Many organizations struggle to select the right community software. It's a hard decision to make! Luckily, we’ve prepared six questions that decision-makers should ask before selecting Enterprise community software.
Unfortunately, solutions are often chosen without well-defined expectations. It’s not just about the cost but also about evaluating goals, needs, and requirements up front.
And even coming up with the requirements has its challenges! On one hand, you don't want to spend too much time and money on it. But on the other hand, this software will be among the most important systems for your organization.
We say this because online communities deliver visible results throughout any organization, including increased productivity among members, reduced support costs, and higher satisfaction.
You wouldn’t want to make the wrong decisions and experience buyer’s remorse, so let’s dive in!
You’re starting an important research for your organization 😉
In this blog post, we focus on 6 important questions to ask before selecting community software:
- Does the software meet your needs and goals?
- What does it take to implement and manage the software?
- Which features do you need to make a good start?
- Does the community software have a high frequency of updates?
- Can the community software be integrated with existing systems?
- How flexible is the community software?
These aren’t all the question that you could ask, of course.
If you are missing important questions, feel free to add them in the comments below. And help other organizations making the right choice!
1. Does the software meet your goals?
You are looking for community software because you have a specific goal. So, naturally, selecting software that helps you reach your goal is vital. The chosen solution should understand your vision and has had experience with your type of community.
So, before you select software, make sure you define your own needs and goals and match these with potential vendors.
For example, if your community is focused on volunteering, you will need the capabilities for people to discuss important community-related topics in public and in private, work together in groups, and organize offline events.
Check out the showcases of the vendors to see if they’ve had experience with similar organizations to yours.
2. Which features do you need to make a good start?
It's an illusion that you will find software that meets your wishes 100%. But that's also not always necessary. This especially rings true if you need a community in a short amount of time. Then it’s best to focus on the main features needed to achieve your goals.
For example, make a list of features absolutely required to make your project work, also known as an MVP (a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers).
If you’re a student community, then you’ll need profiles, private messaging, and discussion feature so that students can discuss and share knowledge.
Write down the features you really need. And also think about alternative ways to achieve your goal with community software.
3. What does it take to implement and manage the software?
You need to ask yourself if the solution you’re looking at is one that just requires hitting a ‘go’ button or will it require set up on your end? You shouldn't be afraid to ask what it will take for you day-to-day to manage the community.
Many companies offer a variety of services along with the software, ranging from implementation and onboarding to community management.
Ask the vendor about the added services it provides. What will it take for you to manage the community day-to-day?
4. Does the community software update with new features regularly?
There isn’t really a right answer to this question, but it's really important that you select a community software that has several releases a year.
This shows that:
- This company is more likely to try to keep up with fast-moving trends.
- The company is dedicated to the improvement of its software.
- You are less likely to experience functionality issues and is up to date.
Figure out if the community software has a high frequency of updates.
5. How flexible is the community software?
Your company is going to change over time and so is your community. Hopefully, you’ll be growing. As you grow, you will need additional users and licenses, so make sure you know how easy it is to adjust your package.
Communities don’t just grow, but they can also change over time. This may include your workflow, goals, and needs. It's important that the community has the capability and flexibility to develop and change along with your organization.
Discover how flexible the community software is by checking the different user plans and the level of customization.
6. Can the community software be integrated with existing systems?
You are probably already using many other tools/systems and workflows within your company, e.g. your CRM, document management tools, reporting tools, or support systems.
It must have cost a lot of time and money to make them fit within your organization (we know from experience). It's best to find a community software that compliments your different systems and makes a powerful combination. Each tool should have its own purpose (to avoid duplication) but fit seamlessly with the rest of your workflow tools.
Many community software suppliers offer the possibility to integrate your new community with these existing systems.
Ask if the community software is able to integrate with other important systems that you are already using.
Choosing your software
You’ve asked yourself and researched the answers to the right questions - now what?
We’ll make one last recommendation: make it a shared responsibility to select the right community software because, this way, you’ll guarantee the acceptance of the software in your organization.
Invite stakeholders from different layers within your organization so that the software fits everybody's needs. And these will also potentially be the users of your community, so they should definitely get a say.
Do these questions help you to start with selecting the right community software or make your current efforts better? Let us know in the comments
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