labyrinthWhen your organization has decided to leave behind the manual processes of meetings and move forward with the times to automate, it’s tough to find the right meeting management solution.

There are so many different solutions to choose from – different features, price points, and platforms. The right solution depends on your organization’s needs, and some features will be more important for your team than others.

To help your decision-making process, we’ve made a list of the ten most important questions you should ask as you go through the decision-making process (in no particular order).

1.Is the solution meant for your industry?

Meeting management solutions should cater to a certain sector or industry as workflows and needs vary.

For example, if you’re in healthcare, you’re going to want a solution that emphasizes confidentiality. A municipality will have different meeting processes than a private corporation. What’s important is that the provider you decide to buy from is knowledgeable in your field and their product can demonstrate they meet your requirements.

Take a look at the literature on the provider’s website. They’ll usually identify which industries or verticals that they serve. And do not hesitate to contact them with any questions you may have. Ask for a demo to gauge how it meets your requirement and if you can visualize your staff using it.

2. Can it integrate smoothly into your work environment?

The product you choose should match the way your organization works.

Your team should want to use the new solution as a tool to organize their work, save time, and make their lives easier. It should not complicate things and create more problems.

If a solution looks complicated or if you suspect a long and/or tough learning curve, ask more questions and definitely request for a demo. If you feel uncertain whether you can master the solution quickly or easily, it’s likely not the right fit. Don’t forget, you have to help your team use it too!

Also, talk to your teams (IT, users, board members etc.) and see what features they feel are important. Be sure to express that to the vendor.

3. Does it fit into your long-term plan?

Do you have an idea of what you want your workflow to look like in five years? Do you expect changes? Will your solution provider provide the flexibility for changes? Can you see this solution working for you in the future?

You should choose a product that you can see growing with your organization down the road. Think about your goals and vision. Can this solution help you achieve it? Do your goals and the solution align with each other?

Define your goals and what you want from your solution, such as better productivity or fewer missed deadlines. Start small and work your way up.

4. Where is data stored? Is it secure?

Cloud imageMany meeting management solutions are now cloud-based, which means that your information is stored in a remote data centre.

Look at where the cloud service data centres are and for any documentation on security protocols. The data centres don’t need to be close to you, but best at minimum, in the same country.

Related Resource: eSCRIBE uses Microsoft’s cloud-platform – Azure. Learn more about the partnership here.

Different countries have different laws and regulations for accessing confidential information. Make sure you are comfortable with the legal compliance etc. if you do move with a provider from a different country.

For the vendor vetting, check to see if they are transparent about how they deal with and protect your data, and look over any privacy policies you encounter.

5. Can you rely on customer support?

Nothing in the world is perfect. Neither is any meeting management solution (if any vendors tell you their solution is flawless – beware!). Chances are, you’re going to need help with something as you get going. As technology can be finicky sometimes, it might need some tweaking here and there. It is in these moments that the vendor should be there for you.

You won’t be able to experience customer support before you are a customer, so talk to your peers who are already using that product. Do they like it? Any problems and what kind? How do they like the customer support experience?

You should be able to talk to a knowledgeable support agent immediately if you have any problems, especially if your meetings are live.

You should be able to gauge whether the vendor understands the urgency of getting help as soon as possible. Unlike Business-to-Consumer (B2C) products, you can’t wait for days for someone to respond.

6. Is the scale of my organisation large enough for a Meeting Management Software?

Being a small organization doesn’t necessarily mean you should go for a small solution provider, or that you should go with a point solution, like agenda management software.

What is important is to keep your eyes on the big picture: how can this solution help my organisation improve?

A smaller solution may come at a cheaper price, but it could imply less support when needed or have limited growing capability when you need it.

On the other end, a bigger company’s solution isn’t always the answer. They may offer you an assortment of bells and whistles, but ask yourself, do you truly need it, or will it take your focus away from what you really need to do?

There are meeting management solutions available with a simple yet robust base. Ideally a modular solution is most flexible as they offer an extensive list of functions and features, that you may add or remove as needed.

Make sure you define your needs and find a product that serves your current and future needs. Automation is for everyone, just find the one suitable for your organisation.

7. What does the product roadmap look like?

Look for development roadmap of the product. The health of a reliable organisation can be determined by its investment in R&D; technology evolves everyday and requires never-ending improvement and adaptation.

Find out about the product development roadmap – where is the company heading? This information can help you gauge if the product and company is stable for your investment. You don’t want a company that doesn’t invest in R&D and just settle for being “ok”. It needs to have the ambition to improve itself and grow along with their clients.

8. Does the vendor have a clear implementation timeline?

Rolling out a meeting management solution and getting it properly implemented into your organization requires time.

Your vendor is a key driver of that process, and the things they do to make sure their product works for you say a lot about the quality of their service. They should be able to tell you each stage the implementation goes through, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Who is responsible for this task: you or the vendor? The vendor should lay out a worst-case scenario for you. You need to decide if you are comfortable with it.

That said, you also have to assess internally – can you match the timelines laid out? Are you able to provide the items requested by your vendor according to the timetable so things can keep moving? It’s important to be realistic with the process, so expectations can be met.

Ask about the implementation process and see if it works for you.

Related Resource: Implementation doesn’t have to take months. Read how North Huron Municipality was able to get up and running in 2 weeks.

9. What are the costs involved? What is the expected ROI?

And of course, the million-dollar question. While cost should not be the main factor in the final decision, you do need to consider the ROI to make sure you’re getting value out of it.

As with any investment, your solution should provide some kind of return. In order to quantify that ROI, it’s best to define some specific metrics. Some solutions offer an easy self-assessment on time and cost savings (check out our ROI calculator, for example). Make sure you take advantage of those tools.

Beware of hidden or escalating costs such as increasing storage costs. Some vendors will not tell you about incremental costs over time, make sure you ask about additional costs and an explanation to justify costs. Some vendors also offer extra features, but chances are if you didn’t ask for them, you are not going to use them.

10. What happens to your data if you cancel?

Finally, all good things may come to an end. Should you decide to end the contract, with your meeting management solution provider, can you retrieve all your data? Is this data secure after a cancellation?

Reaching a Decision

Once you’ve asked these ten questions, you’ll be better armed to make an informed decision on which product will work best for you.

Top 10 Q

The service provider that you choose is more than just a company; it’s a partner that’s going to help your organization work more efficiently, enabled by technology. And like all partners, you should have a good feeling about the company and can see how the two of you can grow together as time goes by.