As insurance agencies increasingly rely on new technology for both back-office and consumer-facing operations, hiring a technology leader to coordinate digitization efforts and upgrades will help maximize the potential of those investments.
An agency technology leader is not another information technology professional. The two have different skillsets, and both are important to an agency’s success.
IT pros vs. technology leaders
IT professionals have no specific background in insurance, but that’s okay because their role is to keep systems up and running on the back side, which is crucial.
Technology leaders, in contrast, focus on the insurance operation first. Their tasks are:
- To analyze how to use the current technology stack to optimize insurance operations.
- To lead efforts to spot where new technology might work best. The tech leader does the research and analysis, providing agency leadership with supported recommendations.
- To oversee data cleanup, rebuild workflows and identify and eliminate unnecessary technology.
- To help train employees to use new and existing technology.
- To foster future tech leaders within the insurance firm.
An effective tech leader has experience in insurance systems and processes but also understands organizations and the need to focus on efficiencies. A tech leader intimately understands the agency’s workflow processes and the different end-user experiences of agency leaders, producers, CSRs, other support staff and customers. The leader operates as a high-level thinker, analyzing the agency as a global operation to determine how to integrate technology that benefits the whole, not just its disparate pieces.
Traits of successful tech leaders
The efficiency and profitability of the agency are the tangible benchmarks of their success.
A tech leader needs to be self-motivated, someone who can perform due diligence without handholding. A tech leader’s research is continuous — reviewing vendors and new technologies, monitoring system updates, assessing current operations, looking for new and better ways.
A tech leader must be highly organized because there are myriad details to consider in insurance and many people whose workflows need to be as efficient as possible.
A tech leader needs to be an effective trainer, willing to sit down with every new employee to review every platform and sales tool, including its visuals, even if that employee won’t use a particular system in their current position. Team members benefit from knowing what is available because one day they might need to use some function of a different system.
Hiring from within
Agencies gain by hiring tech leaders from within their organizations, if possible. Internal candidates will not only understand insurance but also the agency’s unique operations. Internal employees may welcome the growth opportunities a new position with more responsibilities can bring.
Technology partnerships can also help an agency identify key talent.
My own experience
I was hired from within Deeley Insurance to lead technology after 12 years of insurance experience. I had worked through the different layers of an agency, including at the floor in a support role. My various experiences — including work as a processor, inputting insurance data — gave me a solid foundation for understanding how to improve operations.
Deeley had deployed a number of platforms and technology tools, but some weren’t being used properly or to their maximum potential. One of my early tasks was to lead a process to analyze what functions we actually needed, as well as the capabilities of each system. The process was a smart one, allowing us to knock out several unnecessary elements in our technology stack. Then we analyzed the technologies that we had decided to keep, determining how we could use them to their greatest capability.
This was a positive exercise from which all agencies can benefit. It boosted our efficiencies behind the scenes and streamlined processes for our users. It enabled our leaders, with a couple of clicks, to look into data based on our salespeople and our accounts to be able to sell more insurance. It helped keep our customers and employees happy.
As we continue to adjust to keep up with technology, I ask every day: Why are we using technology that way? How can we better use our data? Why do we need that piece of data?
Hiring a technology leader is a long-term investment. It has helped our leaders at Deeley make great strides, as it can for every agency.