Steps to Select the Right Eligibility & Enrollment Technology Partner for Public Sector Employers
  • Tools & Best Practices

Steps to Select the Right Eligibility & Enrollment Technology Partner for Public Sector Employers

It’s not news to anyone that consumer technology has transformed every element of our lives. You can reserve a quaint cottage in the mountains, book your flight to the nearest airport, select the make and model of the rental car you’ll use to maneuver the winding, mountain terrain, and make a dinner reservation as long as you have a mobile device in hand.

While not as flashy, private sector employers have also taken advantage of the efficiency modern technology has afforded across all aspects of business. From marketing and sales to core business functions like payroll and HR, private sector employers have already made moves to increase efficiency with new tools.

When it comes to the public sector though, there's a sense of lagging behind the cutting edge to put it mildly, especially with eligibility and enrollment. But the pressure to improve is now urgent. We’ve talked about why in a previous post, namely due to competing for talent and satisfying legislative directives. The fact is that when you’re a public sector employer, let’s say, in Austin, TX, it can be hard to compete against the Amazon’s, Google’s and Adobe’s of the world that have set up shop in a burgeoning location.

We’ve also discussed how digital transformation can help the public sector in terms of areas like operational efficiency and cost control. But what about the process of actually procuring the eligibility and enrollment technology in the first place? Benefits modernization in the public sector is an imperative. At the same time, with the sheer complexity of delivering employee benefits, choosing the wrong eligibility and enrollment technology can have severe consequences.

We recently discussed best practices for a successful eligibility and enrollment technology procurement process in the public sector. Here are three of the key takeaways:  

1. Setting expectations and communicating is vital

I recently took my son to the doctor for routine vaccinations. On the way there, I explained why we were going, what was going to happen and why we had to do it. Now, ultimately, the end result would be the same meaning that he was still getting a shot and it would still likely hurt a bit. Hopefully, though, by setting the expectation, he was more prepared for that outcome.

With technology, the good news is that the pain is supposed to be alleviated rather than the cause. However, there still can be hurdles to overcome. With the scale and complexity of public sector employers, the list of requirements for eligibility and enrollment technology can be quite long. Setting the expectation upfront around the scope and defined requirements that align with organizational strategy can make a difference throughout the entire process. It can serve as a reference point when midway through the selection process, Sally from payroll throws in a “wouldn’t it be nice if…”

Communication and setting expectations go hand in hand. The selection of eligibility and enrollment technology can have an impact on a number of offices within state government entities or university systems. So, making sure that everyone who will use the technology is communicated to and informed about the process throughout each stage, regardless of if they will actually work directly with the vendor, will lead to higher success of implementation and utilization.  

This cross-functional communication is essential, but can be a total waste if buy-in hasn’t been established at the top. Communicating with senior leaders before, during and after the selection process can ensure that the right resources are allocated towards the project.

2. Clearly define roles from the outset

Eligibility and enrollment technology and services will touch everyone across the organization in some capacity with many key roles that need to be a part of the evaluation process. However, if those roles aren’t clearly defined, then your evaluation process can quickly become a "too many cooks in the kitchen" scenario.

Delineating between evaluators (those who will be evaluating and ultimately selecting the technology) versus subject matter experts (those who will provide their expertise and opinion; however, not determine selection) can help the project stay on track. For example, one Benefitfocus public sector customer assigned a technical lead who could focus on the functionality of the product as an evaluator. They also made sure that their security team was on board during the evaluation process to advise on security, privacy and accessibility, but only served as subject matter experts.

It may seem like a no brainer, but getting the right team in place with outlined rules of engagement is key to a successful benefits modernization project.

3. The process needs to be rigid, but also flexible

Rigid and flexible. Those two words are antonyms, but when it comes to the procurement of eligibility and enrollment technology, they are actually two sides to the same coin. Here’s what that means.

We know that the list of requirements is long, so the actual process of selecting technology should be formalized. You should know the scope of the project and have a detailed RFP that reflects the scope and requirements. You should identify your evaluation team. You should post your RFP for a certain time period and have a clear roadmap for getting subject matter expert input and finalized scoring. And ideally, everyone should have clear insight into pricing, so everyone from the evaluation team to senior leaders understand what’s at stake and are prepared to move forward when the time comes. All of these are rigid plot points.   

At the same time, you don’t want the process to be so rigid that you leave out any room for navigating outside of the lines a bit. This especially comes into play when interacting with potential eligibility and enrollment technology providers. For example, one public sector employer Benefitfocus partners with makes sure that potential providers understand what they need from them and craft their proposals in the way that they want to see them. They also encourage the evaluation team to interact with those potential providers during the review process.

The procurement process in the public sector is complex to say the least, but with this complexity comes the opportunity to make the right decision on an eligibility and enrollment technology partner that will scale and innovate alongside them for the long term.

To get all of the best practices for benefits modernization in the public sector, take a listen to the on-demand webinar, Public Sector Procurement: Best Practices for Benefits Technology Selection.