Over the past few weeks, a number of folks have shared the same thought and posed the same question to me:
“We love the concept of LOFT, but why did you build it?”
If you go back a few weeks you’ll know I shared a number of our new development items result from direct client feedback. It’s what I called “Collaborative Development“. LOFT though is not one of them.
So why did we build LOFT? It’s simple actually. As HUB’s gained popularity, it’s becoming a big part of the lives of many our clients (payroll providers). In fact, many have shared that their demos and meetings with prospects involve HUB as the core.
First, we’re honored to hear this. It shows our client’s trust in Shugo and the fact we’re building great software for them to offer. More importantly, this means more and more eyeballs and clicks on HUB (i.e. more users). In fact from January 2016 through March 2016, the number of employers and employees utilizing HUB doubled. Yes, in three months the entire user base of HUB doubled.
If you think about the HUB stakeholder base you have:
- payroll companies
- employers processing payroll through the payroll companies
- employees of the above employers
And I’m sure you can guess, each stakeholder has unique needs. Sometimes needs are geographically dictated, sometimes regulatory (think ACA), other times it may be the result of employee count. I’m sure you can understand that an employer with 200 employees with high turnover requires different features and functionality than an employer with 5 employees who’s not hiring.
“How can we (Shugo) build all the functionality desired across all our payroll company partners, their clients and their employees? Is it possible?“
That’s the question we struggled to answer. After much deliberation, we came to a conclusion:
“We can’t, at least not to the standard we hold ourselves too.”
It wasn’t an easy conclusion. Initially I felt like I was letting our clients down. I’m always the one who wants to continually push the boundaries. I never want to sit still and have our business and feature-set become stale.
Defeated is probably a pretty good way to state it.
But in the end, it was the right conclusion. If we tried to be everything to everyone, we’d fail like many businesses have done in the past. We’d spread ourselves too thin, complete 75% of the functionality required for a feature and never release it. The confidence our clients have in us would wane.
But how do we give them everything our clients want? We needed to find a way.
To start, we looked a few platforms for inspiration. Most notably:
- Facebook and the ability for third party developers to build apps
- The iTunes App store
- The Google Play store
What makes Facebook and our phones so great? Sure there’s a fantastic core platform providing a rich set of functionality, but it doesn’t end there. Developers have the ability to extend each with anything they can think of through an app. Think about it. Look at the apps you have installed on your phone versus what your spouse, co-worker or best friend has. I bet there’s some similarities, but a number of differences on what’s installed since we each have unique needs.
Case in point: my wife has the Facebook and Instagram apps installed on her iPhone. I on the other hand do not, but I do have the complete Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc…) which she doesn’t.
The ability to extend a platform through custom extensions (or as we know them “apps”) provides any set of functionality to be included. This is what LOFT is to HUB.
LOFT is to HUB as the iTunes App Store is to the iPhone.
LOFT is to HUB as the Google Play store is to android.
With LOFT, any third party can extend HUB with anything a stakeholder desires. Specifically, LOFT provides:
- The creation of a customized complete HCM solution under a single umbrella
- Integration of best of breed vendors/solutions based on individual payroll company, end client and employee needs
- Delivery of individualized employee experiences
Or simply put: “with LOFT, if you dream it, you can have it”.
LOFT will only be as successful as the apps available for use. This is where we’re off to a great start. Not only are we at Shugo building a few apps for the LOFT store, but a number of other vendors who service our clients are as well. This ranges from advanced time and attendance apps, 401 apps, benefit apps, background check apps and much more.
So though we agree collaborative development is great and important, sometimes you do need to jump outside the box. Don’t be afraid. Just make sure you do this after much thought and deliberation. In fact, I had personally been thinking about LOFT for over two years…and we finally pulled the trigger.
To learn more about LOFT, click here.
To learn more about becoming a LOFT developer and building apps, click here.