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Evaluating a Benefits Administration Platform: 6 Questions to Ask 

Selerix Leadership

March 19, 2024

Originally published on BenefitsPro

When it comes to evaluating a new benefits administration platform, many benefits advisors, HR teams and CHROs tend to focus on the most obvious factors — the ones that their senior leadership and end users are most likely to care about. For example: cost, features, and ease of use. But, they often overlook another component that plays a critical role in the successful adoption of any new benefits administration solution: the implementation process. The results of getting granular insight into a vendor’s implementation process can be crippling. 

When employers fail to make sure a technology vendor’s implementation process is effective, efficient, and able to align with their teams and their organization, they — and you, as their benefits broker — run the risk of enduring costly mistakes and wasted resources (not to mention suffering the extra stress and pressure those challenges will cause the HR and IT teams). 

But, you can help make sure none of that happens. This article explains why getting clear answers to six important questions will help uncover a vendor’s attitude toward the implementation process and the steps in their process that every HR leader and benefits advisor should be aware of.

1. Do they have a structured methodology for implementation?

Implementing a new benefits administration platform is often a complex and time-consuming undertaking. It’s important to help your clients make sure any vendor has a structured methodology for handling the process.

This might include, but certainly isn’t limited to, having clearly defined steps for:

  • Elaboration (planning and analysis of the proposed system for the employer’s organization)
  • Construction (building and configuration of the platform to align with the employer’s needs and other vendors, e.g., payroll)
  • Service (ongoing support)

With a roadmap in place before any work starts, implementation can be more easily managed and tracked, ultimately helping to ensure a smoother launch with fewer potholes along the way.

2. What type of communication tools are used?

Communication is critical to a successful implementation. It’s important to ask the vendor about the tools and processes that they use to facilitate communication between their implementation team and the client’s HR team.

Methods and channels might include regular check-ins, status updates, clearly defined points of contact, dedicated spaces for chats and meetings, and shared email or messaging platforms. Clear, open lines of communication are key to getting ahead of concerns or problems that may arise during the implementation process before they become larger challenges or even harm the relationship with the vendor.

3. Is project management a part of their implementation process?

Implementing a new benefits administration platform is a significant project that requires careful planning and management. While it’s a journey that an HR professional may take only a few times in their career, solution providers have done it hundreds of times. The right vendor won’t need to be prompted or harangued to put their experience to use to help buyers follow and plan for every step of the implementation process.

So, encourage your clients to ask vendors about their project management strategy and methods. This might include the creation of a project plan with clearly defined milestones and deliverables, assigned responsibilities, and assurances that all stakeholders are kept informed about progress every step of the way. Also, check to see which project management tool is being used by the employer, as it might be a tool that can be leveraged for implementation tasks to ensure everything stays on track. This kind of project management will ensure everyone is on the same page and that deadlines are met once the project gets underway. 

4. Can implementation be customized for each client’s specific needs?

Every organization is unique, so it’s important to ask the benefits administration vendor about their ability to customize the implementation process to meet each employer’s specific needs. Tailoring might include steps such as the vendor:

  • Adapting to the employer’s existing systems and processes
  • Customizing reports
  • Accommodating specific data privacy and security requirements

When you ensure the implementation process is tailored to each employer’s specific needs, you are helping make sure they enjoy a smoother ride and more successful deployment.

5. Is carrier coordination part of the process to ensure seamless data exchange?

Effective carrier coordination is a critical component of the successful implementation of a benefits administration platform. This might mean that you need to act in a more consultative role between your employer clients and their carriers, to help ensure data is exchanged seamlessly and securely, and there are no interruptions in service. 

Ask the vendor specifically about its approach to carrier coordination and how they manage this aspect of the implementation process. Get specific in your review; provide as much detail about the employer’s carriers and system configurations as you can. 

6. What does testing look like?

Testing is a key part of the implementation process. It helps to ensure that the platform is working as intended down to the smallest detail and that data is being processed accurately. Unfortunately, testing processes are often overlooked during the evaluation of benefits administration vendors and are only sorted out once the implementation process is well underway. This inevitably puts the vendor’s team at odds with the employer’s HR and IT teams, which leads to wasted time and resources — and a bad experience for everyone.

Ask the vendor about its approach to testing, including which types of testing are conducted, who is responsible for testing, what the communication channels and process are, and what the timeline for testing looks like.

Help employers dig into what usually lives in the shadows — the implementation process

When it comes to selecting a benefits administration platform, it’s important to focus not just on the cost, features, and ease of use, but also on the implementation process. By asking the right questions and ensuring that the vendor has an effective methodology in place, you can help your clients ensure a smoother deployment and avoid costly mistakes down the line. When evaluating vendors, encourage employers to keep these six questions in mind to make sure they find the solution that’s right for their organization. 

Paula Kapavik is VP of Service Operations for Selerix

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