What to Expect From Applied Systems in 2021
Insurance | Connections Editor | Jan 29 2021
The promise of innovation and change that comes with each new year is no different in 2021. With the first month of the year coming to a close this week, your Connections editors caught up with Applied Systems CEO Taylor Rhodes to learn about what's to come in this new year. Read on to hear what Rhodes has to share about embracing agile, the latest Applied Epic and Applied TAM rollouts, and new acquisitions.
Connections: At the end of 2020, Applied Systems Chief People Officer Laura Lee Gentry shared why embracing agile is imperative to business success. What has 2020 taught you about embracing agile?
Taylor Rhodes (TR): 2020 was a tough year for everyone, pushing us both in our personal and professional lives to adjust to a new normal and find ways to help others. When we had to make the decision to move our employees to home-working, we understood that we needed to swiftly ensure that our employees, as well as our customers, were able to continue working.
We moved our employees home without a hitch, while also assisting customers that were not already in the cloud, to move to cloud technology so they could work anytime, anywhere. This experience taught us that we needed to continue innovating quickly for our customers. We are learning to be more flexible with distributing workflows, levering up or down on projects and positioning ourselves to be both proactive and responsive. We are also taking this approach in how we bring our products to market.
As part of our broader portfolio transformation, we have begun producing smaller, more frequent releases so that our customers can realize the value of incremental change more easily. While annual or semi-annual releases with large amounts of enhancements are exciting and transformative, smaller and real-time updates will be more digestible for our customers, especially by role. We are moving to this more agile cadence for all products in the year ahead, so look out for more product releases coming very soon.
Connections: For ACN readers who missed your opening keynote during Applied Net 2020, what can you tell us about new rollouts from Applied Systems for Applied Epic and Applied TAM in 2021?
TR: We are proud to deliver the latest releases of both Applied Epic and Applied TAM, expanding automation and connectivity within our core management systems. We are committed to continuing to advance our products to provide new capabilities that allow you to work more efficiently, communicate better with your customers and your carrier partners, and enable you to grow your business more profitably.
As we make our way into 2021, I’m really excited to see our portfolio transformation hit prime time as we realize the opportunity to advance the core architecture and underpinnings of our systems. Applied is focused on building technology that allows for greater openness, flexibility and accessibility for our customers — and even better integration across our own product portfolio. We aim to deliver choice and automation with third-party integrations or shared APIs, whether through our partner program or with other certain providers that want to tap into the system. As a trusted technology provider, we aim to create ease of doing business for our customers, their customers and their partners, while achieving the highest level of security.
To continue creating ease of doing business for our customers, Applied is continuing to focus on simplifying the user’s experience. Today’s employees come to work expecting their productivity tools to meet the same standard of user experience they enjoy in consumer tools from Google, Facebook, Amazon or Apple. We want to deliver that same easy interface that they’re used to, so they can more easily train and onboard new employees, create more productivity within daily workflows and realize more time for revenue-generating activities.
Connections: This last year focused a lot on digital as a necessity. How might agencies and brokerages approach reinventing their approach to digital in 2021? What digital functions are you seeing trend among customers?
TR: 2020 was a catalyst for many agents and brokers to begin or accelerate their digital transformation. Now, they are seeing 2021 as the year to further transform their digital strategy to focus on connectivity — the lifeblood of innovation in our industry, connecting agencies/borkerages with their staff and to their customers, and to their insurer partners to be more productive and profitable together.
We are seeing our customers turn their attention to front-office technology, including marketing and sales automation. The traditional ways of serving insureds is not enough anymore. Today’s insureds expect the same level of digital service they receive from companies like Amazon and Apple. Marketing and sales automation promote customer intimacy, enabling agents and brokers to target specific customers and prospects with the right message at the right time. Offering their services via mobile and customer portals makes the agency or brokerage easier to do business with, which is a big win.
Additionally, agents and brokers are breaking out of the broken processes and poor customer experiences that are rife within the lifecycle of commercial lines business. They are adopting technology to create simple, online interactions — from application to policy binding, to servicing and back to renewals. Starting within their daily workflow, agents and brokers can allow prospects or insureds to digitally complete applications with fewer questions, find a market for the risk, submit the risk data to the insurer systems and begin the quoting process faster.
Lastly, agents and brokers are using data more than ever before, using technology to place the power of actionable business insights at your fingertips. These data insights can help you identify opportunities and potential challenges in your book, as well as present benchmarks and recommendations to your clients that help assure them they are getting the best advice from you.
We are proud to offer our agents and brokers all these capabilities within our suite of products.
Connections: On the business side, how do you see partnerships and acquisitions shifting in the new year? Any new partners or updates you can speak to now?
TR: We are always evaluating new partnerships and acquisitions to enable growth, innovation and choice for our customers. In fact, we are very excited to announce that Applied has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire EZLynx, a pioneer in real-time comparative rating and one of the fastest growing agency management systems in the U.S.
This acquisition will expand agency choice of management systems that support Applied’s unique business model needs and deliver new innovation to enhance EZLynx’s notable portfolio of products. Applied will also integrate EZLynx’s real-time comparative personal lines rating technology with Applied’s products, like Applied Epic, creating a “better together” user experience between the applications while giving agencies even greater access to personal lines products. This tight integration will allow agencies to maintain a single view of customers and prospects while eliminating time spent managing multiple data points across disparate systems, creating greater productivity, simpler workflows, and added value. We see this as demonstrating our commitment to our agency and broker customers to provide technology choice for those of all sizes.
Additionally, transforming our product portfolio to open up the architecture with open API technology will make integrations easier for our customers to access their data, connect their AMS with other systems and tools, and allow us to offer more partner integrations. We are excited about the customer value and partner opportunities this will unlock.
Connections: We already have Applied Net 2021 on the brain. Anything you can tease about the event this fall?
TR: Yes, Applied Net is always an exciting time to come together, learn and have a lot of fun! Applied Net 2021 will take place August 23–26 and is currently planned to be at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas.
Because of the pandemic and our commitment to keeping our customers, employees and partners safe, we will continue to monitor the situation and will move to an online event if necessary. While I’d love to see everyone in person in Vegas, we just have to be prudent in how we approach this decision. We put on a great virtual event last year, and if we have to go down that path again, then I am confident our teams will pull off another world-class event. Regardless of how this year’s content is delivered, you’ll be the first to see new products and innovation, participate in 100+ breakout sessions across nine tracks and network with your colleagues from across the globe — oh, and we’ll make sure we deliver the fun, too, with world-class special events that are “only at Applied Net” opportunities.
Stay tuned for more interviews with Applied Systems executives throughout the year. To hear more from Taylor, click here.
Tags: Insurance , Applied Net , Applied Systems , Applied TAM , Applied Epic , Taylor Rhodes , COVID-19 , EZLynx