Technology has grown and with it the choices we have in how we store our data. There are many solutions these days for digital databases to house your book-of-business' information. Since a lot of this is relatively new to many insurance agents and agency owners, it can be hard to tell which type of database you should choose—if you even knew there were options.
The 2 Major Types of Databases
The thing you really have to think about is the type of software database you choose to store your data. There are two types you’ll be looking at for your insurance agency:
“A proprietary process is a manufacturing process that others are forbidden to use.”
Proprietary systems are made to keep your data. Usually, these are home grown system specifically built for your company. Often these systems require an on-site IT manager (which can run you about $75,000 a year) to help manage the system and fix any problems; and your agency will be charged with keeping and maintaining the software (keeping a large proprietary database can cost upwards of $40,000 a year).
2. Standard Database
A standard database is a database that is built by another company for the masses. Another common name for this type of database system is structured query language or SQL (pronounced sequel). They’re open so anyone can use them as long as they purchase a subscription or download the application. The vast majority of agency management systems (AMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) software will be a standard or SQL database system.
Moving Your Data
No matter which system you’re moving to and from, there will be obstacles present. Think of it this way, whenever you move houses some obstacle will present itself in one form or another. This shouldn’t make you shy away from moving away from a system that isn’t working for you, though; much like it doesn’t shy you away from moving houses if you find you’ve outgrown your current place. It will be a significant amount of work, there’s no getting around that, but the longer you wait, the more work it becomes.
And, like moving, you just need to be prepared. Here are some things you should expect when you do decide to move from a software that no longer works for you to a new one:
- Your new company is not a subject matter expert on your old system. It’s hard to expect the company you’re moving to to understand the database you’re moving out of. Some companies do have a migrations specialist that can better assist with the move, but even they won’t know all the ins-and-outs of getting your data out of your previous system. This comes out even more when you’re moving from a proprietary to a standard database. Your new company may know a few things about their competitors from past migrations, but they will rely heavily on the manufacturer or your IT manager to extract your data from any homegrown database.
- Pricing can be tricky. Some companies believe that if they store your information, then they partially own your data. They may make it extremely difficult for you to get your data out and they may even nickel and dime you along the way. Your new company can quote you the price it’ll be to migrate your data into their system, but there could be additional charges submitted from your previous company for moving your data out of the old.
- The way in which your old database exports data could pose problems for the new system. Aim to have your extracted data to come out in Excel reports or .csv files. These types of files have a better chance at being read by other database systems, so you stand a better chance of any migration into the software.
- Data is only the half of it. You may be able to extract your data with little to no problems, but often the same cannot be said for your activities, emails, attachments, and notes. These are not always stored the same ways your regular data is, so extraction could disconnect your activities from policies or notes from individuals.
What can you do?
The bottom line is clarification: knowing where your data, activities, emails, attachments, and notes are all stored. Here are some questions you should be asking any company before you jump in:
- Are your attachments on your servers or connected to them? Or are they somewhere else in the cloud where you’ll have to rely on your software company to go in and grab them?
- Is your data your property or does the software stake claim on it now?
- How easy is it to export your data out of the system if you ever choose to leave? Are there accompanying charges for leaving?
Regardless the solution you choose, these are answers you should know before you buy into a new database.
Where can you start looking?
Start by searching for an industry-specific agency management system (AMS) for your insurance agency. For example, AgencyBloc is created to serve the specific niche of life and health insurance agencies. From there, schedule demos (AgencyBloc has live 1-on-1 demos) and ask all the questions above in addition to your other needs.
Like I said earlier, clarification is key. Make sure you have all of the answers you need before you buy.
Organize and Grow Your Book-of-Business with AgencyBloc
AgencyBloc is a SQL, cloud-based database that’s built with the user in mind. We believe that any and all data you put in our system is 100% yours and we stake no claim to its ownership. Schedule a personalized, 1-on-1 live demo with one of our sales reps today to see just how AgencyBloc could help organize, automate, and grow your insurance agency.
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