In the process of selecting childcare management software for your after-school program, daycare business, or preschool, you may be offered a demo. Software demos are excellent tools for observing the various processes, getting a look at the screens, and receiving an overall impression of the software at work.
If you have reached the demo stage, you must be as prepared with your questions as the salesperson will be with the presentation. You need to be an active participant rather than a passive audience. Let’s take a look at questions you should ask during the demo if you haven’t already received answers.
What business problem does the software solve?
When researching software solutions, your primary purpose is to find an application that solves a thorny business problem for you. A demo is a perfect time to ask a vendor to describe how the solution can resolve your specific business problem.
Asking during the demo will help you verify the software will perform as you expect. Also, you have an opportunity to listen to potential alternative solutions for your problem you may not have considered.
Can the software be customized?
Most software has some flexibility in customization. As you prepare for the demo, think about how the software might need to be changed to better fit your business needs. Keep in mind that extensive customization is expensive and time-consuming. Try to find a solution that is as close as possible to what you need to limit the number of changes you need to make.
Will the software handle agency payments?
If your facility has children who receive subsidies for childcare, can the software integrate payments from grants or community education programs? A primary goal of childcare management software users is to automate or simplify payment tasks.
Consider all permutations of payment your business handles, from subsidies to alternating payments from dual households.
What type of technical support is provided?
Technical support is provided in several ways. The most basic type of support is online self-help in which you log in to a customer portal to search a knowledge base for answers to common issues. The next tier of support is provided by email if you can wait for an answer. For immediate assistance, phone or chat support may be offered either 24 hours a day seven days a week, or during set hours and days of operation.
Determine the type of assistance best suited to your business and staff and if there is an extra charge for different types and times of service.
Is training included in the cost?
Most software solutions are relatively easy to use, but access to training can streamline adoption and prevent errors. Vendors may offer training in the form of tutorials, webinars, or online or in-person classes, or if it takes place off-site.
Find out if any training is offered as part of the purchase or subscription price and how much it may cost for higher level training if needed.
Can the software be customized?
Ask the salesperson demonstrating the software whether the solution can be customized to your processes. If no customization is available, consider whether the application is workable as is. Remember the business problems you hope to solve with this software. If it does not operate as needed and no changes can be made, this may not be the solution for you.
Some customization is typically offered, but extensive changes may not be possible or be cost-effective.
Will the software integrate with my other applications?
Do you plan to use different applications for each part of your business? Then you need to know if the software being presented can integrate with your existing IT environment. If you expect to use a separate program for business planning, can it access data from the childcare management solution and vice versa?
How often is the software updated?
A good software vendor keeps up with the needs of its customers. Software that is rarely updated can signal a vendor is uncommitted to improving and optimizing the software. You may find yourself with a solution with degraded performance that does not provide the services you need in the future. Also, any issues you have with the software may not be addressed in future updates.
How many children can I enter into the system?
You need to know that the software you are seeing can handle the amount of data you intend to enter. You need a solution that can grow with your business. It can be tempting to save money by purchasing a smaller solution for now, but when it comes time to change software, anything you saved may go for data transfer or to pay for a system that can handle more information.
Does the software provide meal tracking?
If you serve meals or snacks, a meal tracking application can save time and costs by automating menus, providing access to nutritional guidelines, and accommodating special diets. You can also obtain reports of each child’s eating habits to share with parents and help you plan food purchases.
Can it track staff attendance?
Using the same solution to track child and staff attendance provides you the opportunity to balance your staffing using daily attendance patterns. It also simplifies payroll with automated time-keeping.
Does the vendor support data migration?
If you have a large amount of data in your old system, can the vendor help you migrate the data to the new solution? If you don’t need to start from scratch, you can begin immediate business planning using historical data as well as compare attendance and revenue to previous time periods using your new software.
Some vendors may charge for data migration or offer it as part of the service.
Can you get a free trial?
It’s all well and good to see how the software operates, but it is beneficial to be able to try it out for yourself. If you and your staff can take the time to run the solution through its paces and compare notes, you may find issues that didn’t appear during the demo or learn different ways of handling a task that you had not considered.
A demo shouldn’t be a one-sided show. You should have the opportunity to engage with the salesperson, asking questions you have not had a chance to answer and challenging the vendor to differentiate itself from competitors.
A demo is often one of the last steps before purchase. Take advantage of the vendor’s undivided attention to solidify your choice.