Last week, I shared our thought process on why we built LOFT. I can’t stress enough the value we feel it’s going to bring HUB, but also the value it provides all our payroll provider partners. Each has unique needs. Each of their clients have unique needs. Each of their clients’ employees have unique needs. With LOFT, that entire ecosystem can be satisfied.
LOFT will only be as good as the apps available within it. Think about it, would our iPhones be as powerful as they are without apps? Probably not and with LOFT, we have the same thinking. The value will be in the list of apps available to help provide individualized experiences.
So how do we go about filling the LOFT store with apps? We took a two-pronged approach:
1. Industry Vendors – the payroll industry is filled with vendors who provide additional products and services for payroll providers to offer their clients such as workers compensation insurance, time and attendance, HR services, compliance posters and a host of others. Over the years, Shugo’s been able to create special relationships with a number of these vendors, so we approached many about the value of building a LOFT app.
Luckily, many saw the value and were quick to jump on board. Currently, LOFT apps are being built by providers in the following spaces:
- Retirement services
- Time and attendance
- HR solutions
- Background check services
- Pay cards
And these are just the start. Plus in some cases above we have multiple vendors building apps (again because everyone has individualized needs).
2. Shugo’s Own Apps – No better way to show the value of LOFT than building our own apps. And really, building our own apps had two purposes:
- We could fill the void in areas where other vendors are not building LOFT apps.
- We could understand the third-party app developer experience. This enables us to guide developers with their own apps and provide tools and utilities to make their lives easier.
We came up with the idea to start with two simple apps, initially as a proof of concept. They would enable us to learn a bit about app development and provide a good background to help with bullet #2 above. These apps include:
- Weather App: this app enables the user to see their local weather forecast on the HUB sidebar area.
- Twitter App: this app enables a payroll company to display tweets from a designated twitter account to HUB users. It could be used to relay upcoming payroll company events, share important news and announcements, market additional products and services, etc…
These apps only took us a few hours each to build and enabled us to create a .Net SDK for other .Net developers to use for their own development. So some great wins were achieved there.
The good news is we haven’t stopped there. We actually have two more apps on the horizon:
- Contact Central: This app is a collaboration with one of our clients and allows for presentation of important company contacts to a HUB user. It’s a great place to share the assigned payroll rep with HUB administrators and include detail on the client’s 401k and benefit brokers for all HUB employees. It furthers HUB’s goal of being a complete company intranet for small businesses. This app is slated for beta in July and a production release in August.
- HUB Rewards: If you’ve been around the payroll industry for a bit, you’ve heard me share a vision for an employee reward/perk program for small businesses. Typically these programs are reserved for large employers (the Comcast’s of the world), but by combining the entire employee pool HUB services we can bring the same level of perks to the five employee company. Who wouldn’t want 10% off your Verizon Wireless bill? And shouldn’t the employee of a small business deserve that perk just as much as an employee of the behemoth Comcast? An alpha of this app is slated for July with a phase 1 production release in August.