Preparing Your Agency for Data Conversion
Operations | Connections Editor | Jun 19 2018
Data cleanup and conversion is a common process insurance agencies have to undergo at different times depending on need and growth. As such a large task, it's not surprising that managers feel intimidated about taking on the challenge. If it goes wrong, money and effort is wasted. Sara Bradshaw Ray from SynerDynamics Group, has undergone and led a large number of agency transitions since 1989 and teaches in The National Alliance, CIC Agency Management Institute that being able to depend on the integrity of your data is imperative to being able to rise to the top rung of the agency automation utilization ladder. Keep reading to learn more about Sara and what you can expect to learn in her webinar.
Can you give an overview of what your webinar topic is about in your own words?
Ray: The webinar really boils down to six best practices for a not-so-nightmarish data conversion project. Oftentimes I'll be talking to an agency principal, and when the concept of a data conversion comes up, the hair on their neck raises because they have gone through a truly terrible experience. They've already spent a lot of time and resources on this, so it's really too late to turn around and do something else. A common thing I hear is, if I only knew then what I know now. That's why I put this program together; I stepped back and thought that there is a better way to do this. The webinar talks about six things that aren't rocket science, but when properly applied can make data conversion for more successful and an overall better experience for everyone involved.
How or when would an agency know if this is right for them? Are there any specific signs to know when they should undergo this transition?
Ray: Every agency, regardless of size or stage, is going to need some kind of data conversion or platform conversion, whether it's moving inside the Applied Systems technology, or something else as a result of a merger or acquisition. It all boils down to the quality of the data that's going into your new system and how streamlined and productive your workflows are. If you want to perform at that top level of agency automation utilization, you have to be able depend 100 percent on your management system, but if you can't depend integrity of your data and effective workflows, you're never going to get there.
Moving from one platform to the next or one system to the next all boils down to the data conversion project itself. If you don't approach it proactively, you're never going to be successful. You've got to take time. It has to be planned holistically and consider what else is going on in the agency at that particular season. With the agencies I work with, we start talking on average about 9–12 months out so we can do this properly and really take advantage of the Mazerati that Epic really is.
What are some of the common challenges agencies face in the data conversion process?
Ray: Insurance agencies often don't take enough time to do it right. Data conversion usually involves a significant amount of data cleanup, the business process review and the systematic training over the course of the transition project. It's smart to ensure that the most time-sensitive training happens within a few days of going live, so it's fresh for them at the go-live date. Doing a quality data review is important as well, and I have a really simple way of planning and executing that. Oftentimes, people just don't know what they don't know. I started it all in 1989 and have gone through so many conversions and transitions. It's really not rocket science; it's all about planning. It's so much easier if you can identify the cleanup or changes in the existing platform that you know well before you transition that data to a new system. I always recommend making changes in your old system before it goes to conversion or transition because you can't map or script new errors when you don't know where everything originally came from. In the new system, you may not be able to find it at all. It's critical to cleaning up you data before you transition so you aren't taking trash into a new system. My top piece of advice is to plan it well and take your time you have a regular job too and so does your staff. Even with IT departments, it's a huge undertaking, and everyone is still dealing with renewals, new client proposals, etc. That's the reason to do this project on a longer timeline.
What made you passionate about helping other agencies with the conversion process?
Ray: I'm a third-generation agency owner and Applied Systems power user. We went live on TAM in 1989. In those days, TAM would get patches, and you would have to install your patches for fixes. Occasionally, there was a full conversion, and that was a dramatically different copy of the software that was on our server at the time. There were a couple of those conversions that we lived through. We had to plan our first migration/conversion to TAM, so we went to a class and learned all about TAM, and then I created the structure and the codes because we didn't get a whole lot to start with. That was our first conversion experience in 1989, and as we would get patches and platform changes, we would have to do additional conversions from there. I was a TAM power user for 25 years, and then I had the opportunity to help an agency go to Epic. That was a fresh launch, and since then, I've been doing conversions to Epic from all kinds of platforms, both inside and outside the Applied Systems product family. Each one of these experiences has taught me what practices to change or keep, giving me my own cheat set of best practices. That is really where my content comes from: a lot of headaches, but also a lot of wins because I just can't help but build better mousetraps.
What would be your top piece of advice for an agency going through a data conversion?
Ray: Users today need to be a good consumer of the resources... not just be blindly following the conversion steps without asking questions, understanding the processes and making your future business goals clear to your implementation manager. That will all help you in the process and help them provide the best possible data conversion experience and outcome for you. We have to be proactively involved in whatever we participate in.
Who is this webinar topic really built for? TAM users? Epic users?
Ray: It's really for anyone that is planning to go through a data conversion of any kind. It's also pertinent to anyone who is involved in acquisitions as well. In an acquisition you're going to be integrating everyone else's data into your own, and it needs to be clean and the conversion and migration process is equally as important as if it's your own conversion to a new platform.
What is the #1 point you want people to take away from your upcoming webinar?
Ray: I want people to know that data conversion or migration doesn't have to be a scary topic. If it's well-planned and if it's supported from the top-down, it can be a successful experience.
Want to learn some major ways you can streamline your data conversion strategy? Click here to download the webinar!
With over 30 years in agency ownership and management, complimented by a background in company commercial underwriting and cluster creation/management, Sarah Bradshaw Ray brings a wealth of industry experience and knowledge to the table. Her vast experience coupled with a keen sense of the dynamics of efficiency, and its impact on productivity uniquely suits her to meet a variety of operational, management, and marketing needs in agencies today.
The founder of SynerDynamics Group, Ray is also an executive coach and heads up the consulting firm which has come to be known as an agency asset maximization resource in the insurance industry today. Regardless of the economics or industry cycle, agencies today are looking to maximize the power of their dollar. A renowned speaker on the agency efficiency subject, Ray advocates that capitalizing on the power of synergies result in maximized productivity adds strength to the agency dollar and ultimately a blacker bottom line.
When not helping agencies identify their organizational efficiency issues and tackling them head on, Ray is a full-time wife and mother of teenage twins, active in her community and makes her home in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Tags: Operations , Webinars