say I rely on Analytics the most.
KT: Down the road, once we get a little more sophisticated and optimize our workflows, we’ll institute Analytics, which I think will be super valuable for us. Right now, I think Epic is giving us what we need at this point in time.
TJ: Analytics is by far the most intuitive piece of software available through Applied. We still use Epic reports, but Analytics gives us the data in a quick and easy-to-understand format that quickly drives our decisions. The dashboards have influenced us to think about our agency in different ways. We also trust the dashboard is pulling the correct fields in order to answer the questions presented on the dashboard.
How have you used data in your agency’s recent decision-making processes? Talk about a success story that came from using data in a critical business decision.
CL: It’s cut down on time for reporting because we’re getting it faster. Also, when there are corrections made, we don’t have to re-run everything; we can look at the dashboards the next day. Being able to have all of the information in one place has greatly increased efficiency on the accounting side. From the analytics side, I think the data re-confirms what we’re doing because we started a lot of these efficiency processes before we went on Analytics, so we’ve been looking to Analytics to affirm that everything is working the way we want it to work.
KT: Right after we went live with Epic, we did a time study with our employees to determine how long it was taking them to do different tasks and where there were efficiencies to be gained. We saw that we were spending a lot of time checking policies as well as managing documents. The process that we were following at the time was very antiquated. Policy checking was about 60% of our employees’ time. From there, we started to look at the policy-checking feature of Epic, and we were able to run activity reports to see how many policies were being checked to support the time study we had done. We ended up purchasing the policy-checking feature. Since then, we’ve been able to increase the number of policies being checked. Once a policy gets in the door, we’ve been better about getting it out in about 30 days. Another thing that we’ve started utilizing is the sales automation tool within Epic. As the data comes into the system, management can go into the dashboard and better anticipate what we have coming down the road.
TJ: We use data for almost every decision we make as a management team. Recently, we made decisions on where we should put more resources based on growth rates by markets (agency locations) and producer growth rate. Is more staff needed, better technology, or technology to fit the needs of how that market/producer works?
CL: I would just say that if you’re not looking at data, you’re going off of potentially incorrect information, because you’re using anecdotes; you’re using one or two memorable occasions to make a decision instead of actually looking at the data trends.
KT: It’s not just using data to make decisions; you have to make sure the data is accurate. Any agency is going to use data to make better business decisions. There has to be an additional effort to make sure the data stays clean.
TJ: Analyzing data can be daunting. There are many reports to pull from Epic and the user can interpret those in many different ways. The user generating the report could easily select the wrong criteria which leaves more room for error. Normally, the expert in Epic reporting does not always select the correct criteria and/or layout for the user's interpretation of the data. We have found that Analytics has created consistent reports and streamlined the thought process for us.
Tags: Operations , Applied Systems , Data , Data Management