I talk a lot about how finding the right “fit” is the driving factor behind successfully integrating a benefits technology solution into any company, so I wanted to share some insight to help you do just that. I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common mistakes that I bear witness to regularly – if you or your clients are practicing any of these behaviors today, there’s a good chance you’re headed for disaster. Keep reading for tips to help get you back on track.
1) Asking a third party to evaluate technology for you.
Who really knows your needs better than you do? Every day you deal with the issues that arise within your organization and you know firsthand what’s working and what isn’t. When you are going to adopt a new technology solution, it’s important to be as hands-on in the selection process as possible because once that system is installed, it’s going to be on you and your team to utilize the system moving forward.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t get someone else involved, but allowing some “consultant” to come in with a template for you to fill out and then recommend a solution is hardly a best practice. Most of the time they’ll be recommending a platform they are getting paid to market. It’s very common in this industry and a sneaky practice. Consultants who evaluate technology shouldn’t be selling technology.
If you decide to bring in a third-party, make sure they are not tied to any particular platform and don’t be afraid to ask them if they take money from the vendors they recommend. Transparency is key.
2) Picking a system solely because it shows well in the demonstration.
I’ve seen demos done in 20 minutes and I have seen demos take upward of two hours. The time it takes doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be how you make a decision. The purpose of the demo is to see how the system looks, the ease of use and the overall experience. Anyone doing a demo is going to show the best features and talk about how well the system can perform. It’s important to dig deeper and further the discussion beyond the demo. Remember, just because something looks good on the outside doesn’t mean what’s under the hood matches.
3) Failing to clearly identify & communicate the problems you are looking to solve.
As you realize you need to automate some of your processes around technology, it’s important to identify the problems you are looking to solve. When you begin to look at systems, have a list of your current pain points and your “must have” features ready to go. Be prepared to clearly communicate each item on that list. Identifying what the system absolutely must include will help you quickly remove solutions that cannot provide what is required for your business.
It’s also important to be realistic about your expectations. Some features will cost more and impact the budget. They might also take longer to implement and push out the timeline. Find out if you can add items on at a future date. Most salespeople will try and sell you everything they can up front and then you end up paying for things you never use. So ask yourself: “Do we really need this and is it worth it?”.
4) Planning just for immediate needs but not the future.
Selecting technology that can solve for your current pain points is important. It’s equally as important to list your “nice to have” features. A good practice is to make a list of the top issues your organization is facing around employee benefits enrollment, compliance and communication and then sort them by importance.
Take into consideration where you are at today, where you might be in 18-36 months, and how implementing this technology might affect other technology solutions or business practices you already have in place or plan to adopt in the future. Be firm on what’s a deal breaker for you and what you can compromise on. Once you invest time and resources to implement your technology solution and integrate it into your organization, the last thing you want to do is start from square one a year down the road.
5) Not understanding the implementation process and timelines.
Implementation miscommunication is one of the biggest reasons for failure. The vendor may over promise and under deliver, or just doesn’t properly set expectations. It’s important for you to understand what the implementation is like before you jump into the deep end. How is data collected? Who is responsible for collecting that data? Is there a time commitment for the project to be completed, and if so what does that look like? How will the project will be managed? Before you take the next steps, make it a point to truly understand what you are committing to.
6) Being unable to commit the proper time & resources during implementation.
Your software implementation cannot be well-executed without commitment from you. Quite often we see folks rely on their broker or consultant to manage an implementation or obtain the data required to complete the system configuration. And when we get to the finish line to launch the system, the client does not see the results they expected. Why? Because they opted out of being involved in the implementation process and the fundamental conversations that take place during this stage.
It is an absolute must to commit time and resources when you bring on a new solution. Your expectations cannot be met without your involvement. You can’t expect to meet deadlines if you never complete the required milestones and if you try to rush, steps can get skipped. Clean data is the most overlooked part of an implementation. Garbage in, garbage out. That initial gathering of census information might take longer than you would like but in the end, it will save you the headaches of attempting to fix bad data later.
Be ready to implement your solution the right way, or don’t do it at all.
7) Not knowing how your organization will be supported post-implementation.
We stand by the notion that: “Technology is only as good as the team that is behind it™”. Even if you pick the perfect technology solution and have a solid implementation – what happens post-implementation is crucial to ongoing success.
With many firms, you get assigned to an implementation team that works with you to get the system up and running. Then you work with someone else to get the training done. Then you get a new team to work with for ongoing support. Then you get a new team to work with for your renewal. It’s like this vicious never-ending cycle of people who have no idea what’s going on.
When you need support, how is it handled? Is it just an 800 number you call? Do you get a dedicated support person? How quick are they to reply? How are requests escalated? What happens if you need additional training? Does it cost more? How long does it take to schedule that?
Getting answers to the tough questions before you sign a contract is an excellent way to measure your success for the future.
8) Not questioning how often system enhancements are rolled out.
There are so many outdated systems on the market today. Systems that look the same today as they did 5 years ago. Systems that patch things up with Band-Aids. That’s what’s being done with most legacy systems. Platforms that have not evolved or firms that don’t have the resources or funding to invest in their solution are a major red flag. Systems that have multiple versions that you might have to purchase are another item to watch out for: Today you are on version 1 but every time a new version comes out you have to pay for the new features –it’s a clever hook some firms use to take advantage of clients.
Software should be updated frequently. Look for platforms that are updating their system at least monthly with minor enhancements and several times a year with major enhancements. Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of their prior and future product enhancement roadmaps, how often updates are done, and how they triage new feature requests from clients.
9) Neglecting to ask how your data will be protected.
Security. The topic everyone is afraid to talk about.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center there were 1,293 total data breaches, compromising more than 174 million records last year. That’s 45% more breaches than 2016. This disturbing trend is only expected to continue for 2018.
You are housing extremely sensitive information in these platforms. What is being done to protect your data? SOC 2 Certification and a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is a must have for any platform. Also, how is your data backed up? In the event of a disaster or outage, what is done for business continuity? Is the firm you are working with protected with security/cyber liability insurance? In the event there is a data breach, how are clients notified?
10) Choosing a solution that not agnostic.
You might be tempted to look to your carrier or even a payroll vendor for a benefits technology solution. This is such a bad move.
Payroll firms are exactly that, payroll firms. Most of them now have a benefits technology as a defensive mechanism and a clever way to lock clients into a web they can never get out of. So often we hear the horror stories of systems that can’t accept certain plan types or complex rules, or where the connections to your carriers through electronic data interchange (EDI) take months to complete or never get done at all.
Carriers love when you use their technology since you’ll be stuck with them when they hit you with that rate increase. Imagine spending all of that time implementing a technology solution, training your staff and employees and forced to stay with it.
Using a technology solution tied to a carrier and their products or a payroll vendor is the easiest way to set yourself up for failure. If you want to switch carriers, you should be able to do it. If you want to change payroll providers, you should be able to do it.
There are solutions out there that will integrate with your payroll and take tech funding from your carriers. Take the approach of looking for these types of solutions so that you will have the freedom to pivot as you wish.
If you have a question about benefits technology and want to have a conversation, pick up the phone and call me: (203) 985-1714. The call is free and I promise you there will never be a sales pitch from me.
Remember: Technology is only as good as the team that is behind it™.