Brokerage Ops the June 2024 issue

Before You Flip the Switch

Here are five best practices for a smooth software conversion.
Sponsored by Vertafore Posted on May 26, 2024

Like moving into a new home, these conversion projects can be stressful, frustrating, and time-consuming. But the process becomes easier when you identify what you must bring and what you don’t need any more and when you organize your data’s new “home” before cluttering it up.

Whether you’re eyeing a new agency management system, CRM, accounting solution, or policy, claims, or benefits management system, these best practices can help your organization chart a course to success.

Focus on Must-Haves

Conversion projects share one top-level goal: to seed a system with the base information needed to get up and running on day one.

Start by identifying the data in your current system that are essential to your day-to-day operations, like clients and current policies in your AMS or high-level balances for the last couple of years in a financial system.

This work is best done by a team. You want diverse perspectives, including organization leadership and current power users. These people are best positioned to determine the baseline data you need to get started.

Mapping old data into your new solution is the hardest part of a conversion.

Pack Light on Historical Data

One of the biggest pitfalls in a conversion is the impulse to bring over too much data. As in moving, “I need everything” is the easy but usually incorrect answer.

First, identify the least amount of data needed for your new system to properly function. For example: converting outdated policy history might bring over information for a defunct carrier, cluttering up your brand-new system. Err on the side of less being more.

Next, map out the rare cases when you might need historical data. Think about how often your team looks at historical data today. For most companies, that is infrequent.

To manage exceptions, some businesses keep a single license for their old system for a few months. Others work with their technology provider to create a data archive that can be stored outside of the new system. Choose a method that helps you bridge the two systems rather than keeping old data for the sake of it.

Spring-Clean Your Existing Records

Most existing systems have some imperfect data. People move fast when they’re busy, which can lead to duplication or messy records.

Let’s say employee A sets up the entry “Carrier.” Employee B doesn’t see the entry when he searches, so he creates “The Carrier.” Before firing up your new system, invest time in cleaning existing records and correcting duplicates. That effort will pay dividends with a faster conversion and a better user experience in your new system.

Map Your Old Data to Your New

Mapping old data into your new solution is the hardest part of a conversion. To make the process easier without checking and rechecking the work, tap the most experienced and knowledgeable people in your organization—those who know your system inside and out and have a deep understanding of your business and clients. Make sure they can give the conversion their undivided attention.

It can be hard to pull your best people out of the business to focus on mapping your systems, but that time is essential to lay the foundation for a solution you will use for years. If you need a better reason: on average, it takes about three months
to change an agency management system. With the right team giving its focused attention, agencies can cut that time in half.

Ask what they would have done the same, what they wished they had known going in, and what they would do differently.

Leverage Your Resources

In addition to finding the right people internally, tap resources outside of your organization.

Your business might be unfamiliar with switching software, but your vendor sees it every day. In the buying process, ask how your provider will help you get started. And during your project, take your tech partner’s advice. A good partner can make recommendations based on extensive experience working with other customers.

Look to your peers, too. Many agencies and carriers in our industry are willing to help one another. Professional networks, associations, and user groups are wonderful places to find those who have gone through a system conversion themselves. Ask what they would have done the same, what they wished they had known going in, and what they would do differently.

Your new technology is a significant investment that will play a key role in your organization for years to come. Treating a software conversion with the same care you put into other aspects of your business will help ensure you realize the full capabilities of the technology you invested in.

Rick Warter Rick Warter, chief customer officer, Vertafore Read More

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