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Shopping for technology is one of the most important decisions an employer can make in this age of mobile apps and online benefit platforms. Advisers need to be sure they are buying a product and not just a device, says Alan Katz, principal of Los Angeles-based consultancy The Alan Katz Group and a former president of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

An iPhone is a device, Katz says, but what makes it work is the mobile applications you can use on it and the carrier it is with. “Think of a device as a donut hole,” he explained. “It is the donut itself that makes it worth eating.”

Some benefits technology never gets adopted mainstream, and brokers need to careful in what they select. Katz shares a checklist of how to pick out the right products.
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Choice: Do we have to use the technology?
Technology is just a tool, Katz says. “You need to ask, ‘Do I need this technology to achieve my goals? Do I need this technology to achieve my business plan?,’” he explains.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you are going to wind up somewhere else,” he adds. “If you know where you are going, you can make great decisions, like on technology.”
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Cost: Can we afford the technology?
Brokers must remember they are investing more than money — they are investing time. “You have to learn how to use the software, so you have to ask yourself if you can afford it,” Katz says. “Some of the technology is extremely expensive.”

Beyond the monetary cost there is also time and training. Every time a new employee is hired they must be trained on the software. Likewise, new clients also need to be taught how to use it. “Someone on staff or a vendor becomes a trainer,” Katz says. “Not just laying out cash, but also the time and distraction that it can be.”
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Confidence: Is the company/vendor on my side?
Brokers must consider if the technology will perform as promised. “Your value becomes your reputation and if you think about it, our expertise is good, our integrity is good and that all rolls into our reputation,” Katz says. “That is the most important asset we have as a benefits brokers.”

“When you are using technology, you are relying on the third-party to enhance or detract from your reputation,” he adds.
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Comfort: Will I use the technology?
Brokers need to know themselves and their work habits, understanding some just will not use technology, Katz explains.