If you are a part of any higher ed listservs you are no doubt familiar with seeing multiple questions a week asking if anyone has used a particular product and would be willing to discuss their experience. These messages usually go out to hundreds or thousands of individuals, the vast majority of which have not used the software in question. Certainly not an efficient process. The software companies are usually happy to furnish lists of references, but most schools still want to do some checking beyond these provided contacts in hopes of getting more candid responses.

Against this backdrop a clear need for greater information sharing among higher education institutions exists. No software is perfect. In an environment where the majority of the information a school has about a product comes from marketing material and sales presentations, there is a great chance for disappointment.

The ultimate end of greater communication between schools will result in more realistic expectations, better matches between schools and products, and improved software solutions. Currently, the communication is primarily one way: vendor-to-customer. Adding two more dimensions to this dialogue, customer-to-customer and customer-to-vendor, will be a great improvement to the process.

Mark Baker is the Associate Registrar at Whitworth University and the founder and site moderator of SoftwarePhD.com.

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