In the coming years, the best agency management systems may no longer characterize themselves as “systems” at all.
At its inception, the agency management system was the primary—and likely only—software tool an agency utilized to organize insurance-related business. But with the rise of insurtech startups, agencies now have hundreds of software tools at their fingertips that specialize in every individual part of running an agency, from pipeline management to automated marketing to reviews and SEO.
In order to compete, agency management systems are pivoting to broaden their offerings in one of two ways: either by building a more comprehensive feature set into their own system (becoming a software suite), or by making policy data accessible for integration with specialized outside services (becoming a software platform). Which type of system should agencies consider when looking for an all-in-one technology solution?
The platform approach: growth through connection
At HawkSoft, we’re moving toward a future as a platform, with client data stored in the cloud and available to integrate with vetted API partners. Hubspot (a software platform itself) has a great explanation of the platform approach: “A platform is a set of software and a surrounding ecosystem of resources that helps you to grow your business. A platform enables growth through connection: its value comes not only from its own features, but from its ability to connect external tools, teams, data, and processes.” This connection is achieved through API integration, with client data flowing from the management system (the source of truth) into outside applications.
So why should agencies choose a software platform over a suite? Three huge benefits of platforms are specialization, flexibility, and data autonomy.
3 benefits of a platform
Management systems are built to be the best at policy management—not necessarily the best at email marketing or payment processing or other tasks that are also important to an agency. While a software suite spreads its resources across a huge set of diverse features, at the risk of becoming a jack of all trades but master of none, a platform sticks with what it does best and partners with others who are experts in their own spaces. That way, the user gets a best-in-class experience with every single tool.
Todd Sorrel of ePayPolicy explained this perfectly in a piece he wrote for Rough Notes: “Inevitably, the question comes up: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if this product could also do such-and-such?’ Frankly, I believe the answer to that question is ‘no’—and for good reason. What makes these companies and their products so great is that they specialize in a single service or capability for insurance agencies, and they do it really, really well…
“Think about it like this: When you go out to dinner, you don’t want the same person who valets your car to seat you, serve and bus your table, and cook your meal. They could, perhaps, but they don’t. Again, for good reason. Each of these individuals plays a specialized role in your dining experience. The same holds true with your agency technology stack.”
A platform approach gives agencies the freedom to add as few or many features to their management system as they choose. While an in-house suite might bundle features (including some you might not need) with all-in-one or tiered pricing, a platform allows you to pick and choose the integrations that are most important for your individual agency.
This makes it easy to scale your business. As Hubspot puts it, “With a platform as the foundation of your business ecosystem, you don’t have to limit yourself to one suite of products—you can add and subtract new applications and tools as your business grows and changes, without having to start from scratch again or deal with messy migrations.”
Additionally, platforms offer choice. A suite isn’t going to waste resources creating multiple in-house tools that perform the same function, but a platform can easily offer multiple integration options for each type of tool. Don’t like the way emails look in one marketing automation solution? Go with a different one. Platforms allow you to tailor your technology to fit your agency, not the other way around.
A platform also offers the advantage of vetting its partners. There are a dizzying array of technology options out there, and if you’re looking for a software tool on your own you might find you have no idea where to start. When a platform puts their seal of approval on an integration partner, they’re putting their own name on the line. They’ve already culled through all the available options and chosen the ones that provide the best experience. That means you can rest easy knowing that the integration options available within the platform will work seamlessly with the main system.
For example, HawkSoft’s Partner API Program vets every partner to ensure they align with our core values and business standards. HawkSoft’s Director of Partner Integrations, Kenneth Henricks, explains, “We meet with each vendor to gauge their commitment to independent agents, see how well they fit our unique audience of agencies, and ensure they respect the data that belongs to the agencies and will be good stewards of this data.”
3. Data autonomy
A software suite silos your data inside a single system, which means it might not play well with others. An agency should be free to change management systems if necessary for their business, but some systems make it difficult for agencies to leave by making it costly and time-consuming to extract their data from the system. Even then, it might not be provided in a format that can be easily converted to another system. Client data is one of your most valuable assets as an agency, but if it’s imprisoned within one system, you’re effectively ceding ownership to the system that houses it.
On the other hand, a platform is built to make your data easy to access when and where your agency needs it. That means your agency has complete ownership over your data. You can easily disable one integration and enable a different one without migrating data, because it’s still there in your management system. Even if you want to change management systems, you can continue to use the other outside applications you like, and find another platform that integrates with them.
The best choice for agencies
Agencies don’t have the time or resources to manage a host of disparate software tools that aren’t fed by real-time client data or don’t work well with each other. As the source of truth for policy data, it’s the management system’s responsibility to either provide the tools agencies need within their system or partner with others who do. Agencies that select software platforms enjoy the benefits of specialized technology, the freedom to customize and scale their technology stack, and the ability to use their data in whatever way they choose.
Get more resources on choosing a software platform from HawkSoft
Check out our white paper on 3 questions to ask technology partners about your agency data.
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Since 1995, HawkSoft is a leader in management systems for independent insurance agencies that want effective workflows and a delightful experience for staff and policyholders. HawkSoft offers the following promise to insurance agents: your investment in HawkSoft will pay for itself in the first year. Learn more about HawkSoft’s unique father-and-son story here, or request a demo to learn more about our agency management system.
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