bswift Idea Exchange 2019: Conference Recap

Benefit Technology Resources (BTR) was once again well-represented at bswift’s annual Idea Exchange, a conference for bswift clients and partners (BTR is a channel partner). We attend each year to hear, first-hand, product updates on the bswift platform and about the trends and developments in HR and benefit administration systems from industry thought leaders. As is our custom, we’re pleased to share the following information for you to use to reinforce your role as a trusted advisor to your employer clients.

Healthcare costs + workforce engagement = tech innovation. Ed Rumis, bswift CTO, shared his thoughts on the factors driving technology innovation, which in turn drives the bswift roadmap (more on that below). Among the factors driving innovation is the cost of healthcare (which remains high but is stabilizing) and the growing need for employee engagement. Following are some specific observations:

  • No one size fits all. There are five generations in today’s workforce, challenging employers to respond to varying needs and interests, including offering benefits that correspond to the different life stages (family planning versus retirement planning). The workforce is largely made up of Gen Z and millennial employees (55%), creating increased demand for student loan assistance. (We see a growing number of tech solutions to support financial wellbeing.) In general, job seekers most value better healthcare plans (medical, dental, vision), flexible hours, more/unlimited vacation and work from home options. Other benefits that factor into the decision to accept a job offer include tuition/student loan assistance, paid leave and “freebies” (gym memberships, childcare, free snacks, etc.). Given the choice between a higher salary and a lower one with better benefits, individuals will opt for the benefits.
  • Engagement is data driven. Engagement strategies are high on employers’ agendas and benefit programs are a key tool to engage employees (benefits represent 32% of total compensation). Research shows the ROI on engaged employees translates to an 87% increase in retention and a 57% increase in productivity, and 3.4x improved corporate margin and 2.3x growth. Successful engagement strategies are personal and digital. Use available data on individual employees to customize messaging and options. Give employees information in bite-sized chunks, use video and offer choices.
  • Growth of AI in HR technology. AI (artificial intelligence) leads HR technology innovations in today’s market. Platforms using AI increased from 40 in 2014 to roughly 1,500 in 2019. Included under the “AI” label is automation, conversational voice response, system integrations and APIs (see Executive Leadership recap below).
  • bswift roadmap. In response to these drivers and tech innovations, bswift’s roadmap includes COBRA 2.0 (embedded COBRA administration tool); simplified administration through the OE setup wizard, allowing a plan sponsor to easily process renewals more simply; Next Generation Authentication, e.g., multi-factor authentication (beta cases have been launched) and biometrics; mobile anytime/anywhere and improved conversational decision support for plan selection.

Q&A with bswift leaders. The Executive Leadership Q&A panel gave attendees the opportunity to delve into the nitty gritty of bswift’s roadmap. Here’s the takeaways we thought most useful and interesting:

  • APIs. bswift has invested heavily in system integrations and configurable APIs ― laying the infrastructure and testing schedule to roll it out ASAP. “You may not be seeing much now, but it’s happening,” said Tracey Eisman, leader of bswift’s Channel Partner team. Don Garlitz, who leads business development and carrier partner relationships for bswift’s marketplace, compared APIs to waiters at a restaurant: customers view the menu, place an order and the waiter returns from the kitchen with a complete meal. “The goal is for APIs to do the same thing for the consumer.” He added that bswift has a growing list of carriers (prioritized based on need) interested in integrating. Don’t look for bswift to get into the payroll business; their strategy is to connect and integrate with all payroll providers, not to build. HSA/FSA administration is available via a partnership with PayFlex.
  • Mobile. bswift refreshed their mobile app in late 2018 with a mobile-first design mentality to provide an enhanced small screen experience. Currently, there is no direct enrollment option thru the app (links back to site), but single sign-on provides a more seamless experience. bswift is integrating its personal benefit advisor, “Emma,” into the mobile (and web) experience this year to provide interactivity and drive up usage rates. Also on the mobile app roadmap: ID card creation, retrieval, printing and connection back to carriers, plus mobile app branding.
  • Benchmarking. Data is king in HR technology and bswift says they are keen on finding data in disparate sources but only on “impactful” data. “There’s a lot out there that’s interesting, but not impactful. We’re focusing on making impactful decisions,” said CTO Ed Rumzis. New in benchmarking is the use of graph technology to view and manage data analytics. Graph technology allows users to store data together with accompanying relationships. This is a fast-growing category in data analytics; look for continuing developments.

Documenting configuration in a transition. Our own Nikki Talley, benefits administration division manager for the bswift team, joined bswift’s Darlene Kasettratut and Brian Simmerman to discuss internal and external transitions in a session on improving operational processes. “Trust but verify” was Nikki’s advice when taking over a site lacking the original implementation documentation, i.e., why things are built a certain way. Additional advice: Extract as much info as possible from the current team. Ask questions and don’t make assumptions. Documentation is key for future operational success but keep documents brief, to the point, easy to find and have only one version. Understand what the current team does outside the normal scope of the platform and set expectations with the client regarding any responsibilities that will shift. Use transitions to improve or eliminate manual processes, where possible.

BTR recognitions. BTR is honored to have been recognized for our help in developing bswift’s Channel Partner training certification program. Updates were provided at a session for bswift’s partners. We agree with keynoter Patrick Jordan of the Disney Institute, who said, “Training is more critical to desired behaviors and outcomes than most companies ever imagined.” And while we’re tooting our own horn, we were excited to win the “Social Butterfly” award from bswift. We love sharing our experiences on social media. Read all our tweets from the Idea Exchange (and follow us for ongoing industry insights and information) at @bentechre.

Employers look to their benefit adviser for help in making sense of the myriad of available technology solutions, particularly in during this time of rapid technology innovation. As independent HR technology consultants, the Benefit Technology Resources team can work with you and your clients to help determine the best system to meet their specific needs, including what’s new in the marketplace. To learn more, contact us at 1-877-299-8155 or visit bentechre.com.