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The Childcare Management Blog

6 Important Questions to Ask When Shopping for Childcare Software

Posted by EZChildTrack Team on Jun 6, 2017 10:00:00 AM

shopping for childcare software

If you are in the market for a new childcare management solution, you have plenty of options available. There is software for almost any business size, some with seemingly endless bells and whistles (also known as features), and others that look extremely simple to operate. You can choose from cloud-based solutions or installed (on-premise) software.

Whether you operate a daycare center, an after school program, or any other type of childcare service, there's a solution for you.

Curious how management software can optimize your childcare service? CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION.

Before you begin searching for a product online, you have a little homework to do. Then you have some important questions for your potential software vendor to answer before you make your choice.

Here are six important questions to ask when you shop for childcare software.

What Problem Am I Solving?

The first question you need to answer, not just for software but any large business purchase is, “What problem am I trying to solve?”

If you have not clearly defined the problem, you run the risk of purchasing a solution that lacks functionality you need for your daily operations. Make a list of all the processes you perform to make your childcare facility run smoothly on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Look at areas that create problems on a regular basis or that slow down operations.

Use the list to create your software requirements and minimum criteria for a new solution to meet. Common operations to automate include:

Are you expanding your operations? Make sure any solution you purchase will scale with your business. Do you spend too much time stuffing envelopes for the postal mail? Look for software with a parent portal and email functionality.

Billing, scheduling, and check-in/check-out are all processes that are amenable to automation and simplify daily operations.

Is the Solution Designed for Childcare Management?

Don't let a software vendor tell you that an existing software package can be easily customized to childcare management. It may be an indication that the software company has no experience in the childcare industry and it will take more time and money than you can imagine for their generic business software to be customized to fit your needs.

There are plenty of solutions available that already cater to the childcare market. You don’t want to get stuck with a software package that will not meet your needs.

What Is This Company’s History in the Childcare Market?

As in the previous question, you need to know if the software company has any experience in the childcare industry – including afterschool programs, daycare centers, summer camps and more. Do they have childcare management experience or knowledge that informs the design of their solution?

How long has their solution been available? Ask for the names of previous customers who run childcare businesses similar to yours that you can contact to get feedback on how well the solution has met their needs.

It is essential that you speak with others who are using the software in the same way you will. If you don’t run a small facility, request references for larger childcare businesses that provide the same or similar services as yours.

When you contact these references, ask them how much time, effort, and money the software saved them. Find out what they used before and why they selected this solution to replace it. Ask about their experience with customer service.

If the answers are not favorable, look elsewhere.

Can I Get a Demo and a Free Trial?

Looking at the software online and checking off a list of criteria isn’t enough to determine if this solution will work for you and your business. Most vendors are happy to provide a free demonstration of your software. However, be prepared to ask them to show you how your processes would be set up on their system.

Have them create a demonstration that uses your criteria to ensure it will work for you.

A free trial allows you to try out the software yourself so you and your staff can determine how user-friendly it is. A free trial can also uncover further questions for you to ask the vendor.

Will the Software Vendor Perform Set up, Customization, and Data Transfer?

Each childcare business runs differently with its own processes, workflows, and quirks. The level of customization available depends on the way the solution is delivered.

Cloud-based solutions may offer less customization. Cloud software vendors can provide a variety of configurations to the basic software package but most cannot make drastic changes in the way the solution operates. You are trading the ability for extensive customization for security, convenience, and (sometimes) cost savings.

Installed or on-premise solutions that run on your computers and servers can be extensively customized if you require it. The cost is tied to the amount of customization you need, and you should be prepared to wait awhile before it’s ready.

You must set aside time for periodic updates and be prepared for some of your custom configurations to default back to factory settings or become inoperable.

If you are moving from a previous software solution and have an extensive data store, ask if the vendor is willing to transfer the data to the new system. Some offer this as part of the implementation service.

Ready to choose childcare software, but don't know where to start? Download  our free guide

What Level of Training and Support Is Available?

What sort of training do you require? Can you and your staff learn the new system from tutorials, webinars, or other online training? Or will you need personal training on-site?

Many vendors offer different levels of training packages designed to meet the needs of businesses of various sizes and experience levels.

It is crucial to determine the service level you will receive, if you own or use this solution. Ask the following questions:

  • What hours is service available? Is it only daytime business hours or 24 hours a day? Is it available on weekends and holidays?
  • How is service provided?
  • Are there different service level agreements available and what does each cost?

Common methods of providing customer support include phone, chat, email, and online self-service. Chat and email can provide documentation of support issues while the ability to speak directly to a person can get questions that require clarification answered more quickly.

The answers to these six questions will provide a baseline to help you research potential solutions and follow up with vendors that make your short list. More will occur to you as you speak to various vendors and sales people.

Don’t underestimate the helpfulness of asking others who use the software to give you an honest opinion of its usefulness. If you don’t want to rely on the vendor’s list of references, ask the members of your business associations for recommendations and feedback about various solutions.

A new software solution is not a purchase you make every day. You need to find the right solution for you that fits your budget, your needs, and your business.

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