Data Systems

Key considerations when assessing a software solution

 

Introduction

Data management systems play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of any business. For social enterprises, the dual business and programmatic activities only accentuates the importance of having good systems in place. Many social enterprises use a variety of tools in order to manage business and customer relationships, invoicing, scheduling, capturing retention data, case management, and many other functions.

However, REDF has found that many social enterprises face challenges with their existing systems, including:

  • Finding the right tool
  • Having multiple systems in place
  • Staff capacity and knowledge base
  • Lack of customization with their current systems; needing more flexibility
  • Balance between staff time to input data and the relative value of the data that’s provided

Accordingly, it is important that your social enterprise properly evaluate and re-evaluate the systems it has in place, and explore alternative systems available in the marketplace. The following are some key considerations when assessing a software solution for your social enterprise. Please note that these considerations are are just a start and, depending on the software solution domain, there may be additional questions to consider as well.

 

Key Considerations

Longevity

  • Will there be consultants/contractors that support the system in 5-10 years?
  • How long is the current version expected to be used before any major updates to the software?
  • What type of support will the vendor offer should they make major upgrades?

Diversity of support

  • What type of support do you receive with the purchase of the software?
  • Does support have a basic understanding of your business model so that they can provide the best advice?
  • If you looked externally, what does the vendor landscape look like? Is there only one vendor that can help you or many?
  • Is your vendor willing to fix bugs?

Cost

  • What are the upfront, implementation, migration and maintenance costs?

Ecosystem and integration with current applications

  • What are the systems you currently use?
  • How important is it to integrate them to new software?
  • What will it take to integrate?

Existing data

  • Can you migrate your old data to the new system?
  • What is required to do this successfully?

Internal staff capacity

  • Do you have the internal expertise to implement new software? Will you need external help? What type of help?
  • What type of track record do you have in integrating new software? What are the lessons learned?
  • What are the skills of current staff? What type of training will be needed to get staff up to speed?
  • Are there dedicated staff that own and are accountable to successful implementation?

Ease of use

  • How easy is it to customize the software?
  • How much customization is needed for most optimal solution?
  • What are you willing to compromise on features and what are you not?
  • How intuitive and user friendly is the new software?

Additional considerations

  • Have you outgrown your own current system?
  • What is it not doing (or not doing well) that must be done in order to be a more effective organization?
  • Is there buy-in from organizational leadership?
  • Are there resources dedicated to induce internal adoption?
  • Are there sufficient financial resources?
  • What type of feedback have peers shared on the software?

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