What to Look for in Software Support Packages

Author: Bethany Spencer

Posted: 04 May 2017

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

It’s fundamental that when looking at introducing a new software to your school that you take into account the level of support that is provided to you alongside it. ‬Without sufficient support‭, ‬software can be difficult to embed‭, ‬usage doesn’t pick up and the core areas that led to the initial reason for purchase are not executed and overall impact is negligible‭. ‬Not‭ ‬to mention the wasted time‭, ‬effort and funds this can lead to‭.

Many of you may have experienced a failed integration and this can put you off introducing a new piece of software‭, ‬but it’s important to remember that a good piece of software that’s going to benefit your school in the long run is worth a look‭. However, in order to avoid disappointment and a unsuccessful implementation, when it comes to making a purchasing decision‭, ‬pay close attention to the level of support offered‭.‬

what to look for in software support packages

Here are some key points you should take into consideration about your future software providers support when purchasing a new system for your school:

Request a support service level agreement

This document will clearly define what support the company offers‭, ‬if it is included within your licence and any consequences they will face if they fail to deliver these services‭. ‬

When is the help line open‭?‬

Does the provider offer support at the times when it will be needed most‭, ‬when you and other members of your team will be accessing the software most frequently‭? ‬For edtech software‭, ‬this would be during school hours as well as extended work hours so contacting the help line doesn’t impede on your working day too much‭. 

Set up

The spectrum for set-up is vast and specific to the software and its purpose‭, ‬whether it’s you having to do the majority of the work yourself‭, ‬or a dedicated team coming into your school and completing the entire process for you‭, ‬it’s important that you feel supported throughout‭. ‬

To achieve this‭, ‬make sure you have a main point of contact from the point of sale through to the end of your licence‭, ‬those who do offer this support‭, ‬especially for free‭, ‬will view the sale as a partnership‭ ‬rather than a customer simply purchasing a licence‭.‬

Training for users

Training on a new piece of software is paramount‭, ‬and when the training provided is thorough the level of initial support required for users is lessened‭. ‬In addition to training‭, ‬make sure that there is a comprehensive help centre for any additional support and that you have the option for further in-school or remote training sessions for any new users that come on-board‭. ‬

Ease of use

If the software is user friendly and processes are uncomplicated‭, ‬then users can navigate most of the system without having to rely on external help or the constant intervention of your and your IT team‭. ‬It goes without saying that complex software doesn’t translate well in an environment of mixed abilities when it comes to‭ ‬technology‭. ‬

If simple tasks prove problematic‭, ‬even for a small percentage of staff‭, ‬then whole school up take will be low and will impact the overall effectiveness of the software‭. ‬This is not always such a problem if the software in use is intended only for admin‭, ‬senior or IT staff‭ (‬like an MIS system or VLE‭) ‬and not to be used by parents‭, ‬teachers and students‭. ‬If though‭,‬‭ ‬the software‭ ‬the software is a teaching and learning tool‭, ‬then its comprehension is vital for everyone‭.‬

In-house vs‭. ‬outsourced support centre

Some edtech companies will outsource their support to companies that will not always have first hand knowledge of the product and who will be working from a script‭. ‬In contrast‭, ‬software companies that have an in-house support team will have a greater understanding of the product and access to all departments such as Development‭, ‬Finance and Account Management‭, ‬which will in turn‭, ‬will be much better in assisting your school with any queries that may have‭.‬

Who will be using the software and can they receive support‭?‬

All users will need access to support irrespective of their standing with the software provider‭. ‬It is not good practice that support to users such as students‭, ‬parents and classroom teachers should go through yourself‭. ‬

This hinders how quickly users get support and also adds to the workload of individuals within school‭. ‬Some software that is offered free or as a one off payment‭, ‬may require the employment of technical staff to keep it operational‭. ‬Support should be free to anyone at the point of need‭.‬

Cost/ongoing costs

Before purchasing any software‭, ‬familiarise yourself with the support offered and if this is included in the licence price or if‭ ‬they offer tiered support which incurs extra charges‭. ‬If ongoing technical support is chargeable‭, ‬then a contingency budget will have to be allocated each year from the school’s budget‭. ‬

Some software that is available at no initial cost will require support costs to set up and maintain the system and so‭ ‬a realistic expectation of ongoing cost should be taken into consideration‭. ‬

FAQ and Video Tutorials

Some support queries can simply be put down to lack of product knowledge and therefore addressed without contacting a helpline directly‭. ‬Before purchasing any software‭, ‬make sure their website has a comprehensive‭ ‬FAQ page‭. ‬These are a good way to solve basic problems and an effective resource for you to direct users to if they‭ ‬ever come to you with an issue you can't resolve.

Additionally, video tutorials are a great way to succintly impart a lot of product knowledge. See if they offer any video content which can help to provide users with indepth knowledge of the software and reduce a high volume of support early on.

Do they have a good customer satisfaction rating?

Nothing will give you a better understanding of what level of support you can expect to receive than by hearing first-hand from their customers. Look for case studies and a customer satisfaction rating - these will give you an honest rating of the service and support and what you can expect if you were to purchase from them.

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