Buying training software today is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to free trials, online signup processes, and the internet. What used to take months and lots of headache to even get started on a training software evaluation can now usually be accomplished within minutes. Still, in order to get the most out of the process and ensure you make the right decision, you should think about following these steps when trying out a new training system.
These steps will apply to any kind of software, whether it's educational or not - selecting a new Learning Management System, Training Administrate System, or even a new accounts package or productivity suite can all benefit from this guide. Enjoy!
How to Evaluate and Buy New Training Software in 8 Easy Steps
1. Identify The Problems You're Trying To Solve
The first step in selecting, buying, and implementing a new training software system is to make sure you know what problems you're trying to solve with the new product. Perhaps you already have a system that's not working very well, or you don't have a system and need one - in either case make sure you develop a list (written is best) of problems that you're looking to solve with your new purchase. These can be as high level as "no more paper" or as low level as you need, but they should be defined and well understood. Try to avoid fixating on features, and instead focus on problems.
- Feature Request: Our new system must have Twitter and Facebook integration.
- Problem Statement: We need a way to cheaply and automatically publicize our training sessions.
Example one could lead to confusion during the evaluation process, as you may tick the box on some definition of Twitter and Facebook integration, but that may not actually solve your real problem (stated below). In addition, by keeping your focus on the problems you want to solve, it may expose more elegant better ways to accomplish your objectives that you may not have originally considered.
2. Obtain Authority and Budget Your Time
This may seem like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how often people start evaluating training software without having the authority to make a final decision or the go-ahead to buy from all decision makers. You'll want to make sure you have the authority you need to actually need so you don't waste time and set yourself up to fail.
Make sure you set aside sufficient time to dedicate to the evaluation process - it can often take a few hours to setup and engage with even the simplest training software. Not setting aside this time means you run the risk of squandering your trial period!
3. Get a Free Trial
This should be a straightforward process - in our experience, if getting a trial requires anything more than completing a web form, the training software probably isn't going to be very flexible or modern. You should have your trial access within a few minutes, and it shouldn't require a conversation or demo prior to getting started. Most companies will give you a week or two, and many will extend trial sessions if you need more time
4. Make Sure You Have The Right Resources
Here's a list of things you should make sure you have close at hand once you start the evaluation process:
- Links to online support, manuals, and how-to guides.
- Know how to submit a support ticket (and check the response) in case you run into any problems.
- If the company you're considering offers webinars or free demos, it's good to book onto these.
- Know how to check if there are service interruptions.
- It's good to have a few references of other customers you can call for the unvarnished truth.
- Subscribe to the company's blog for updates that might affect you.
5. Draw Up a List of Questions
While you're going through the evaluation process, it can be useful to draw up a list of questions that you'd like to ask. Batching up the questions as you go along can often be a lot more efficient, and if you're part of a team evaluating the training software, you can often help each other figure things out. Sending your list of questions to any sales personnel that might be involved will also make your demonstrations and calls more efficient and focused.
6. Engage a Sales Resource
Most Business to Business (B2B) training software will have a dedicated sales force to help you make your decision. Many people don't like engaging a sales resource, but if the company is reputable, they won't get far with having sales people who aren't smart enough to be honest with prospects. Try engaging available sales personnel and send them your problem statements and questions in advance to make sure you're getting what you need out of the interactions.
7.Draw Up a List of Pros and Cons
You may be evaluating several systems at once, or may just be looking at one system, but you need to make sure you draw up a list of pros and cons to aid you in your decision making. We recommend sharing this list to the sales person you're taking with for two reasons - it can prevent mistakes, and even if you decide to not go with that particular product, in the future they may fix your "show stopper" issue and you might appreciate being told when that happens.
8. Buy or Provide Feedback
Now that you've identified the problems you need solved, engaged with available resources, drawn up your questions and had them answered, engaged a sales resource, and developed your pros and cons list, it's time to buy or pass. If you don't choose to buy, try to give honest and direct feedback, as that will aid the company in the future and you never know - you could be back looking a second time in the future!
These steps should help you have a smooth, stress free evaluation of any new training software you plan to buy and bring into your organization. Good luck!
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John Peebles is the CEO of Administrate, a SaaS training administration system built just for training providers. Administrate has helped hundreds of users around the world streamline their training administration chores and provide hundreds of thousands of students valuable education. John has spent the past 12 years running and growing technology startups in America and Scotland, and is passionate about learning, great teamwork, and technology.Website: www.getadministrate.com/