With 100’s of Student management software available on the market, choosing the right one for your organisation can be like trying to navigate an obstacle course.

Picking the right SMS solution for you and your organisation requires you to invest time, energy and resources, and you know all too well that picking the right one can make or break your project. So how do you go about choosing the correct platform?

If you’re in the market for a new SMS and are researching the latest and greatest SMS solutions on offer, then ask yourself these six questions to help determine what you really need.

When researching new Student Management Software solutions ask yourself…

Does this SMS have the ability to grow with the business?

It’s important that when you select an SMS you know what features they are planning to add to the product. When choosing an SMS you need to consider the size of your organisation and how quickly you expect it grow. Consider how many staff you have now and their changing online training needs requirements. Does the SMS scale as your organisation and its needs change and grow?

Many SMS systems offer a broad range of features, but if they don’t match up to what your organisation needs now and in the future, you could find yourself with complications and roadblocks to growth later on. Some of the most popular features to consider when looking into new SMS solutions on the market are behaviour analysis, social learning and gamification.

The best SMS vendors actually host events where they will share their vision for the future and gather feedback from users.

Do you really understand how all the features work?

When researching SMS solutions, you’ll probably start by making a list of all the features and requirement important to you. It’s easy to run through, ticking features off the list as you spot them on the website – but to make sure the SMS actually meets your needs make sure you know how that functionality really works. For example, let’s take reporting. You see an SMS has ‘reporting functionality’, but can you create custom reports and how easy is it to do? You want to be able manage resources easily, but how easy are they to upload, what format do they have to be in and can you easily integrate with Google Drive or Dropbox?

One common mistake people make is only checking that an SMS can do something, but having no idea as to how it does it.

Have you set an SMS budget that’s unrealistic?

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the SMS purchase price is a one off cost. Student Management Software are platforms which grow and evolve with your organisation, and as a result there will be associated costs down the line to help this happen. Consider the other costs involved such as monthly or annual maintenance, platform upgrades, custom modules and upgrades.

When you’re choosing an SMS make sure you have an accurate idea of what the SMS will cost you now, and in the future. Budget for SMS ‘upkeep and maintenance’ and consider asking the SMS vendor for an estimate of mandatory and optional ongoing costs and fees. Know what control you have over deciding which fees you commit to up front, and which you don’t.

Have an accurate idea of what the SMS will cost you now, and in the future.

Have you overlooked the analytics and reporting features?

Never underestimate the value in the analytics data and insights an SMS can provide your organisation with. Many SMS solutions available come with reporting tools built in, but many of the most important features are overlooked.

If you have formal compliance requirements to meet then reports are essential to accurately recording which learners have passed their mandatory training modules. You can also use reports to encourage learners to refresh or complete their training, before due dates pass. Your SMS must have solid analytics and reporting features to measure the success of students and make the right improvements where necessary.

Check if you can export the data in the formats you need? Can you configure reports with custom and mandatory fields? How will you act on the insights that the reports generate?

Not setting clear goals from the outset.

When you embark on implementing your Student Management System it’s crucial that you set out what want to achieve and your organisation’s objectives. What do you really need the SMS to do? And what metrics can you use to assess whether you are achieving that? Identify the gaps that you need the SMS to help fill, such as online training for staff, the ability to assess students online or to increase student collaboration online.

Don’t lose sight of why you decided to invest in or change SMS in the first place.

Have I taken advantage of free SMS demos and trials on offer?

With the increase of SMS vendors comes in the increase in competition and need to stand out in the market. As a result, many SMS vendors offer potential customers free trials and online demos. Always try before you before you buy, and make sure you take the time out to really test drive the SMS before you commit.

List out all the features which are essential to your business and work through to check how many of those the SMS has. Do you enjoy using the platform, do you find it easy to navigate and use? Ask others from the organisation to dive in and explore the free trial, holding a meeting to gather feedback and opinions on what they liked, and more importantly, what they didn’t. These are the people who will use the platform on a daily basis, so it’s crucial that they buy in and agree, before you commit.