How to Choose an Alumni Management Software Vendor
The criteria for selecting an alumni software provider goes beyond its technical capabilities. A great vendor is also a partnership, and with all partnerships, you want to assess the fit from different angles and ensure there’s a mutual investment in the long-term success of your program.
At its core, an alumni platform should provide all the features and flexibility to effectively manage day-to-day program management and provide a seamless user experience. A great vendor provides more than the just the technical bones, but also supports in the crucial phases leading up to the program launch and acts as a trusted partner that is invested in the program’s long-term success. . This could mean helping to prepare a business case for leadership buy-in, providing best practices throughout planning, or identifying opportunities for optimization.
As the leading global provider for corporate alumni programs, we have been the preferred vendor for companies building alumni programs in the last 15+ years. Whether or not you choose us, here are the 8 aspects you should consider when speaking to any potential vendor.
1. Ask About Client Satisfaction
It’s critical to ensure a vendor has a positive track-record with its partners. The logos on a website are a good starting point, but they don’t share the full picture (or may not even be up to date!). You should ask about client surveys, NPS, or other feedback tools the vendor might use. However, gathering insights from real client experiences are crucial in determining if a vendor truly delivers on their promises. Have client expectations been met overall? Do clients renew year after year? Inquire about client growth and seek demonstrated success.
If a vendor cannot back up their work by providing client referrals, this is a major red flag. Particularly if you are seeking complex integrations with your current systems, delays can be costly both in time and resources. Ask to speak with clients that may have what you’re looking for or are in your same industry. Ensure that you perform due diligence and gather insights directly from clients!
2. Review the User Experience
The platform should be easy to navigate and intuitive, encouraging engagement within the platform and between fellow alumni (and employees). The interface should be responsive, allowing alumni to comfortably interact with the platform on devices of their choice. User experience is always changing, so make sure that your vendor is investing in feature updates as well.
3. Do They Offer Robust and Scalable Technology?
Alumni communities will continue to grow over time (and in some cases could become larger than the employee population). The platform technology should cover the following program management categories to help you grow and scale:
- Alumni database management
- Capable of securely managing and storing detailed information including contact information, employment details, location, education history, expertise, other relevant data.
- Relationship management
- Tools to segment and engage with alumni via email campaigns, event notifications, and social media.
- An event management tool, including event registration, and automated reminders.
- Content management
- On-the-fly creation or import of various types of content and offerings.
- Ability to manage the audience of content according to segmentation.
- Reporting and analytics
- Capabilities to track alumni activity in the platform and report on engagement, event attendance and profile details.
- The ability to design the information you need, and retrieve what you need when you need it.
4. Is it Fully Customizable?
The design of your alumni platform including the colours, logos, fonts, and data fields should be a seamless extension of your organization’s brand. An out-of-the-box solution may not capture the desired look and feel of your program.
While there are recommended core features to include in most alumni platforms, e.g., an alumni directory, you’ll want flexibility to add or remove features as your program evolves. What may work for one program may not work for another, so you’ll want the ability to create the program exactly the way you have it in mind.
5. They Must Take Security Seriously
Check if the vendor adheres to the highest industry standards of security and data management practices. Is the vendor ISO 27001, GDPR, and CCPA compliant? Which measures are in place to ensure the protection of alumni/employee data and sensitive information? Have your IT or legal team review the vendor’s Information Security Management System (ISMS), Data Protection Agreement (DPA) or similar documents.
6. Demonstrates Proven Ability to Integrate with Your Specific Systems
Your vendor should help identify opportunities to leverage software integrations in data-handling processes or offerings management. It’s vital to dig deeper into their track-record and ensure a vendor can deliver on promised integrations with your existing software.
7. Is There On-going Program Support?
What level of on-going support does the vendor provide? Do they have a structured process to get your project off the ground and do they provide helpful resources along the way? Do they give you strategic guidance whenever you need it?
A vendor is a trusted partner that should give you a dedicated success manager to achieve your goals from implementation through launch and beyond.
8. Do They Provide Innovative and Helpful Thought Leadership?
Does the vendor regularly organize inspiring webinars or client gatherings to exchange inspiration and best practices? Do they demonstrate thought leadership in the alumni space and contribute to leading industry research? Having regularly updated information regarding programmatic best practices, interesting examples, and thought-provoking discussions that connect you to other leaders in the space is important for your program’s development.
Your chosen vendor is not only a service provider, but your partner. If you’re feeling underwhelmed by your current vendor, it might be worth investigating how to get your program back on track. We work with many companies that have transitioned away from previously poor experiences and can advise on how we’ve approached this to be as pain-free as possible. If you have any questions, please feel free to set up a chat.