Insurance Agencies

Closing the Year in Applied Epic: Why It’s Important and How to Do It

No matter what type of fiscal period your agency operates by, year-end procedures should be performed in Applied Epic for accounting. This is typically done after all items for the last month of that year are recorded. Some agencies do keep the previous fiscal year open for a little longer, which allows for any applicable adjustments to be made. You do not have to close the fiscal year to begin work for a new one. 

However, Year-End should still be done once you’re ensured all items for that year are recorded and all adjustments have been made. 

If, at this point, you realize that your agency has never executed year-endor you simply need a refresher on this processcontinue reading through this article. We will explain the importance of executing year-end, how it’s done, and what happens afterwards. 

Why Should I Perform a Year-End Procedure in Applied Epic?

The biggest and most important reason year-end procedures are done is for reporting purposes. When the process is initiated, it generates year-end journal entries (YJE) that zero out the Income and Expense accounts. Your Income figures should not roll into the following fiscal year.

As a result, this process pushes figures for net profit and/or loss in Retained Earnings on the Balance Sheet. If Year-End is not run, your Income Statement for the following year will show the previous year’s figures in the Year-to-Date column.

How to Process Your Applied Epic Year-End

Year-end procedures are performed similar to Month-end. You will navigate to Procedures, then Accounting, and then Year-End. If you have multiple agencies configured in your system, you will need to highlight each one and click Actions and Close Year. However, before you get to that last step, make sure all months in that closing fiscal year are closed first. Navigate to Month-End, generate journal entries for the last month, then click Actions and Close Month. 

If there are previous months still open, Epic will tell you that those will need to be closed as well and will do that for you. 

Important Note: Never Finalize a Month

If a month is finalized, it cannot be re-opened to allow for adjustments you may need to change. As mentioned before, you can close the final month of the fiscal year and keep that year open to allow for adjustments to be made (perhaps adjusting entries by your CPA). But if you do close the year, you can still make adjustments.

You can re-open the month of the closed year, which automatically re-opens the year. Make any adjustments needed, generate journal entries once more, close the month, and then re-close the year.

The system will generate new year-end journal entries to include the adjustments made. If you do keep the year open until adjustments are made, make sure you move the Default Month forward to the first month of the new fiscal year so that nothing is accidentally transacted or added/removed against the previous year, which can mess up reporting.

Your Next Steps After a Year-End is Completed

With the fiscal year closed, you can run reports that contain the most accurate data for that year. To capture the full year’s financial data, run your Balance Sheet (Accounting Month Criteria: Select month open through last month of the fiscal year) and Income Statement (Accounting Month Criteria: Select Month – the final month of your fiscal year).

If after reviewing you find things do not look right or adjustments are needed, follow the steps mentioned in the previous section of this blog. You can re-run the reports after those adjustments are made to apply the fixes. Always save copies of the reports prior to making any changes or adjustments. You can track your changes and go back a step if needed. 

How KiteTech's Consulting Team Can Help with Applied Epic

If you are unsure on the integrity of your accounting data and want to begin utilizing accounting reports, KiteTech can help. We’ve put together a library of resources about Applied Epic that you can check out.

Our Epic Consulting team can also review your data and determine whether some cleanup is needed or if an Applied Epic Fresh Start is necessary. If you find your agency does not have the bandwidth to keep up with the bookkeeping in Epic, we can handle that for you as well!

Reach out to us today to discuss how KiteTech can help with your Epic Accounting needs!

Kellie Halfpap

Kellie Halfpap

Agency Consultant
Kite Technology Group

Why Should I Switch to the Applied Epic Browser?

There is a lot more dialogue happening about the Applied Epic Browser compared to the Applied Epic Desktop. You may be asking yourself, “Why should I switch?” You may have heard others on your team stating, “I tried it and I didn’t like it” and give you a list of reasons why they didn’t prefer it to Epic Desktop.

Well, I can say confidently that they haven’t tried Epic Browser recently or they didn’t work in it for long enough.

Just like anything new, it takes a little time to get used to it. But I will promise you the benefits of Applied Epic Browser will outweigh a small amount of discomfort you might feel at the onset while learning to maneuver through the new and improved Applied Epic.

I want to share just a few of those areas that you may not have been aware of that are available to you if you were to start using the browser.

Updates for Epic Browser Don't Interrupt Your Workflow

I’m sure you have heard this over and over, but this truly is a significant change. Updates to Epic Browser are done more often and are almost seamlessly applied.

Previously, updates were done in large chunks and took an extensive amount of time to review and prepare for the multitude of changes that would be happening at once. It had the potential of interrupting your workflow and create frustration.

Now, updates are done more often and changes are minimal, making it much easier for you to review and prepare for changes.

Simplicity Added for Viewing Documents

Don’t even get me started about the great things regarding attachments! What, I can look at a document without even opening it? No way! Yes way! 

In Epic Browser, you can view a document in attachments without even opening it, saving you precious time. 

Applied_Epic_Browser-Viewing_Documents

A New Resource Center is Available

I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. They have added a Resource Center that you won’t believe. There are overviews for things such as Navigating Epic, Learning Epic, and Accounting features.

In the Resource Center, you will also find Step-by-Step tutorials. What are those, you ask? These tutorials will walk you through a process while you are in your own client’s account. You no longer need to follow a printed document or watch a video and write down the process and hope you got everything.

Tutorials walk you through the entire process while you are doing the actual transaction! (Drop the mic) Of course, it still also has all of the other previous areas that you went to through the “help” link. It is just a lot easier and broken down for easier access.

Applied_Epic_Browser_Resource_Center_Preview

Make the Jump to the Applied Epic Browser

I could continue with even more reasons why you should switch to the Applied Epic Browser, but these three were some of the biggest stand-out items for my team.

We here at Kite Technology Group have been utilizing the Epic Browser for months and have seen nothing but value, and we hope you will too. 

We are here to help you if you do have questions or need assistance with Applied Epic. Feel free to schedule a time for us to talk about Applied Epic Browser or any of your Applied Epic questions. You can also check out our Applied Epic Resources page to find insightful webinars and other helpful resources. 

Laura Fisher

Laura Fisher

Applied Epic Agency Bookkeeper
Kite Technology Group

5 Key Benefits of Using the Applied Epic Browser

Warren G. Bennis, a well-known advisor to four of the US Presidents, said that “In life, change is inevitable. In business it is vital.” I am sure we can all look back and remember many times in our personal or professional lives when we have had to learn something new. While change can be challenging and feel uncomfortable, once we overcome the learning curve, the benefits often become apparent.

Similarly, in our work with hundreds of agencies using Applied Epic, we’ve seen some resistance from end-users to adopt the Applied Epic Browser. However, we can assure you that while it may take some getting used to, switching to the Applied Epic Browser will be a decision you won’t regret. Let’s discuss some of the key benefits of the Applied Epic Browser.

1.  Enhanced Accessibility and Flexibility

In the wake of the pandemic, our lives and work underwent significant changes. As we transitioned to remote work, organizations were faced with the daunting task of ensuring the protection and integrity of client information stored on personal desktops or laptops outside of the traditional office environment. Consider the convenience and peace of mind that would have come with accessing everything through the internet and storing it securely in the cloud. That’s precisely what the Epic Browser offers—a seamless solution that enables you to access your Applied Epic application anytime and anywhere, as long as you have internet access. 

2.  Improved Client Service and System Management

The enhanced accessibility that comes with the Epic Browser revolutionizes how seamlessly you can access your clients’ information on the go, enabling you to provide superior client service. Similarly, you also have the ability to stay on top of critical management tasks. You are able to manage privileges, initiate workflows, and monitor data use by just logging in to your computer.

3.  Advanced Security

The Applied Epic Browser is not just user-friendly, but also prioritizes security. Web-based applications use cryptographic technology, which is one of the safest and most efficient ways to protect your clients’ information. Additionally, the browser allows you to customize security features based on your organization’s needs. This flexibility enables you to choose and implement the best security practices that meet your agency’s needs. You’ll be able to work confidently knowing that your organization is equipped with top-notch security measures. 

4.  Streamlined Updates

The Applied Epic Browser introduces the advantage of more frequent and smaller updates, which greatly benefits both your back and front office staff.  This approach of smaller updates at a higher frequency minimizes disruption to your team by making changes easier to understand, learn and implement. As a result your team will adapt more seamlessly to new features leading to smoother transitions and improved productivity. Not only that, but you’ll have access to the latest features and enhancements as soon as they are released.

5.  Greater Productivity and Simplified Workflows

Another significant benefit of the Epic Browser is related to how it maximizes productivity and simplifies workflows. One example of how it achieves this is by offering features like pre-fill/population and suggest-as-you-type functionality. These features help your staff work faster and more efficiently by reducing the time and effort required for data entry.

In addition, recent updates to the Epic Browser have introduced the Attachment Preview feature, which allows you to view attachments without the need to open them separately. This feature saves time and makes the process more efficient for your staff, eliminating unnecessary steps to complete tasks.

By focusing on improved features like these, the Epic Browser empowers your team to work with greater speed and effectiveness, enabling them to accomplish their tasks with greater ease and efficiency.

Conclusion

As you can see, if you’re not already using the Applied Epic Browser, there are many great benefits to make the change. While it may take some time to learn the new features and functionality, the investment of time will be well worth it. To learn more about the Applied Epic Browser, check out this article by Applied Systems: Your Epic Browser Questions Answered

Ready to unlock the full potential of your Applied Epic system? Our team of Applied Epic experts can provide tailored solutions to meet your agency’s unique needs. From optimizing workflows to helping you streamline your Epic accounting, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. Contact us for a consultation and let’s embark on the path to success together!

Laura Fisher

Laura Fisher

Applied Epic Agency Bookkeeper
Kite Technology Group

Correia, R. (2022,Dec. 15) Browser-Based Technology Is Transforming Insurtech | Applied Systems Blog

Top 4 Technology Trends for Insurance Agencies in 2022

As we kick off 2022, I have observed that two realities appear truer than ever. First, the years are moving way too fast. And second, technology is moving even faster. As the owner of a Managed IT company specializing in serving insurance agencies across the country, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the insurance technology landscape. Changes that my team and I had the privilege of guiding many agencies through. 

We have learned over the years that to stay competitive, agencies need to keep up with these changes. Here’s my list of the top four technology trends that will impact agencies in 2022 along with my thoughts on how wise agencies should leverage these changes for their success.

1. Data Security continues to be a top priority

The first job of any IT staff or partner is to protect your systems and data. Unless your data is available when you need it and protected from malicious use by others, all the functionality of your computer systems is useless. Today, an agency needs to be extra vigilant about the fundamentals of security such as: keeping their computers current with the latest security patches, managing firewalls, and educating their users on safe computing practices.  

Unfortunately, in the realm of security, what worked in 2021 isn’t enough to protect you in 2022. Between the ever-increasing number of cyber threats and the complexity of new compliance regulations, wise agencies should partner with professionals who have expertise in meeting their industry’s unique security and compliance needs. Security services should include:  

  • Regular risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and recommend practical solutions to address the risk.  
  • Adoption of “state of the art” identity management practices including multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, and facial recognition to make sure only authorized users gain access to their systems.  
  • Standardization of the hardware (PCs, laptops) and their configuration to better manage the security risk at the endpoints.  
  • Leveraging new and improved security capabilities available through your Microsoft 365 subscription.
  • Implementation of a Security Awareness Program to strengthen your first line of defense, your people, and to develop a culture of security. Security is everyone’s responsibility. 

Agencies should be keeping their security footprint as small and manageable as possible by eliminating unnecessary applications and components. In 2022, keeping a small security footprint means that most agencies can realistically get rid of their local servers altogether. That brings us to our second trend… 

2. The end of the local server is here! “Cloud Only” Infrastructure is now a practical reality

For the last decade, we have all heard that we needed to be “in the cloud.” The truth is that most every agency already was “in the cloud” to some extent. For many years most agencies have had cloud-based agency management systems such as Vertafore’s AMS360 or Applied’s Epic or Tam Online. Other quite common cloud services include hosted phone systems and hosted email.

However, while these cloud services were adopted as point solutions, the computer rooms in your main office with the servers, firewalls, and backup drives never went away. If for no other reason, they existed for identity management (active directory) and to house user files and company data. Sometimes they existed for the occasional application that was not yet moved to the cloud, such as QuickBooks. In 2022, well-tested solutions exist to economically address ALL these circumstances. You are likely already paying for a Microsoft 365 subscription that can address identity management through a component known as Azure AD. Likewise, user files and company data can be easily migrated to OneDrive and SharePoint, respectively by using features that are already part of your Microsoft 365 subscription. And even that local QuickBooks installation can be replaced by a more feature-rich and intuitive QuickBooks Online version. Once you “cut the cord” from local infrastructure you can reclaim the server room space, eliminate cybersecurity components such as firewalls, and stop concerning yourself with the physical security of a room that no longer houses all your data. And you are one step closer to providing the exact same experience to your employees whether they are working from the office, at home, or in Tahiti.

3. Endpoint Management is becoming more complicated AND more crucial

Long gone are the days when a PC sat under each desk in your office and those desks were the ONLY place that work got done. Employees expect to be able to work from their homes, the coffee shop, or their cars just as easily as they can work from the office. And they expect to be able to move seamlessly from one of those environments to the next and pick up right where they left off.  

As an employer, you want to provide this capability to keep your employees productive and happy. This is especially crucial in a tight labor market where work-from-home means you, and your competitors, can hire employees from across the country just as easily as you can hire them from across the street. In this market, employees expect more options to provide both comfort and productivity. These include laptops, wireless headsets, and multiple monitors. The employer who accommodates these desires has a leg up on hiring and retaining the most marketable employees. 

But there are complexities to all this employee flexibility. First, how do you maintain system and data security when data is accessed by a variety of endpoints all over the place? Secondly, how do you manage the endpoints and their consistent configuration when they are in many separate locations? Finally, how do you accomplish all this without duplicating the cost for infrastructure at the office, in the home, and on the move? 

There is not a single, simple answer for balancing the competing interests of employee mobility and security in a cost-effective manner. For some agencies, old style VPNs may be sufficient. Others may find it best to provide employees with laptops that travel from the office to home and anywhere in between. Some may find that the investment in “virtual desktops” (VDI) finally makes sense for their business. The most competent IT partners should be able to clearly explain the tradeoffs of these various solutions to help you make the best decision for your agency. 

4. Agency Management Systems welcoming enhancements through third-party add ons

Last August, Applied Systems made a welcome announcement at its annual AppliedNet conference. Applied announced a move to an “open architecture” that will simplify the ability for third party application developers to connect their applications to Applied Epic. Vertafore has also touted an open architecture to permit third parties to connect their applications to AMS360 and Sagitta. “Open architecture” refers to a clear and well documented application programming interface (API, for short) that permits application developers to access the common functions and data of the agency management system. By committing to an open architecture, both Applied and Vertafore are effectively inviting entrepreneurial application developers to enhance the value of their agency management systems through add-ons that more seamlessly integrate with their flagship products. 

This will provide agencies with more choices than ever when it comes to client portals, CRM/Sales systems, real-time market data, and data analytics/reporting. Of course, Applied, Vertafore, and other agency management system providers will continue to provide and enhance their add-on products. For example, in the client portal space, add-ons such as Applied’s CSR24 and Vertafore’s InsurLink will continue to compete for your business. But more choices will drive innovation and improved quality for client self-service. Likewise, expect new entries to improve options for CRM, real-time market data, and data analytics.

The most progressive agencies are going beyond deployment of the Agency Management System “basics,” and seeing real value in deploying add-ons, that drive sales, improve the customer experience, and help make their employees more productive.

These are the top 4 of many impactful trends we are seeing in the insurance technology space. The pace of change impacting insurance agencies is dizzying. Navigating these changes can be overwhelming for any agency irrespective of the number of employees or IT staff you employ. Kite Technology is here to help. Whether you are looking for a technology partner to manage all aspects of your network, improve utilization of your agency management system, or deploy components of Microsoft 365, we can help you meet your business objectives. Reach out to schedule a conversation and together, let’s make 2022 your best year yet!

Greg DiDio

Greg DiDio

CEO
Kite Technology Group

An Applied Epic Checklist to Start the Year Right

As you look ahead into 2021, you may be wondering if there are specific procedures you should be implementing to set your insurance agency up for success and optimize your Applied Epic system. Below we share a few recommendations on items that we feel are important to check off this time of year.

Run Expiration Reports

This is the time of year when many employees are taking time off, so it is imperative to make sure they are aware of all policies that are renewing this month or in early January. Even if employees regularly receive Expiration reports, sending out more frequent reminders during the holiday season will help ensure expiring policies are addressed, which will, in turn, help you avoid a possible E&O exposure.

Employee Performance Reviews

This is typically a great time to meet with your employees and review their performance over the past year. If you have implemented employee auditing practices, you should review the results and utilize them for performance reviews. Auditing reports can be a crucial tool in determining which employees are doing a great job or require more guidance and training.

Clean-up Outstanding Balances and Premium Payables

Insurance Companies and clients will also have limited staff this time of year due to the holidays. Run an Aged Outstanding Current Balances report to view all outstanding client balances and send out statements early to avoid trying to collect or pay multiple outstanding invoices after the new year. Apply Debits and Credits throughout the month to get those cleaned up for Year-End. Running the Balancing Current Premium Payables report will help clean up any manually reversed transactions and identify any transactions that may be outstanding to the carrier or return premium to the agency for the year. This accounting step is especially important if your fiscal year ends in December.

System Clean-Up and Workflow Review

If you have specific configurations and workflows set up for your agency, this may be a good time to review them to ensure they still make sense for your agency processes and procedures. Start a discussion with your employees or use the employee audits (if implementing) to see if there are any gaps in workflow procedures that you should amend to increase efficiency.

New Product Research

Now is also an excellent time to research new products that integrate with Applied Epic. Programs like Indio, DocuSign, blueButler, or Salesforce can be great software additions to increase your agency’s efficiency and productivity. If most of your employees work remotely, these products can make that operation more seamless by automating certain processes. Learn how these products could benefit your agency. For example, Indio has a great feature that will copy duplicate information across multiple carrier applications saving you or the client from re-writing the same information over and over.

Checking off these items will set your agency up for continued success going into the new year. It is important to run reports periodically this month to make sure you address upcoming renewals and handle any outstanding balances. Touching base with employees and reviewing workflows will ensure continued efficiency within Applied Epic. Finally, take some time to research new products that can prove beneficial for further automating practices that save time and keep remote work seamless. If you would like assistance or guidance with any of these recommendations or would like to learn how we can help your agency utilize Applied Epic more effectively, contact us at consult@kitetechgroup.com.

The Dangers Lurking in Your Inbox

Every now and then, an email with a catchy subject line appears in your inbox and you end up clicking on it, either because you’re curious about the subject line or because you assume the sender is trustworthy. Unfortunately, this is how most cyberattacks tend to begin – with a single click. What unfolds next only puts your security and the security of your business in grave danger.

Whether you clicked on a link or the unsubscribe button in the email, you would have potentially opened the floodgates to the possibility of single or multiple cyberattacks that could hold your business’ future hostage. According to ProofPoint’s Human Factor 2019 report, more than 99 percent of cyberattacks require human interaction to succeed. That’s why email security should be at the very top of your insurance agency’s cybersecurity concerns.

This blog will help you understand what you’re up against and how you can launch a robust counterattack.

The Art of Cyber Deception

There’s a greater psychological undercurrent to cyberattacks than you might think. Cybercriminals are hitting their targets by deceiving you and making you act irresponsibly. Threat actors continually develop and deploy sophisticated social engineering tactics to fool unassuming recipients. They observe what works and tweak their designs to make them more efficient. Regarding phishing emails alone, Google reported that 68 percent of phishing emails blocked by Gmail were new variations that were never seen before.

Cybercrime is constantly evolving to match advancements in technology. Being overconfident about your defenses or defensively underprepared is certainly not a viable stance. It’s time to adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one to counter this deception.

7 Cyberthreats That Infiltrate Your Inbox Regularly

Before we talk about how you can build a formidable defense against email attacks, let’s take a look at the top cyberthreats that frequently make their way into your inbox and wreak havoc.

1. Phishing, spoofing and identity deception

Phishing involves hackers deploying various social engineering tactics to tempt users into clicking on malicious links and unwittingly giving up confidential information, such as user credentials. Hackers invest a tremendous amount of effort into assuming the identity of a trusted source, making sure that it is YOU who lets them into the system. Once they’re in, they can either install malware on your network’s systems, access and misuse sensitive data, or simply lock your systems and demand a hefty ransom.

Data suggests that this menace is only growing stronger. Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report stated that 22 percent of all breaches in 2020 involved phishing. Even well-informed users fall prey to such attacks adds to this conundrum. In a study conducted by BullPhish ID, it was observed that 18.6 percent of users that clicked on simulated phishing campaigns demonstrated a willingness to submit credentials or requested data.

2. Business Email Compromise (BEC) and spear phishing

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks ballooned by nearly 100 percent in 2019 according to a GreatHorn report. In a (BEC) scam, the attacker hacks into your agency’s email accounts to impersonate employees or any of your organization’s important leaders with intent to defraud your company and its stakeholders into sending money or sharing sensitive data. Spear phishing works in a similar fashion. An attacker dupes the user by making it look like a malicious email originated from a trusted source.

If you want to get a fair idea about the damage a BEC scam can do, take a minute and think of the massive financial and reputational loss your agency would suffer if an attacker impersonates you and carries out fraudulent activities in your name.

3. Account takeovers

Taking identity impersonation one step further, account takeovers exploit your compromised user credentials to target both your financial stability and reputation. Cybercriminals take control of one account, and then access others. For instance, they could get into one of your client’s bank accounts and carry out fraudulent transactions. Criminals aren’t only targeting your agency. They’re using your compromised credentials as a gateway to also exploit your clients too.

4. Malicious malware and viruses

Although used interchangeably, malware and viruses differ on technical grounds.

· Malware is any type of malicious software, irrespective of how it works.

· Viruses are a specific type of malware that self-replicate after entering other programs.

Both pose an enormous threat to your agency’s IT environment. CSO Online revealed that 92 percent of all malware is delivered via email and that’s why we’ve included it in our list. As mentioned earlier, all it takes is a simple click for an attacker to gain access to your network’s systems and plant malware or a virus.

5. Ransomware

A ransomware attack occurs when a hacker breaches your network’s security, encrypts your data and demands a hefty ransom for the restoration of that data. In Q2 2020, average ransom demands were pegged at $178,254, which was 60% higher than in Q1 2020 and a whopping 432% higher than in Q3 2019 ($41,198).

Even if you opt to pay the ransom, you have no guarantees the attackers would provide the means to decrypt and restore data, nor can you be certain the data will not be sold, exposed or targeted for a direct attack at some later date.

6. Insider threats: The human element

Insider threats are posed by individuals within your organization or closely related to it, such as current or former employees, vendors and partners. Acting unwittingly or out of malice, they can easily let an attacker into the system, leaving all your sensitive data exposed.

In fact, according to Verizon in their 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report, over one-third of data breaches worldwide involved internal actors. An Egress study revealed that 31 percent of employees have mistakenly sent an email containing sensitive data to the wrong person.

7. Misconfigurations

Last but certainly not the least deadly, misconfigurations in your email platform can expose your network to a host of threats. For example, it could allow the sending of emails without authentication. If a cybercriminal exploited this vulnerability, they could send out emails impersonating anyone from the company’s executive level plunging you into a full-blown PR crisis.

It’s Time to Engage All Defenses

Your firewall and antivirus won’t stop an attack caused by most of the cyberthreats listed above. An attack takes place almost every 39 seconds (or approximately 2,240 times a day, as per the University of Maryland). The longer you wait, the more likely you are to be a hacker’s next victim. You need to go on the offensive. A managed IT services partner can help you craft a robust two-pronged approach – implementing the best cybersecurity solutions and providing your employees with extensive security awareness training.

At Kite, our comprehensive, multi-layered approach is designed to extend 24/7 protection to our clients. Our cybersecurity services follow best practices, help you meet regulatory compliance and protect your insurance agency through:

  • Firewall & Network Monitoring, Support and Maintenance
  • Email Security
  • AV / Malware Protection & Remediation
  • Enhanced Endpoint Security
  • Security Awareness Training
  • Risk Assessments
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Enhanced DNS Security
  • Dark Web Monitoring
  • Enhanced Endpoint Security

Don’t wait for a cybercriminal to strike. Contact us today and safeguard your business.

Article curated and used by permission.

What Your Agency Should Expect from your IT Service Provider

Many insurance agencies across the country are still dealing with remote work challenges. Agencies are struggling to hold virtual meetings, collaborate effectively and share documents. Worse yet, agency leaders are realizing that these issues aren’t a temporary circumstance resulting from the pandemic. This is the new reality. To be successful going forward, agencies need to embrace tools and processes that accommodate a remote and mobile workforce. Unfortunately, many learned the hard way that their current IT provider was ill-prepared to advise and support them when the crisis began. Consequently, they’ve suffered considerable drops in productivity and customer service.

In candid conversations, agency principals we talk to have shared that they’re paying a premium on IT and getting mediocre results. They are frustrated by ineffective support and a lack of strategic oversight. It isn’t surprising. Often, their IT provider is using old solutions unsuited for the new problems. The provider has no idea of the industry-specific needs of independent insurance agencies. Best practices DO exist for technology solutions for agencies. But the typical local IT provider is unaware of them. They don’t understand that the technology and security needs of agencies differ from those of typical law firms, medical practices, or construction companies.

You Deserve a Strategic IT Partner Who Really Understands You

These chaotic times present the perfect opportunity to reassess your technology needs and reevaluate your current IT provider. Changing technology and security requirements are cause for raising your expectations of your IT provider. The good news is that forward-thinking agencies who choose their partner wisely can expect:

  • Greater ROI from their IT spend
  • More bandwidth to focus on their core strengths, such as sales and client service
  • A strategic direction that keeps them ahead of their competitor

What You Should Look for in a Technology Partner

Whether you are satisfied with your current provider, considering outsourcing IT for the first time, or looking to replace an IT provider, it helps to know how to evaluate their performance. We have prepared 8 questions that you can use to help answer how your current IT provider is doing and what you might expect from another provider. Below are these questions and some considerations for each that will help you distinguish the contenders from the pretenders.

1. Why do they do what they do?

How do they start the discussion? Are they focused on you or themselves? Ask the hard questions and find out what the provider’s passion is. Is it just the money, or do they really care about you and the people they serve? Ensure that your IT partner shares your agency’s values. What usually sets a provider apart is the type of people they use to deliver their services. At KiteTech, we understand that how we treat you is every bit as important as how quickly and effectively we solve your computer problems.

2. Are they implementing a cloud-first, mobile-first strategy?

Many agencies found out how integral cloud solutions were when they quickly had to transition to a remote work environment. Access to the cloud ultimately allowed agencies to remotely access their files and complete their projects as easily as they did from the office. Your IT partner should be able to map out your cloud journey and have a plan for sunsetting legacy technology. At KiteTech, we offer fully managed cloud services and collaboration software that is available 24×7. Our experts will work with you to develop a realistic plan for adopting and migrating to the cloud solutions you need to drive your agency forward.

3. Do they understand your business?

Does your IT provider understand the unique challenges related to operating an insurance agency? You will be able to more confidently make IT investment decisions if you have an IT partner who knows your industry and understands your systems and processes. At KiteTech, we pride ourselves on the fact that many of our consultants started their careers as licensed insurance agents and now advise insurance agencies on how to  take their performance to new levels. Our team regularly participates in and presents at local and national Applied Client Network and NetVU conferences. We also maintain strong relationships with the vendors most agencies work with, resulting in more effective collaboration and problem-solving when technology issues arise.

4. Are security and compliance top of mind?

Insurance agencies are a major target for cybercriminals because of the client information they possess. This year you’ve also had to deal with the uptick in cybersecurity attacks due to increased remote work environments. Was your IT provider adequately prepared? Agencies today can’t just depend on the basics like antivirus and spam filtering to stay secure. Many states’ cybersecurity compliance regulations like NYDFS’ 23 NYCRR 500 expect agencies to have much more robust security practices and policies in place. Thankfully, with KiteTech, you don’t have to manage compliance and security alone. We carefully monitor new regulations affecting your industry and update security protocols as regulations change. Our security offerings are designed specifically for insurance agencies, and we ensure your compliance requirements are the starting point for our conversation. 

5. Is their help desk support top-notch? 

Way back in the “old days”, like February, when their PC broke, your employees might head over to another cubicle or ask the unofficial office tech expert for help. When COVID-19 forced everyone to head home in March, things changed. We, like most IT providers, saw a tremendous uptick in support requests as employees needed help with their home setup. And, of course, when things break at home, there probably isn’t another cubicle with a spare PC or an office tech expert to get you back up and running. So, prompt and competent help desk support is more critical than ever.

Here are some questions to help you differentiate the quality of help desk service you can expect to receive from a current or potential IT Partner:

  • Do they hold themselves to clearly defined response time metrics?
  • Can their technicians help you with your agency management system or the company website?
  • Are they familiar with the other applications you use, or do they pass the buck when an issue is related to another vendor?

Our team takes an active role on your behalf as a vendor liaison for technologies we don’t directly support, but you require to reach your agency’s goals.  At KiteTech, we aim to consistently provide amazing help desk support and customer service and are proud of our best-In-class Client Satisfaction Scores. 

6. Do they have a proven process?

Do you find that your IT partner seems to operate by the seat of their pants? Were they prepared for the challenges brought on by the uncertainty of this past year? Immature IT Providers have their head down running so hard that they forget to look up and see the forest for the trees. While it is not always the case, maturity often correlates with size. Larger IT providers, like larger agencies, allow different people to play different roles. The smaller provider doesn’t often have the time to investigate better ways to do things because they are too busy wearing too many hats.

Ask your provider to provide their process for getting to know you and preparing to serve you as a client. Some providers will rush right in and sign you up without truly understanding your needs or your current technology. They have no process. At KiteTech, we have a documented  proven process that precisely outlines how we will work with you. The process includes key steps to ensure your success. It starts with really listening to your needs. It continues with deploying solutions that solve your most pressing problems. Finally, we provide ongoing support and recommendations to help your agency grow. It sounds simple. And it might even feel simple going through the process. But it is the result of a well-documented, proven process for delivering client success.

7. Do you see a commitment to strong client relationships?

Beyond help desk support, your partner should offer an ongoing conversation that helps your agency look forward. You never want to feel like you are just a number to your IT provider. At KiteTech, we assign each agency we work with a Client Experience Manager dedicated to serving your agency’s needs and helping you accomplish your goals. This takes place through scheduled conversations that focus on lingering issues and jointly plan for security and technology improvements. We strive to develop strong client relationships that build trust and make you feel like your KiteTech team is an extension of your agency. 

8. Did they create a strategic technology plan?

Does your IT partner understand everything about your technology? Do they have an in-depth understanding of the latest insurance trends? A strong IT provider will help your agency create a strategic plan by:

  • Listening first to understand your business strategy and goals
  • Assessing Your technology and its suitability to meet your goals
  • Together with you, building an affordable plan for incrementally keeping your technology aligned with your goals

To do this well, your IT provider must understand the insurance industry, the market forces, compliance regulations, and economic realities you are dealing with. KiteTech’s familiarity with agencies position us perfectly to do this.

We have spent the last 28 years helping agencies across the country succeed through insurance consulting. Just recently, at Applied Net, we heard from agency executives about the issues around collaborating remotely, the frustrating help desk queues, and downtime that has stalled agency productivity. That’s why it is our mission as a trusted technology partner to provide best-in-class IT services that help agencies operate more effectively and experience greater business success.

Want more information about choosing a provider?  Contact us for a free consultation. We will talk through your needs and what services are best for your agency. You can also visit  our website to learn more about our managed IT and consulting services.

Automating Your Workflows: Tips on Optimizing the Use of Applied Epic Download

The Download feature in Applied Epic is one that can automate tasks and create efficiencies in multiple areas: policy applications, transactions, activities, attachments, for example. While it does require some time to properly configure how Download will influence each of these components, once set up, you will find that having certain functions automated for you saves time and creates efficiency in your daily workload. Here are some features of Download and how they can prove beneficial when implemented into your workflows:

Consider Instant Download Versus Scheduled Download

It is standard to schedule Download to occur one to two times per day, the most common being once in the morning and once in the evening after work hours. Alternatively, you can implement Instant Download, which will pull updates from carriers as they occur throughout the day. Instant Download is particularly useful when it comes to important events like claims or reinstatements. In these cases, it is more beneficial to the insured and you as the Account Manager if Download updates a change to the account in real-time versus at a scheduled time, as it keeps their account the most up to date. Instant Download also takes away the large batches that often come with a scheduled Download: when Downloads are only occurring once or twice a day, the system can get clogged and take longer to process; however, when using Instant Download, they are processing in smaller batches as changes or updates occur, which takes less time to process.

Create Separate Download Transaction Codes from Agency Bill Transaction Codes

To keep an account updated and accurate, consider setting up separate Download transaction codes. Most of the time with Agency Bill, you would be billing the full annualized premium amount, applied to the Annualized field at the Policy or Line levels. But with Direct Bill, it is often difficult to determine if the amounts listed on a statement is for a total annualized premium, an endorsement, an installment, or just commission received. You can configure Epic to have the “Policy” download update your Annualized Premium and have a separate set of Direct Bill transaction codes that do not affect your Annualized Premium. This is a great way to prevent issues with transactions downloaded that may be classified as a renewal but are actually an installment, for example.

Configure EDOCs With Your Agency’s Naming Conventions & Folder Structure

When using EDOCs to attach policy documents, most of the time, the description is ‘Downloaded Policy’ or something similar. You can override the attachment descriptions to match your agency’s naming conventions by pulling in field defaults for Policy type, Effective Date, Policy Number, etc. However, it is important to note that this would not work for endorsements, as EDOC cannot decipher which Service Summary Row to pull the description from. It is also beneficial to set EDOCs to attach documents to the appropriate folder and subfolder, saving you from re-routing the attachments to the correct locations.

For the Activities screen, setting up unique EDOC activity codes that further specify what that activity contains is an easy way to distinguish what is coming in through EDOCs, saving you from clicking through activities to figure out what each is. For example, you can set up an ECLA code for downloaded Claims, an EREN code for downloaded Renewals, or an EPOL code for downloaded policies. You can even put descriptions on these codes like ‘Claims Document Download,’ which provides even more detail about each activity before opening it. Utilizing unique codes and descriptions makes searching for a specific document or activity easier as well.

Implement the Use of Download Activities Instead of Communication Log

While you are most likely used to a printed or emailed PDF Communication Log of what Download has imported each day, you might want to consider using Activities instead. Download Activities is especially important if you utilize the Instant Download feature – a Communication Log generated multiple times throughout the day would not be efficient for the system or your Account Managers. While you can change the report to run at a specific time rather than after each time a Download occurs, Activities will ultimately prove to be easier to manage, and they mirror the same information on the Communication Log.

With most employees now working from home, Download Activities is more practical than printing a daily Communication Log. It is better to keep the information in the system rather than having each Account Manager have multiple printed pages or PDFs to sort through and manage. Activities are also a great way to schedule your time and workload – if you cannot get to a particular activity or account that day, you can easily change the follow-up date on your Home Screen.

Setup Tasks on Download Activities

Though Download does provide a streamlined way to get through your daily workload by processing changes and attaching documents for you, it is still essential that the Account Manager review certain activities Download generates before closing them. Setting tasks on Download Activities provides a checklist for the Account Managers to ensure what Download processed is accurate and complete with no further actions needed for that workflow. Setting tasks prevents any E&O exposures as, while Download is a fantastic feature, it is still important to double-check your work.

To accommodate these Download features, you may find that some workflows may need to be updated, or additional training is necessary. However, proper configuration of each of these tools will lead to more efficiency within Applied Epic. Implementing Download can help you attach documents to accounts faster, provide an improved view of your daily activities and workload, and can update accounts instantly as changes occur. For more information or help setting up Download for your agency, contact us at consult@kitetechgroup.com for a free consultation.

adam atwell

Adam Atwell

Cloud solutions architect

Adam is passionate about consulting with organizations across the country to help them develop and execute a cloud adoption strategy that meets their business needs and future objectives. Adam oversees and manages our company strategy for Microsoft 365 adoption and is responsible for future growth and development inside Microsoft 365 and other cloud technologies.