At the enterprise level, implementing a new software solution is a huge undertaking. Institutions spend a great deal of time researching current capabilities, identifying user needs, reviewing current processes, and considering compatibility with existing systems. Typically, institutions do this work before issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP). From there, additional care and deliberation goes into making the right choice of enterprise software vendors. This is why selecting the right enterprise software vendor is so critical, especially one that will be transparent about its user base.
The enterprise software vendor selection process
While this process is underway, the organization does its due diligence in many ways. For example, prior to selecting a software solution, institutions invest a significant amount of time in:
- Reviewing responses to the RFP
- Watching vendor demonstrations
- Asking questions about system capabilities, flexibilities, and adaptabilities
- Soliciting feedback from internal stakeholders and current clients
During this time, it is also beneficial for software vendors to supply potential customers with a list of current users. This list helps prospective clients make determinations about the credibility of the software. In this case, transparency includes information about:
- Which products users currently have implemented (e.g., funding opportunities database, pre- and/or post-award modules, system-to-system submission modules, regulatory compliance modules)?
- When users implemented – was it two years ago or twenty years ago?
- If users have a hosted or cloud-based environment.
- What financial system users are operating (e.g., PeopleSoft, Banner, homegrown)?
- What type of entity or institution their users are? – Are they an R1 institution? Do they have a medical school?
By using similar customers across the customer base as representative examples, potential users can accurately gauge the suitability, follow-through, and professionalism of the vendor. Institutions can also compare apples to apples. This saves valuable time by confirming the institutional needs are compatible with software applications, or that the vendor can adapt the software accordingly. A successful evaluation during this phase generally signals the start of a long and fruitful relationship.
Why transparency in enterprise software vendor user base is critical
It is very important for the software vendor to paint an accurate picture of its user base. Otherwise, the potential user may have a skewed perspective about the software’s popularity or adoption rate. For example, there is at least one enterprise software eRA provider that regularly conflates its numbers. It mixes its user base of a very simple, large software solution on offer with their eRA user base, which is not so large. This can cause confusion and make the adoption of their eRA system seem much higher than it is.
The danger in this is twofold. First, potential users may wind up judging the software provider on the wrong merits. An impressive-sounding number of users may build instantaneous credibility on the surface. But as mentioned, what percentage of users are on the same software or platform under consideration? And out of those, how many are actually happy and satisfied? It is likely a comparatively much smaller number than what is presented as a user base.
Second, the enterprise software company shows that by not being transparent upfront, they may not have the users’ best interests in mind. For example, if they are overinvested in too many different software offerings, they may not be able to service their eRA user base as well. In addition, there may be other practices at play that hide information from existing and prospective users. This may not turn out to be the case, but transparency from the get-go is always the best practice.
Streamlyne’s user base transparency
When an institution considers purchasing a software solution, like ours, they establish an ongoing partnership with the software vendor. As part of this partnership, we provide direct references from our user base to potential user institutions. We make sure to include those on the same enterprise software as the one being considered. If questions come up about users on different products of ours, or consulting engagements outside of our software, we make sure to delineate them. As such, prospective users get a very real sense of the institutions who use and appreciate our products, including our enterprise software.
Our tight-knit user community
The engagement within our user base really gets going once a potential user decides to adopt Streamlyne. From the first moment on, this user is officially welcomed into the Streamlyne user community, with many benefits to match. One example is an ongoing video series, where we share news and updates with our users. Another is Streamlyne SPARC, an online forum for tips and discussions across our user base. Additionally, we host an annual conference, Streamlyne UP!, where our attending users are encouraged to network and get to know one another.
If anything, we want our users to feel welcome not only with our own team, but with each other. Participation within the Streamlyne community can lead to collaboration across universities, build trust, and enable users to learn from others with more experience. Overall, the transparency and connections made does a world of good. If we kept our user base secretive, or overinflated our numbers, this kind of community would never happen.
When choosing an enterprise software vendor, it is advised to ask many probing questions. One factor to consider is transparency around the vendor’s user base. If the vendor is being forthright and not conflating numbers, this is a good sign of things to come.
If you have any questions about Streamlyne’s eRA system, including use cases at other institutions that may be similar to your own, please reach out to us directly.