March 5, 2019

Four Keys to Getting ROI From Your Benefits Tech Spend

A wise person once said, “The most expensive software you’ll ever buy is the software nobody uses.” Whether it’s too complex, not flexible enough, or simply not what you were hoping for, bad tech solutions are part of the cost of doing business. For busy HR and benefits teams, this is an unacceptable cost. There might be just a few of you to meet the needs of thousands of employees, and you don’t have the time or energy to waste on a benefits tech solution that isn’t meeting your needs.

There are some key steps to choosing a benefits tech partner that can help you avoid mistakes and get the functionality, flexibility, and answers you are looking for. We’ll walk you through each one.

1. Look for a partner, not a vendor.

Are you shopping for a vendor or a partner? It might seem like these words are interchangeable, but the relationships they represent are definitely distinct.

A vendor is:

  • Someone you pay
  • Someone who delivers exactly what you ask for
  • Someone who meets deadlines
  • Someone who offers a fixed set of goods or services

A partner, by contrast, is:

  • Someone who delivers value to you
  • Someone who works with your team to deliver above and beyond what you need
  • Someone who delivers ahead of deadlines
  • Someone who collaborates with you to innovate and develop new goods or services

You are taking a risk when you choose a benefits tech vendor, and you should expect a true partnership. Look for a partner that is responsive, supportive, collaborative, and ultimately empowers your team to make data-driven decisions.

When evaluating a benefits data partner, references from current clients are helpful. Reach out to any peers who are using the provider’s platform. No analytical solution is perfect, but it’s important to find out how the service provider responds when something goes wrong, not just when things are going well. Fully understand how they take care of your data and protect the privacy of your employees and their family members.

Also understand what their long-term vision is for their solution, what motivates them, what competing interests the company may have internally, and how comfortable you feel about their commitment to providing great service.

2. Choose flexibility and ease of use.

Remember when you had to pop a disk into your computer and type a complex code to open a piece of software? Well, those days are long gone. As they should be. When evaluating a benefits tech partner, you should ensure the software is easy and comfortable to use—it shouldn’t be any more complicated than the other websites you visit in your daily life. A great tech solution should be designed to be used by both novices who want quick answers and experts who need to dive deeper.  

When it comes to benefits data platforms, we suggest evaluating based on flexibility. Can you customize the system? Can you look at questions from multiple angles or points of view? Can you explore across different data feeds to shore up your hunches? Is your final analysis easy to understand, even for those who aren’t benefits experts?

Once you have great insights or a visual business case for a new program, you need to be able to share it with the right people. Look for a tool that enables secure, visual sharing inside the tool with the CHRO, VP of HR, benefits teams, analysts, actuaries, finance, or even outside consultants and brokers.  

3. Gauge your level of input.

Every business is unique, but software solutions are usually ‘one size fits all.’ What will you do if your needs change but your benefits tech doesn’t? For you to get the most value from a benefits tech solution, you need to be included in the product development process. And that doesn’t mean hours spent on joint strategy sessions. It could mean things like:

  • A user conference
  • Formal feedback sessions on new features
  • Informal requests during your regular check-in meetings
  • User surveys

When you’re evaluating a benefits tech solution, ask how much input you’ll be able to give on the functionality and features. Find out if your opinions and desires will be prioritized as part of their product strategy. Learn about their product update calendar, roadmap, and process for gathering user feedback. These questions will help you understand what value a partner can offer, and if they’ll still be responsive to your needs once the ink is dry.

4. Ask key questions.

Finally, the most important step to ensuring value in your benefits tech spend is to ask tough, important questions of your partners. Here are some examples that we hear (and answer) from employers evaluating data solutions:

  • Can your tool show us not only what is going on with benefits data, but also why it is happening?
  • What type of data quality checks and processes do you have in place?
  • How does your data solution consider both novice and power users?
  • What experience do we need to use to get answers in your tool? (e.g. analysts background, actuarial background, etc.)
  • What training do you provide? How long does it take to get comfortable using your platform?
  • Can my entire team have access? Consultants? Finance? C-Suite? How do you share data and insights with others?
  • How do you price for annual access or subscriptions? How many users will have access to the tool?
  • What are the implementation costs for your services? How long does implementation take and how do you make it easy for my team?
  • How does your data platform facilitate our strategic relationship with consultants and brokers?
  • What type of ongoing support do you provide? Do you charge additional fees for ad-hoc requests?
  • How do you handle major issues such as security breaches, bugs that impact the user experience, data quality, etc.?
  • What is your company’s long-term vision?
  • What sort of impact will we have on the product roadmap for future features, functions and enhancements?

Asking questions like these is critical as you’re considering an investment in a benefits tech product. You need to know if the tool and services will provide a true partnership and help you save time and resources. You need to understand if the solution will be flexible, built for your needs, and take into account your changing needs.

While evaluating a new benefits tech solution isn’t easy, following these steps will ensure you won’t end up paying for software that doesn’t deliver ROI.

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