The 27th Annual AMS Users’ Group Conference met March 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. The conference had a show of more than 2,600 agents, CSRs and company representatives with more than 50 exhibitors. The conference featured over 270 educational sessions for users of the three AMS platforms: Prime, Afw, and Sagitta.
In addition, AMS Services Inc. announced three new breakthrough innovations designed to increase agency automation and enhance the users’ experience. Users of all three platforms were introduced to the new innovations, and will reap the benefits of the new technology for their respective platforms.
And the innovations are:
Among the new products was the introduction of TransactNOW, built in partnership with BCF Technologies Inc. The product is designed to support billing and claims inquiry and to enable interface communication between carriers and agents within the AMS Services management systems. “TransactNOW provides agents with the ability to stay inside the agency management system, but connect to the carrier in real-time and get a fully-updated display of information coming back to them,” Patrick Gee, vice president of operations at Travelers P/C, said.
So far, Travelers Property Casualty, The Hartford, SAFECO, The St. Paul, Encompass, Kemper, Chubb and Progressive have adopted the new product, which allows users to conduct business with carriers without having to enter a proprietary site.
“This is huge news,” David Findley, senior vice president of operations at Travelers P/C, said. “AMS put a focus on this in the last 12 months. They made some rather aggressive promises last year, and to arrive at conference with product in hand. … We’re talking about a difference of several minutes down to literally seconds.”
Shea noted that TransactNOW “is not at all a replacement for [IVANS] Transformation Station. It’s an incremental option for us to employ with carriers so that we can get the transactions delivered in a quicker pace.”
In addition, AMS Services also introduced the next generation of Afw—AMS 360. Allowing for greater productivity and more flexibility online, AMS 360 was built from the ground up on the Microsoft.NET platform. Slated for availability in April 2003 for new customers to AMS Services, existing customer will begin migration in early 2004.
Where a transaction used to take two to three steps, with AMS 360, the transaction will take one or two steps, newly-elected Users’ Group president Roy Riley said.
“[It's] a brand new re-architectured product, ground-up development, but it retains the heart of what the product was before,” Shea said.
Lastly, AMS Services announced the transition of Sagitta’s existing database to IBM UniVerse. AMS cited the work IBM and Microsoft are doing in development of the XML Web services specifications. The transition is scheduled for the third quarter of 2003.
Shea said that the new database will “make sure that we have this product delivered in the right way over the long term due to IBM’s financial stability for our customers.” IBM UniVerse offers AMS and its users’ several benefits: a platform that helps AMS users take advantage of Web services, XML and the Internet. It also lets users interact with third party tools right within the agency.
As the popularity of users conferences increases (See The Call of the Conference, Insurance Journal Texas/South Central, March 10), it’s easy to see why agents, CSRs, company employees, speakers, exhibitors, etc. flock to these events. It’s not just an opportunity for networking and continuing education; it’s an opportunity to bond with peers.
Riley and Users’ Group president-elect Martha Williamson emphasized the special relationships that are formed among users, and even between users and their technology providers.
“We’re family,” Williamson said.
And that was evident as agents from all corners of nation filled the halls of the Gaylord Palms Convention Center. Many brought along their spouses and children. Some agents even donated their time as volunteers for the conference. In fact, an estimated 300 agents and company employees volunteered their time for tasks as minute as collecting tickets at the door, or simply pointing attendees in the right direction.
Both Riley and Williamson donate several hours of their time each week to their duties for the AMS Users’ Group. “It is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s good to make a difference. I feel like my agency has invested a lot to put me through this process, but I feel like they will gain an even greater return from it.”
As for the users themselves, Riley said, “I’ve never met a group that’s more devoted or dedicated to just jumping in and lending a hand. It’s an attitude that the founders of this organization 27 years developed and has permeated through the organization ever since.”
Carriers such as Travelers are recognizing the role agency automation plays in agents’ lives, allowing them to strengthen the relationships they develop with those that work with them. “Our whole focus is around providing as many choices as agents need so that they can decide how they want to do business with us, be it coming through our Web site and using our tools or by using their agency management systems through the TransactNOW product,” Travelers’ Gee said. “However an agent wants to do business with us, we want to have the technology to support it.”
“We really want our agents to be profitable,” Findley added. “Anything [Travelers] can do from an automation standpoint, and from an e-service standpoint to help them be profitable, we’re going to work hard to provide that ability.”
Riley summed up the importance of automation and its role it plays in the daily operations of agencies. “I see the actual number of transactions increasing,” he said. “So that means as agents, in order for us to keep our goals, and keep increasing revenue for employees, we’ve got to figure out how to do a lot more transactions per employee. The only way to do that is through automation.”