A Guide to Changing Platform Technology Providers: Why, How, and Where to Start

A guide to changing platform providers for your health spending benefits

It keeps coming up in meetings: Your company needs a new platform technology provider. The administrative team needs better tools to service member claims, and your members are asking for a digital experience that's more like the apps and websites they use daily. Maybe you want an API-first solution to create a more seamless experience, or the business needs flexible infrastructure that enables expansion into new products like (LSAs). The reasons may vary, but the sentiment is the same—it's time for something different. 

We need a new infrastructure solution for health spending benefits.

Probably You

Changing providers isn't a magical switch, though. A transition can have negative impacts and create new problems to solve. If your organization is considering this change, you're likely discussing the following:

  • Which platform technology provider is best for us?
  • What will the implementation process look like?
  • How can I make the process as frictionless as possible for my members?

We've worked with organizations to address these questions (and more). In this guide, we share how we approach the above questions with our partners.

How do I choose the platform technology provider that’s right for us?

Examining your current platform technology provider’s gaps can help identify what to look for in your next solution. Here are some examples:

If you’re worried about the transition, look for migration white papers.

This information is likely more private, but it should still be available. Migration plan documentation ensures that the organization has completed this process and has a plan. The absence of migration documentation tells you that either: 

  • The organization doesn’t have a vetted implementation process.
  • Their resources are constrained internally (and marketing collateral is not prioritized).
  • The information could be gated behind a non-disclosure agreement.

By reviewing documentation of a vendor’s key processes or technology, you and your teams can better understand a potential transition.  

If you need APIs, look for public API documentation.

Ask most engineering teams if they believe a vendor has a market-ready API solution, and they'll likely respond, "Suuure." From our experience, that skepticism is well warranted. That's why we recommend organizations searching for an API solution to look for vendors with public API documentation — the proof is in the pudding.

When evaluating a potential vendor's technology, seeing their technology prowess through strong, transparent documentation and adherence to industry best practices is a signal we will forge a strong, collaborative partnership.

Mike DeWitt
Chief Technology Officer at First Dollar

If you need future expansion, examine their current offering. 

Selecting an organization with technology that doesn't currently power a future desired account is a risk. How confident are you that they'll be able to power a specialty HRA for you in the future? Mitigate this risk by examining their website's current product offering and looking for clients who currently (and publicly) use it. Ask a vendor what’s on the product roadmap for the next year to see if your goals align.

If you need a better partner, look for client referrals.

Vendors can put up a good front during the sales stage—they're trying to get that sale! By examining a vendor's clients, you can better understand a vendor's service performance and avoid post-signature surprises. If they have visible and public referrals from clients, it's a good sign—those clients are willing to stand behind that vendor. 

If you need culture alignment, read their About Page. 

A company's about page can tell you a lot about what they're about. What (if any) values do they highlight? Who do they highlight? Read the vendor’s about page to learn what they care about and where they want to go. Ensure it’s the same for you and your organization.

If you need R&D prioritization, look for the engineering team.

Employees are an organization's most costly and valuable resource; every employee is an employer's investment. Examine team pictures and org charts to understand the organization's makeup better. Is the organization primarily made up of marketers, sales, or engineers? The answer can give you a sneak peek into the fate of your product roadmap requests. 

If you need goal alignment, check out their vision.

Leaders cast a vision for their organization. You should be able to find evidence of this vision on the company's website, its socials, or in the press. Confirm the vendor's vision aligns with your organization's vision and goals. If you can't find evidence of a vision, it's fair to doubt its existence.

A table with the following advice:- If you need an API solution, look for public API documentation.- If you need a better partner, look for client referrals.- If you need culture alignment, read their About Page. - If you need R&D prioritization, look for the engineering team.- If you need goal alignment, check out their vision.- If you need future account expansion, examine their current offering. - If you're worried about the transition, look for migration white papers.
Here's a method for evaluating potential platform technology providers.

What will the implementation process look like?

While each platform technology provider has its own unique process and company culture, there are some general expectations that you can have for the implementation process and collaboration between your teams. In our experience, we’ve found the following stages to be consistent.

Discovery stage (pre-contract consultation & initial planning)

During the discovery phase, the vendor should lead with questions seeking to understand your desired solution. With discussion based on curiosity and clear documentation of key project details during the contracting phase, a platform technology provider can limit post-sale surprises to ensure accurate project estimates and a smooth transition to implementation teams. Here are some key project details to discuss:

  • Account types: Which health spending benefit(s) do you want to offer? 
  • Branding: What logo(s) will members see in their benefit experience?
  • Communication: How will members learn about their benefits?
  • Compliance: Is the plan design compliant within regulations?
  • Customer service: Who will answer member questions about their benefit(s)? Who will handle front-line support?
  • Data exchange: How will members be enrolled? APIs? Files? Both?
  • Dates: What are the key program dates?

As you continue to engage with your potential vendor and new points of contact are introduced, they should demonstrate an understanding of the project goals you've taken the time to share in previous meetings. Subsequent conversations should inspire confidence that you're engaging with a team that cares about your vision.

Positive Signal: Internal collaborators can continue previous conversations that you held with their colleagues. 

Program scoping & design stage: Weeks 1-2

After signing the contract, it’s time to celebrate (and then quickly move to action). A kickoff meeting should be scheduled between both teams to introduce project members, ensure alignment, and review milestones. New project members will participate in demos of key processes and flows of the platform provider.

Positive Signal: You understand how your program will be branded, funded, and marketed after the first two weeks.

Technical integration stage: Weeks 3-6

It’s time to move full speed into execution by implementing the gathered requirements. During this phase, the following environments and processes will be implemented:

  • Partner creation
  • Branding setup 
  • Dev access
  • Auth (SSO)
  • Enrollment & Funding (FDX) Setup 
  • Testing
  • Production access

Positive Signal: The provider has documented APIs. Documented APIs ensure minimal surprises for your team.

Enrollment & launch stage: Weeks 7-8

It’s the final stretch! During this phase, you and your teams should receive training on tools and servicing, including how to set up employers and enroll participants. You should also receive sales & marketing enablement.

Positive Signal: Your teams can guide employers through plan setup or give them the keys to do it themselves.

Post-launch stage

There should be a clear signoff on promised deliverables to ensure that your expectations have been met before the implementation team does a warm handoff of you to the client management team. You’ll also likely complete a survey to capture the implementation team’s performance and opportunities for growth.

Positive Signal: You’re warmly introduced to your post-implementation point of contact, and you have a set recurring meeting cadence.

A table with the following stages: consultation, program scoping & design, technical integration, enrollment and launch, and post-launch
What the implementation process might look like.

Implementation isn't just about installing software; it's about empowering customers to achieve their goals. A successful implementation is a cornerstone in building trust and loyalty.

Alex Pâté
Head of Partner Implementations at First Dollar

How can I mitigate card-issuing pain points?

There's no way around it: Replacing your member cards is a challenge. You can, however, minimize this disruption by following best practices and leveraging modern technology.

Enable instant access to funds with instant-issue virtual cards.

Plastic cards have to be printed, mailed, and received by program members. Virtual cards, on the other hand, skip the post office line and can provide cost savings and environmental wins. And with an API-first solution, virtual cards can make funds available upon enrollment.

Example: Enrollment APIs for virtual cards

The on-demand nature of APIs enables partners to call out APIs at the most opportune moment rather than uploading files to an SFTP server and waiting for them to get picked up and processed. By leveraging APIs, organizations can issue members virtual cards immediately upon enrollment. 

A virtual card gif highlighting the ease of enrollment with an API-first solution
With First Dollar's APIs, program enrollees can be issued a virtual card immediately upon enrollment.

Put your administrators in the driver's seat for renewals and platform migration.

Legacy platform providers rely on human resources to service tickets for custom plans, creating delays in booking and enrolling existing and new clients. Avoid these delays and enable your administrators by exclusively looking for a new platform provider that leverages self-service tools for managing carded benefits.

Example: Benefit templates for plan design

First Dollar's Health Wallet Manager for administrators features Benefit Builder, a self-service tool for designing and assigning benefit programs. This tool allows administrators to quickly book and enroll clients independently without sending a service ticket to another party—a win for creating custom programs during platform migration, renewals, and new clients.

Recap: Leverage solutions with software-defined benefits (not card-defined benefits).

Most legacy platforms were created with cards in mind; we call this technology "card-defined benefits." Under this approach, a platform can break down or slow down due to card dependency. In contrast, tech-forward platforms leverage software to define their benefits by giving administrators self-service tools for benefit design, virtual cards for same-day enrollment funds, and more. For less migration pain due to cards, look for a platform with software-defined benefits.

What’s the best way to protect your existing book of business?

Maintaining and protecting your book of business is (understandably) a top concern when switching platforms. And while you can’t eliminate this risk, there are best practices that can protect your business.

Embrace a walk, crawl, run approach. 

Just because you're changing platform providers doesn't mean the transfer needs to be immediate for everyone. Instead, implement a walk, crawl, run approach to mitigate growing pains and protect your team. Here's what a scaffolded process might look like:

  • Walk: All net-new business starts with the new vendor.
  • Crawl: Migrate existing business to the new platform in small, manageable batches.
  • Run: Expand into new account offerings and power all business with the new platform. 

A scaffolded process provides clarity and enables a smooth transition. 

Leverage omnichannel modern marketing capabilities.

There are many channels that marketing teams leverage to reach today's consumers: email, websites, apps, text messaging, etc. Leverage these channels for benefit education purposes to reach members during platform migration to minimize disruption. These channels can also be used to promote benefit utilization at all times. 

Tip: When interviewing potential vendors, examine their omnichannel marketing capabilities. Look for turnkey benefit education campaigns that you can use as their client.

For HSA solutions, select a platform with CIP and KYC visibility and issue resolution tools.

No matter how you frame it, migrating health savings accounts (HSA) assets to a new bank can be a challenge for members and administrative teams. A platform with dashboards and tools for customer identification program (CIP)* can help mitigate account creation pain by providing administrators with visibility and problem-solving tools. Absent these features, your administrative teams lack the actual ability to problem solve. And if your current platform doesn't have these features, this pain point is also true for your administrators today when they service new clients.

*Language Note: While used interchangeably within the industry, Customer Identification Program (CIP) is an umbrella term that captures Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements. 

For HSA solutions, select a platform provider approved by the IRS to act as a nonbank trustee. 

The Internal Revenue Service can approve an institution to act as a passive nonbank trustee or custodian for health savings accounts. With this designation, platform technology providers can act as HSA custodian for partners, which enables faster go-to-market paths, reduces partner reliance on banks, and minimizes cost and friction in platform migrations. This approval from the IRS is also a testament to the platform's credibility and maturity.

Tip: You can read First Dollar’s nonbank trustee approval letter here. 

What’s the ROI of changing platform providers? Is it worth it?

Avoiding the pain of change can make us accept bad future outcomes. While the transition can create fear, new technology could solve some significant pain points your teams already experience today—you're likely only considering this transition because you are already experiencing some bad outcomes. 

But how do you know if it's worth the squeeze? Sitting down and writing down your fears and hopes can create clarity for you and your team. Here's a suggested framework for making your decision.

Identify the potential:

  • Risks of current provider. List all the potential risks of doing nothing, putting them in order of greatest impact. If you did nothing, what are your risks in the first year? In five years?
  • Rewards of current provider. List all the potential rewards of doing nothing, putting them in order of greatest impact. If you did nothing, what are your risks in the first year? In five years?
  • Risks of a new provider. List all the potential risks of changing platforms, putting them in order of greatest impact. If you changed vendors, what are your risks in the first year? In five years?
  • Rewards of new provider. List all the potential rewards of changing platforms, putting them in order of greatest impact. If you changed vendors, what benefits might you see in a year? In five years?

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Old Proverb
Josh Hostetler

Josh leads content for First Dollar, a fintech company that builds infrastructure for health spending benefits. Before First Dollar, Josh led course creation at Aceable, taught First Grade, waited tables at Olive Garden, and wore many other hats. He misses the breadsticks.