Auckland-based Portland Software, a company specialising in applications to help employers administer employee benefit schemes such as health insurance, has launched Belong, a new employee benefits administration platform running on IBM’s Softlayer cloud service.
The move follows the company migrating all its applications from Amazon Web Services to Softlayer. Portland CEO, Greg Woolley, says employee benefit applications had traditionally been available only to large organisations because of their complexity, and Portland aimed to make the benefits available to small businesses.
“Employee benefits schemes require regular adjustments making them difficult to automate and vulnerable to errors,” Woolley said. “Using IBM Cloud, Belong overturns the traditional model, eliminating costly and error prone data transfers, and providing administrators with a single data source.”
Woolley told Computerworld NZ that Portland had made the move from AWS to Softlayer two years ago. ‘We moved to IBM for a number of reasons, the first being price certainty,” he said. “With IBM you know what you are paying for in advance and with IBM the cost of replicating data geographically for high availability is included. Given that we were deploying around the world that was important to us.
“And with Softlayer we can provision bare metal and control the security from operating system up, whereas with AWS and others you just get a hypervisor and virtual machine on top and you cannot really control what is going on underneath. Being able to control exactly where the databases are and what servers they are on and what security they have is pretty important to us.”
Portland has one customer in Papua New Guinea, Pacific Assurance Group, but Woolley says it is presently focussing its efforts with Belong on the New Zealand and Australian markets. It plans to address overseas markets at a later date with a slightly different offering.
“We are onboarding our first half dozen customers at the moment and once we are comfortable we will open it up to the other 60 or 70 we have lined up in Australia and New Zealand,” Woolley said. “They range from small companies to some of the biggest corporates.”
Portland also integrates with payroll services providers that onsell its benefits platform. “It improves the exchange of information and gives them a value-add to their payroll software,” Woolley said. The first of these is Affinity Employer Services, which operates in Australia and New Zealand.The Portland website suggests the company is focussed on applications that support only employer provided health insurance but Woolley said the company’s scope was now much broader: “The web site is a bit out of date. We started out in the health insurance space but we have moved into administering employee benefits whether they are health or life insurance or merchant discounts. We’ve become a much more generic employee benefits platform, which is where the Belong name comes from.”