Suitable Software

Having the right software to help manage your department is critical in today’s campus environments. The right software will simplify and streamline your work, but far too often departments end up with a software that doesn’t meet their needs. Determining which software, and which software provider is best suited to your unique needs can be a challenge. The following steps will help in your search.

Determine your needs. This most basic step often isn’t carried out thoroughly enough. Beyond simply identifying you need something to manage memberships and facility scheduling, several other questions should be answered as well: Would you like to use your software outside of your office? Would you like to offer online registration? If so, a web-based product that is compatible on mobile devices, or one with an affiliated app, is likely a better option.

The purpose of software is to make managing information and processes easier, so another good question is whether the information from one aspect of the software carries over to other aspects. For example, when creating a schedule in one module, does that schedule populate other relevant aspects, or will the work need to be repeated?

Talk to your IT department.The IT department includes the folks that will be doing the leg work to integrate your new software with existing university systems. There may be technical aspects they’d like considered, such as encryption or privacy policies, or whether or not a provider belongs to the InCommon federation that regulates user authentication. Having this information at the outset will simplify things later on in the process.

Talk to colleagues at other universities. This step is important, primarily to get a sense of the experience that other users have had with the company and software. Knowing how others feel about the customer service, the sales and implementation process, and the user-friendliness of the software itself, will likely result in better decision-making.

Get a product demo. This is your opportunity to see the software in action. Does it do what you expected? Do you like the look and functionality? Is the flow intuitive? You may be spending a bit of time using this software, so you want to be comfortable with the design and capabilities.

Assess the growth potential.Your needs today might not be your needs five years from now. Having confidence that your software provider can accommodate those needs is important. Try to determine if the vendor has a history of growth and adaptation. Ideally, your chosen vendor will allow the opportunity for customization.

Purchasing departmental software is a major investment. You want to be sure that you’ll be happy with your software for years to come. Taking the time to fully evaluate all your options — and knowing which aspects of the software are most important to you — will help you choose a software that not only meets your needs, but simplifies your work.

Ben White is the vice president for business development at DSE. He can be reached at ben@dserec.com, or at 617.221.3171. 

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Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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