Instead of the usual venue in Charleston, SC, this year Benefitfocus moved One Place 2015 to the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL, and although Disney has been using the slogan “Where Dreams Come True” for almost nine years, today that slogan came to life for benefits professionals everywhere. The One Place 2015 Keynote just wrapped up, and in which Benefitfocus President and CEO Shawn Jenkins brought benefits to life with the introduction of a suite of revolutionary offerings.
In his trademark jeans and blazer he took the stage to a cacophony of cowbells and applause. The excitement in the room was not only palpable, but warranted. A few attendees whispered about big data features and private exchange insights they had gathered from various sources, but all speculation came to an end as Shawn kicked off the ceremony.
25,000,000+ members in the Benefitfocus community harnessing the power of the Platform
Those familiar with the tremendous growth of Benefitfocus that has become almost commonplace throughout the years were still blown away by the numbers that filled the screen. Giant, unfathomable numbers of progress. But Shawn stopped to remind us that these aren’t just numbers he was throwing out—each one is a person. A person who now has better insight into the true value of his or her benefits, knowledge that his needs, his family’s needs are taken care of. And that’s why he said he has, “The coolest job in the world.”
After a rousing intro he dove right into the session, which he broke down into three parts:
- Community Updates
- Product Announcements
- Long-Term Vision
Keeping true to previous year’s shocking growth rate, the number of large employers in the Benefitfocus community rose from 393 in 2014 to 553 in 2015—and it’s only March. However, even more staggering are the billing and commerce metrics: $6.8 billion in payments in 2014 with 1.7 billion transactions. Shawn helped put these numbers in perspective by showing the audience Benefitfocus Q4 commerce metrics along side Amazon Q4 metrics: $26.9 billion of insurance premiums passed through the Benefitfocus platform while Amazon processed $29.3 billion in retail.
After the cowbells subsided, Shawn began naming a seemingly endless list of new customers added to the platform. From Schneider Electric to Brookdale Senior Living to Mercer Marketplace—whose investment and confidence in Benefitfocus has been highly publicized in the past week and has grown to become a 20-plus-carrier private exchange—the list went on and on. One particular new member to the community, Welch Allyn, had such phenomenal results that Shawn welcomed to the stage their Global Benefits Manager Trevor Ames to give a quick rundown of their success. Trevor outlined how in only two months Welch Allyn had crushed their initial goals, coming in at $400,000 under budget. I’ll say that again: $400,000 under budget in just the first two months after partnering with Benefitfocus! And at the end of the year, they were under budget by $1.5 million.
Next up was the Benefitfocus Ecosystem. After the introduction of the Benefitfocus API five years ago at the very first One Place, the ecosystem has grown rapidly, and out of this growth Benefitfocus University was developed. “Designed to provide formal, standardized training and certification,” Benefitfocus University graduated its first class of System Integrators, who now are experts in the Benefitfocus Platform and work to extend the ecosystem and support customers in all that they do. But the big announcement was the opening of the Benefitfocus University to customers. Training sessions for customers launch this week at One Place, but will also be available online and at the Charleston, SC, campus.
The network effects of adding new partners to the ecosystem around wellness such as RedBrick, Shawn noted, has been one of the major drivers of Benefitfocus growth. To keep up with this level of growth, the company has been very thoughtful about scaling its small army of engineers while still maintaining the vibrant culture of Benefitfocus. Bringing on seasoned, knowledgeable professionals who have experience with large growth is also a major factor in staying in front of the growth curve. One such instrumental addition to the team has been Chief Operating Officer Ray August.
As Shawn welcomed the new COO to the stage, he gave the crowd a bit of background on Ray, which was impressive to say the least: 14 years at the multinational giant CSC, serving as the President of Financial Services Group; as well as working along side Bill Gates at Great Plains Software in the 90s. Ray hit the stage and began unveiling the product of extensive customer research: the Customers at the Heart initiative. Aside from being a rather catchy slogan, Ray outlined how this initiative is designed to do more than just service or satiate Benefitfocus customers; it’s a promise. A promise that every feature, every detail of Benefitfocus is being designed with the customer at the core. He gave the brand new Customer Success Center in Charleston, SC, as an example. “Through the magic of Disney,” Ray “transported” (through video) the audience to the state-of-the-art, 145,800-square-foot building, which he called a “monument to our customers.” The audience got to see how cross-functional teams were selected to occupy this new building with only one purpose for being there: to ensure the success of each and every customer.
To kick off the product announcements, Shawn gave attendees a window into the reasoning behind the company’s product development. He noted that when deciding on product investments, he looks to address the full benefits lifecycle with new products, to provide a holistic remedy for benefits management needs. He described seven investment themes for product development:
- Data is the Foundation
- Provide Insight & Understanding
- Extensible Ecosystem (think Apple and the App Store)
- Simplify Complex Administration
- Marketplace: The World is Mobile
Shawn said the major theme of the week—Data Is the Foundation— is fundamental to the architecture of the Benefitfocus Platform and Benefitfocus Data Cloud. The focus is on harnessing the power of data, so customers can access the right data and gain insight so they can do more than just control costs, they can create better plans and to help members capture the complete value of their benefits.
Formerly known as Benefitfocus HR InTouch, the all-new Benefitfocus Marketplace is a groundbreaking tool that moves the benefits industry forward by an order of magnitude. Shawn could very well have come out and told the crowd he was introducing a new algorithm-powered recommendation engine; an elegantly designed, ultra-simplistic user interface; and a payment processor like no other. A recommendation engine, a user interface, and a payment processor. I think you get where I’m going here. Any one of these new features would have been revolutionary, but combined into the Benefitfocus Marketplace, they are paradigm shifting. I could go on about the smart welcome screen, the retail-like experience, and the best match and compare options, but that would require four more blog posts. Luckily, this was just the keynote. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Marketplace blog posts that will illuminate this “revolutionary breakthrough technology” in every detail.
Benefitfocus Communication Portal
With the ability to link wearables to track physical activity on a member’s personal health journey, and provide rewards for meeting health and wealth goals, calling the new Benefitfocus Communication Portal a “communication portal” almost feels like a disservice. This powerful tool to extend communication to the data level not just during open enrollment but year-round allows employers and carriers the ability to engage users in ways we never thought possible.
Carrying over the consumer-friendly design from Benefitfocus Marketplace, the user can dive into the portal with the same side menu that allows for one-click navigation from anywhere in the system. This simplicity also ensures administrators can bring all important updates and acknowledgements front and center, and have real-time notifications of completed requirements. Make sure to see the upcoming posts on the all-new Benefitfocus Communication Portal for a more in-depth view.
With the advanced branding capabilities on the Benefitfocus App, employers and carriers can now go with members wherever they go, right in their pocket. Administrators can use the “extensive outreach of the mobile app to communicate…all year round,” Account Executive Rachel Colonna told the audience, and since two out of three Americans have a smartphone, this means the ability to engage is with us at every moment.
Benefits Administrator Role
Back after popular demand, Product Manager Cindi Van Meir took the stage to outline the new features and updated functionality in the popular Benefits Administrator Role. The theme of data continues through the new features, as users are now able to aggregate complex data sets to gain more insight into how their members are utilizing their benefits. This new knowledge—found throughout the platform in the Data Exchange Dashboard as well as the Payroll Deduction Dashboard—provides administrators with the tools to harness the power of data to save time and turn focus to what really matters: the people behind the benefits.
eBilling & Payment
Carriers may recognize this product as one they’ve had and loved for years, but for the first time ever, Benefitfocus eBilling & Payment is being offered to employers. Employers no longer have to struggle with the hassle of paper invoices or managing payments to carriers though multiple payment processing systems. With eBilling & Payment, they can now synchronize payments to all carriers with a single, automatically dispersed payment.
Core & Advanced Analytics
Wow. That is really the only word to describe the new analytics offerings (formerly known as Benefit Informatics). Through a deep analysis of usage patterns, Benefitfocus has created two very distinct analytics products: Core & Advanced Analytics. Core Analytics was built upon 15 key metrics and was fine tuned for the everyday user. Visually stunning and so simple, virtually anyone can use it and gain valuable, actionable insights. This new product represents a sea change in the industry.
A Chronic Condition Compliance Dashboard helps users identify key drivers of costs, and a new Insight tool that translates the aggregated data into easily digestible takeaways is akin to having an MIT data analyst standing over your shoulder whispering in your ear. And this isn’t even the Advanced Analytics!
Those wanting to take their benefits administration to the next level will want to make sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming blog post covering all the revolutionary features of the complete suite of data analytics tools.
Benefitfocus Benefits Service Center
In order to “reimagine the idea of the human element of contact in service and build something from the ground up using data as the foundation,” Shawn said Benefitfocus decided to build a brand new service center in North Charleston, SC. He said he wanted to bring the level of service that had been provided to large customers for years to the every customer, large or small.
To illustrate the capabilities of the Benefits Service Center, the audience got to see the results of this “human” touch through a testimonial from Brookdale Senior Living. In just one open enrollment period, the Benefits Service Center fielded over 21,000 calls, acting as an extension of the Brookdale benefits team.
Spawned by the growing number of voluntary benefit providers in the Benefitfocus Ecosystem, in 2014 Benefitfocus rolled out a new one-stop shop for voluntary benefits. Eight large employers had the opportunity to experience this new product, one of which was AmeriGas. With approximately 9,000 employees in 800 locations, AmeriGas needed a solution that was as mobile as they are, so they turned to Benefitfocus. Andy Rosa, AmeriGas HR Director, joined Shawn on the stage to discuss the results of this experience.
Andy described how plan design has to be broad enough for the entire population of employees, and sometimes this means that not every individual’s specific need falls within those plans. However, the Benefitstore allowed AmeriGas to buy at an enterprise level and then use the ecosystem within the Benefitstore to allow each member to purchase additional coverage to fit their individual needs, whether that be critical illness coverage or extra life insurance. The added benefit of being able to integrate these options within the core benefit selection process really allowed employees to better understand the overall value of the benefits and created a much more educated and empowered workforce.
The result: $498 million in total protection for the eight employers who utilized the Benefitstore.
The old saying around Benefitfocus—One Platform, Two Markets—now feels antiquated in this brave new world of consumer-driven healthcare and the Affordable Care Act. That’s why Benefitfocus is now powering 7 individual private exchanges and 16 group marketplaces for a total of 23 private exchanges built on the Benefitfocus Platform, including Individual, Small, Large and Retiree Marketplaces.
In the 2014 open enrollment period, Benefitfocus Individual Marketplaces processed $232 million in premiums in six months; and in just three months in 2015, $352 million in premiums was processed on Benefitfocus Individual Marketplaces—a 52% increase in half the time. Director of Marketplaces Shan Fowler described this trend as evidence that online channels “are no longer an option. They are really table stakes…and the way you handle your data administration can mean the difference between having a customer for a year, and having a customer for life.”
But it’s not only individual marketplaces carriers should be considering. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield approached Benefitfocus with lofty goals: they wanted to offer small and mid-size employers the opportunity to purchase product bundles based on their individual strategic goals as a company. Shan said CareFirst didn’t just want to offer customers the status quo; they wanted to show their customers something they had never seen before and give them the tools to make great decisions—and that’s what they found in Benefitfocus.
Next to the stage was the dynamic Senior Director of Product Development at Blue of California, Cyrus Aram. When Cyrus came to Benefitfocus in January of 2014, he had a problem many of us would love to have. His organization had grown 10% in one month. Ok, not really problem; however, his process and infrastructure was not built to scale. With Benefitfocus he said he found a “holistic approach,” and rather than focusing on people process, technology—he wanted to go bigger. He wanted to focus on policy, behavior changes, business rules, procedures and technology. And he needed a partner to do that. That partner was Benefitfocus. “You built much more than a technology company. We see Benefitfocus as the enrollment engine to glue all of that together.”
One Platform, Four Markets
As the market evolves, Benefitfocus is noticing that the Benefitfocus Platform is being utilized by not only employers and carriers but also consumers and brokers. So as new features and products are created, they will enhance the customers’ capability to better serve their constituents. Whether they be individuals, brokers or both.
Data Is the Foundation
“Enterprise data is expected to grow 50 fold in this decade,” Shawn told the audience. “The decade of data.” This new age is something that seems to excite Shawn. Even before starting Benefitfocus, his focus as a database engineer was understanding and utilizing big data, so it’s no wonder that the same forward-thinking that produced a cloud-based solution at the very dawn of Web 2.0 will be the same forward-thinking to drive innovation into the uncharted territory of data for years to come.
In the past, we’ve relied heavily on structured data—data from within the enterprise. But with 85% of new data coming from individuals, through social, wearables, etc., Shawn is thinking about ways to harness this data to warn people if they’re heading towards a chronic condition, as well as uses as simple and practical as notifications.
One way Benefitfocus is pushing innovation in the realm of data is through data visualization. To illustrate how, Shawn asked Data Scientist Jen Clark to join him on stage. Jen and her team uses machine learning to translate complex data sets into visually stunning and easily understood graphics, for both the user and the administrator.
To close the keynote, Shawn brought benefits back to their core, to the personal level. In a touching story of a young man who came face to face with the true value of benefits, Shawn reminded us why we all came to One Place. We came because we care, because we got into this business to help people choose the right benefits. We do this because when we wake up in the morning, we know that we are doing more than simply providing benefits. We are protecting the most valuable asset of all, and that is the power of data—the power to protect.
Contact a Benefitfocus specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can harness the power of data to protect your employees and members.