As founder and CEO of an employee benefit software provider, I’ve witnessed brilliant decision-making by numerous entrepreneurs. They possess that unique drive to create problem-solving products and services that are bigger, faster, and smarter than anything else available. In the dizzying, headlong rush to bring it to market, the conviction that “I know what I want, I know where I’m going, and I know how to get there,” is not uncommon.
But as Tim Kane, founder of myHSAsecure.com, learned, there are some parts of that process that may be better left to the experts.
MyHSAsecure.com (myHSA), a network partner with CoreHealth, is a digital online technology that allows companies to administer self-funded health spending accounts. The original myHSA was built in 30 days on a dated modular open source software program.
Kane quickly learned that “software isn’t like anything else,” and the effort he spent on building his own software resulted in a significant waste of valuable time and money.
“We spent $50,000 for this first myHSA version but spent well in excess of that trying to maintain it and adapt to all the new browsers and bugs. The cost to build it became the cheap part. The ongoing cost is what became expensive.”
Here are some lessons he learned building his own employee benefit software.
Lesson #1: Building the software is the cheap part
When Kane hired an ex-technologist from RIM to review his program in 2015, he uncovered his first epic fail. He found that the version of the software he was using was not scalable, and many of the issues lacked solutions. The only option for myHSA was to rebuild the whole program.
Kane’s new team got to work building myHSA 2.0 which was launched in April of 2016 and almost put the company out of business. “Everything we did wrong in the first version was amplified by the fact that we upgraded thousands of users onto a half-built platform that was not at all what we thought we were getting,” he said.” We eventually got through it, but it was not without a lot of gray hair.”
Lesson #2: Seek a proven solution, such as Software as a Service
Software developer companies that focus on a particular type of solution have gone through the numerous trials and tribulations of building and maintaining successful programs. There are many “tried and true” providers to choose from, and the best will give you not only better software, but better insight on the end-user side and where the market is going.
According to Kane, “their technology perspective isn’t the same as yours. It’s much closer to your customer’s, and that’s a very healthy asset for both your operational and marketing efforts.”
He realized that if it’s difficult to think about the business long term, it will be more difficult to grow. Building software involves work and constant evolution and unless you are prepared to dive completely in, don’t dabble. “You need to concentrate, get thick skin and work hard at it, and it absolutely can’t be a side project,” he recalled.
Knowing that he couldn’t dive in completely, Kane undertook the task of finding the expert, which was not easy.
His team went through two outsource providers, both of which proved unsuccessful as we were unable to communicate our vision effectively. When he and his team made the investment to build a software development team in-house, and stop dabbling in trying to build their own software without the required expertise, their world changed. “We were then able to effectively communicate to our team and exceed our customer’s expectations,” he recalled.
Lesson #3: Good outsourcing companies are hard to find.
For Kane, it was a valuable lesson learned. “Every software development project has its glitches, and it’s worth taking the time to ensure that all the questions are asked, and ultimately answered,” he recalled.
Here are some tips from Kane on why it’s best to leave building software to the experts:
● Don’t dabble in software. Concentrate on your core business and outsource your software needs to a company that has a proven model and does it well.
● Multiply the quote you receive for the software build by a factor of 10X.
● Remember that the cost of the build is just the tip of the iceberg.
● If there is already a solution out there, utilize the solution.
● Remember that the key component of any software provider is to make you look good to your client. Stick to your business and let them make you look good to your client.
● Just because you have an iPhone does not make you able to operate a technology company.
After these trials and tribulations, myHSA has developed a solid software program that allows them to be an excellent network partner for CoreHealth.
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