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News roundup: TriNet software targets professional services

New specialized products include TriNet software for professional services, QuickBooks payroll for contractors and a comprehensive benefits platform from Benefitfocus.

The theme of this news roundup is specialization: professional services HR, an effort to pull together a comprehensive...

benefits plan and a payroll offering aimed at the gig economy.

The debut of TriNet software for professional services HR is an effort to provide a platform for small and medium-sized businesses that caters to specific HR needs. TriNet Professional Services "is a bundle more relevant to what a small consulting company owner or an ad agency owner or any type of business depending on people to deliver a service would need," explained Jimmy Franzone, senior vice president of strategy at TriNet, based in San Leandro, Calif. The new product joins other vertical TriNet software aimed at technology, nonprofits, life sciences and financial services.

In thinking about what the issues are around professional services HR, Franzone said the company bundled in a lot of applications that are ancillary in some other products, but should be important to this demographic. Expense management, performance management, application tracking and a variety of payroll-related tasks are at the core of the professional services package, Franzone said, because they are areas busy consultants, certified public accountants or lawyers would want to easily access.

TriNet's heavy investment in its mobile application should also work nicely for those looking for professional services HR, Franzone said. "Mobile is a huge driver from the client side, especially in professional services," he said. "We're finding, in some ways, the professional services HR [market] is more mobile-enabled than tech or financial services firm employees who are always at a desk. Consulting firms and ad agencies are working outside of their desks. The need to be able to access data is critical to what they do."

The new TriNet software is supported by a client services team that specializes in professional services HR, Franzone said. "They understand how those businesses work, what questions to ask, and what the trials and tribulations are."

BenefitsPlace: All employee options on one platform

BenefitsPlace, a new platform from Benefitfocus, has a lofty goal: "We want to unify the entire benefits industry on one platform," said Tom Dugan, vice president of product management at Benefitfocus, based in Charleston, S.C.

"We want the platform to show carriers' insurance, life products and critical illness plans, as well as the emergent benefits that are focused on noninsurance products, like ID theft protection and concierge healthcare," he continued. "We want to onboard all types of sellers' products to make it easy for brokers to evaluate those sellers' products and for employers to evaluate and make choices."

BenefitsPlace won't just offer the choices, Dugan stressed, but it will also present information around the offerings, so employers and consumers can make informed decisions about their benefits.

The average Benefitfocus customer offers 15 different benefits, and 20% of its clients offer 20 or more, Dugan said. So, the choices can be overwhelming to both employers and employees.

"We want to remove friction from the process," he said. "We want to help people really understand what's available, and it's only getting more difficult when new products come in. We want to help consumers navigate those choices."

An easier small-business payday process?

In the gig economy, small businesses can struggle with the prospect of payday happening potentially daily. Intuit's QuickBooks just announced new payroll software options to help small businesses more easily deal with short-term employees who expect to be paid the day they work.

Contractor Direct Deposit brings "drop in the bank account" payment options to small businesses and syncs up with QuickBooks, so everything is streamlined at tax time. Same Day Direct Deposit is a new option in QuickBooks Full Service Payroll, and it's an alternate way to pay contractors or freelancers more quickly and stay on top of expenses.

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