ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Slaying The Automation Monster

1. Computers are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. Keep focused on exactly what you want to accomplish both internally and for your customers. Don't go for the glitz-concentrate on the basics.

2. Look for computer literacy, not mastery. We all need to know how to drive, but we don't need to know how the engine works or how to fix it. Make sure that you know what the computer and system is supposed to do for you, but don't become a "techie" (one who spends more time with the equipment than with the customers).

3. In business, presentation is the key. Don't scrimp on your output devices. You must have laser printers if your general output is to be shown to customers. Color printers are now well within reach as are plotters to create sparkling presentations in house.

4. As opposed to human nature, computers force you to do everything right in order to get the desired results. Expect frustration and false starts. Protect yourself with multiple copies of important files. Back up often. Computers are the epitome of Murphy's Law and all of it's corollaries. Don't buy a system without a tape back-up capability that can back up without disrupting the customer.

5. Don't try to keep up with the State of the Art-it changes monthly. Buy your computers and technology with your 5 year Mission Statement in mind. Besides the five year depreciation schedule, changing automation is so traumatic and bears such a long learning curve that you want any system to last a minimum of five years. Don't expect much more because as the State of the Art continues to change and improve, your five year old system will become a dinosaur and make your uncompetitive if you try to squeeze a few more years and dollars out of it. Imagine the most memory that you will ever use and then buy 25% more. Software is becoming much larger, more complicated. Memory has become .

6. Make your managers computer literate and comfortable with your system, but don't tie them to it. Their greatest strengths are as planners, people managers and problem solvers, not necessarily as system managers.

7. Remember, people sell-not computers. Have your sales people supported by automation. Give them automation support and presentations, but don't bog them down with automation any more than you bog them down in paperwork and details, the salesman's doom.

8. The real benefits of automation is controlled by the users of the system, not by the system or the data loaded into it. You can spend a year inputting full policy details only to watch your CSRs continuing to access paper files and obviating the system by performing manual transactions. You may think this does not happen to you, but in ACG's automation audits for insurance agencies we find that 10-15% of transactions are still handled manually, even in fully automated agencies. Do they ever get entered in the system to make it coincide with the customer's account? Who knows?

9. The key to gaining the full benefits of your system is to educate your employees as well as train them. Training implies knowing how to perform transactions. Education teaches why they must perform the transactions as trained. Don't kid yourself-training alone is insufficient. You must educate, manage to assure adherence, audit to verify that the results are as expected and replace employees who can not or will not change with the agency.

10. Real leaps in business growth come from innovation and in proven technology, not from working harder. Automation is the tool that will boost productivity, allow for innovative sales, marketing and presentation techniques and permit you and your successors to survive and thrive from 1980 through the turn of the century-until something better is developed. Entrepreneurial business in the U.S. is much like the African plains of the past. Only the strong will survive and those who weaken or give up the fight will be eaten.