Disrupting the Employee Benefits Market: Personal Group Develops One-Stop-Shop Employee Engagement Platform With OutSystems

When Personal Group wanted to create a simple yet powerful employee services platform for the 550 organizations it works with, it chose to develop it with OutSystems. Within 9 months, this provider of employee benefits and insurance products created a custom platform called Hapi, which now serves more than 2 million employees across the UK. Since its inception in 2015, Hapi has served a multitude of blue-chip UK firms, providing employees easy access to services, benefits, and third-party solutions that make them happier and more engaged at work.

Large custom system delivered in ½ the time

Large custom system delivered in ½ the time

3 developers focused on OutSystems

3 developers focused on OutSystems

400K+ registered users

400K+ registered users

Additional employee benefits app built in 3 weeks

Additional employee benefits app built in 3 weeks

“This is not just an IT function using a third party supplier for a bit of software. We see OutSystems as a strategic partner in our business, and OutSystems technology gives us a strategic differential in our market.” Richard Tilbury, IT Director at Personal Group

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Challenge - Personal Group PLC is a provider of employee benefits and insurance products. Its platform, Hapi, helps UK organizations offer their employees benefits and services like insurance, loans, salary sacrifice, and cinema discounts. Hapi also helps HR departments send communications like staff surveys, hosts training materials, and provides features such as ePayslips, total rewards statements, and other engagement programs that improve happiness and productivity in the workplace.

In the past, Personal Group relied on a third party to provide a white label platform with a feature set that was falling behind the times. Without the ability to improve and control the experience for its customers, Personal Group risked becoming obsolete, too.

“If we hadn’t built our own platform and taken control of our destiny, I think there’s a fairly high chance that our customers would have walked away from us. Our business wouldn’t be as successful as it is today,” Ashley Doody, CIO of Personal Group

In 2015, faced with the challenge of developing a custom platform with limited time, headcount, and money, Personal Group began investigating low-code.

“One option was to hire a bunch of people and start coding it from the ground up, but hiring new people is hard work. How many do we need? And as much as they might be technically competent, they need to understand what our business does and how it works. That’s when we started looking at low code development tools. OutSystems was the best of the bunch,” said Doody.

Hapi With Development

Solution - Richard Tilbury, Director of Development at Personal Group, had no former experience with OutSystems prior to developing Hapi. Tilbury said he picked up the tool quickly and started using it without looking at any manuals or documentation just to see how far he could get.

“OutSystems is very intuitive and the visual aspect of it bears a lot of fruit when you are trying to do something quickly and under pressure.” Tilbury said. “If you were trying to do it in C# it would be fine if you were an experienced developer. If not, you’d be rummaging around in code and losing yourself.”

Tilbury also credited OutSystems for the support it provided. “We participated in some great boot camps where OutSystems helped us with the architecture and planning of how to deliver the app. We’ve also had a lot of training and there’s a good support network here.”

Developing a custom platform like Hapi from scratch would normally take 12-18 months. In fact, one of Personal Group’s competitors took three and a half years to rebuild a similar platform. And if developing a custom platform wasn’t challenging enough, the company also wanted to integrate a payment processing engine into the tool. They had to become experts on payment card industry (PCI) standards fast so they could add payment processing to the app. But, with OutSystems, Personal Group easily overcame all these challenges and built Hapi in just 9 months with 3 developers.

The Personal Touch

Results - Personal Group launched Hapi in 2015, and Randstad, Wincanton, Network Rail, and the UK National Health Service are just a few of the major organizations that now deliver employee benefits through the platform. Personal Group also plans to develop a mobile version of Hapi using OutSystems.

But Hapi was just the beginning. One of the vendors Personal Group used to provide discounted employee cinema tickets had a data breach. Not wanting to expose its customers to this risk, Personal Group built a standalone employee cinema benefit website with OutSystems, integrated with its existing products, in just three weeks!

Beyond that, Personal Group plans to use OutSystems in other parts of its business. And, they want to produce an in-house application that will be used on the insurance side of the business to aid salespeople in the field to sell insurance more effectively.

But perhaps the strongest endorsement of Personal Group’s work with OutSystems is this: they’ve sold a white-labeled version of Hapi to Sage, a global market leader for integrated accounting, payroll, and payment systems.

Doody says, “Today you can buy a product called Sage Employee Benefits. And it’s branded as Sage and sold by them. But in the bottom right-hand corner of the UI it says ‘powered by Personal Group.’ So when you’ve got a 13,000-person global company like Sage using technology developed by a 220-person business, that’s quite a strong endorsement.”

“I think a lot of people buy OutSystems to help them with building back-office systems and systems integration but we’ve started at the front office and done all of our customer-facing stuff first. We have a lot of projects planned this year to make Hapi even broader, but next year we might be looking at using OutSystems in some back-office re-engineering work,” said Doody.