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Whether you’re currently in the market for a management software partner or considering making a switch in the future, there are a number of questions and concerns to address before finalizing your commitment.

When the YMCA of Greater Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, was in the market for a management software partner, a deep dive into how they were currently operating, and where they wanted to be in the next five years, helped them determine what functionality and tools were needed to move forward.

“Daxko worked with us by coming onsite to learn more about our goals, while also educating us on new features they felt could help,” said Mell Adams, the association director of membership at the Richmond Y. “They also provided multiple offsite web demos, allowing us to include other Y leaders to better relay what our needs would be. They then took us through solutions and problem-solving to help us ultimately reach our decision.”

The YMCA of Greater Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, also uses Daxko as their management software partner. Ryan Kingery, the vice president of information technology at the Louisville Y, offered a number of questions to ask to ensure your partnership is the right fit. “What is on your development roadmap?” he asked. “Do you offer an open application programming interface (API)? What security features are in place to protect the data? What features does your software lack that will force me to use another third-party vendor?”

Operationally, when asked if there was anything missing from their current software provider and anything he would like to see in the future, Adams said yes — however, when looking into other providers in the industry, they all have areas of functionality that could be improved.

“We are currently working with Daxko to enhance our online presence and feel, show better data, and improve reporting access, as well as improving the onboarding of new members with features and tools within the software,” described Adams. “We believe with these changes and updates in Daxko, we will be able to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

In contrast, if you are considering making a switch, Kingery noted it’s important to know the relative advantages, both short and long-term, along with the compatibility and complexity of the product, and the change process.

Adams echoed Kingery’s suggestion by elaborating on being thorough in your decision-making process. “Be thorough and ensure the systems you are looking into can handle both your current needs and your future plans,” he said. “Constantly evaluate what you are using and ensure you are taking full advantage of the functionality of your systems.”

Often when choosing software, the allure of features and reports can overshadow one of the most important factors: the user. “While some systems may fully meet business needs, they may be quite complicated to use and require a higher technical knowledge level,” said Aleksandra Desanovski-Burns, the association membership director at the Louisville Y. “Straightforward products that are relatively easy to use may be preferred, especially if they will be utilized by front-line staff.”

In agreement, Steve Tarver, the president and CEO at the Louisville Y, finds implementation and staff training to be critical. “For implementation, designating a project manager — even considering using an outside consultant — will save time and effort,” he said. “A commitment to staff training is very important to get the most out of a software system and to enhance security of information. This commitment should be ongoing, not just during implementation.”

While choosing software that is user-friendly, remember that everything comes with a cost. Audrey Roling, the chief financial officer at the Louisville Y, suggested going to market for a competitive bidding process with the software you’re currently using, plus at least two viable competitors. “This provides an opportunity to compare pricing, functionality and scope of services provided,” she explained. “Even if the incumbent is selected for renewal, it’s a great opportunity to stay informed of current best practices and, of course, holds them accountable on pricing.”

In addition to holding software partners accountable is the need to discuss contracts and possible bumps down the road. “The contract needs to be specific and include all items and deadlines for implementation, service and support,” said Kingery. “Welcome negotiations on terms.”

In short, when choosing a management software partner, coming to bat with clear, upfront questions will eliminate an unnecessary strikeout. “The potential client should know their key priorities – service, financial transactions, relationships and metrics,” said Tarver. “It seems logical if a new system is being considered, prior knowledge of what type of reports, tools, analyses and functions are preferred. The client should have a clear understanding of their needs.”

Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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