Any higher ed IT professional or administrator who has endeavored to select a software solution for their campus is familiar with the frustration that accompanies the process. The task usually begins by reading marketing materials posted on various companies’ websites which tout the features and abilities of their products. If one is not sufficiently skeptical at this point they could walk away feeling thoroughly convinced that the software can do everything imaginable–including choosing the next winning lotto number.

Next comes the webinar.

These could be recorded or live presentations to individuals or groups of schools and serve to show the searcher a high-level overview of the software. These certainly have value as the institution is able to view first-hand what the software is capable of.

However, these webinars are almost always in very controlled environments and the scenarios demonstrated are planned ahead of time and tested. So, the real-life experience a campus might have with the software once they begin to implement it could be far different than what they watched. Often integration isn’t as seamless as promised or the features demonstrated are found to be still in development.

If an institution is still interested after the webinar they often invite a sales rep to campus for a longer presentation. Again, this step is helpful and provides a deeper view into the capabilities of the software. This opportunity allows for more in-depth questions from the institution and investigating in greater specificity how the product will interact with their other systems.

However, what is lacking is an unbiased opinion of the software from those who are actually using it on their campuses.

Because of this many searchers try to find colleagues at peer institutions who are current customers of the software they are considering. Yet, finding references can be like looking for a black cat in a coal cellar.

(Next page: Listservs and communication)

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