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5 Questions Every K12 School Board Should Ask their Technology Provider before Purchasing Software

Ontario school boards do everything they can to keep their employees happy and create safe and effective learning environments for their students. At the same time, these boards operate with limited administrative budgets, so every penny counts and being productive is very important. This means that choosing the right technology partner for your Finance, HR and Payroll needs can be a daunting task. It takes a lot of time to evaluate vendors and trust that the company pitching you a solution is the best one for you. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of the 5 most important questions you should ask any solution provider before purchasing their software:


Make sure that you select a technology solution provider that actually understands and has experience working within the nuances of your industry. School boards have specific requirements when it comes to things such as Schedule 10 reporting, so it's important to ensure that the provider you select understands these specific challenges and has a solution that is tailored to meet your needs. It's also important to know how often providers speak with their customers in order to learn more about their painpoints, and whether clients have the ability to make recommendations to the products being built. Many providers frequently host meetings that bring school boards together to discuss the challenges they might be facing, opportunities for software improvement, changes in Ministry requirements, and reporting strategies. This is a “win-win” situation for both parties because school boards are able to express the challenges they might be facing, which can influence the product roadmap of their solution provider, while providers get deeper insight into the day-to-day experience of their users so they can better align their solutions to meet these needs.


There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to technology, so school boards should be diligent in making sure that the solution they end up with meets all of their functionality, security, and reporting requirements. While some vendors may look impressive because they have tons of bells and whistles, your school board may not need all of these features and will end up getting lost inside a solution that is more complicated than your needs. Like Goldilocks (if she was looking for management software), you don't want something too big or too small, you need to find a solution that's just right. As well, because school boards often deal with managing sensitive student information, it's important to ensure that the providers have the right type of hosting and security features to keep your data safe. Lastly, choosing a solution that allows you to give your users different level of access, such as having the ability to make purchases or file expense claims online, versus manage the entire board's budget, is important. You’re on the right track if the providers you’re speaking with can answer these questions to your liking.


Let’s say that based on where your school board is right now, you've been able to find the perfect solution and provider to fit your needs. What happens in a few years when either you've grown as a school board or technology has changed and you have the same solution? You need to ensure that your system has the ability to be expanded or kept up to date with enhancements through upgrades. Our advice is to look 'under the hood' of a potential provider to understand how updates or upgrades to your solution will play out. To avoid unforeseen costs and headaches in the long run, find out how much it costs to make upgrades, how these improvements are added, and who is responsible for the upgrades.


Once you've decided on a solution partner, you and your team will need to receive training on how to use your new software. Is training delivered only in person? Or are there online resources that you can access to learn at your own pace, or re-visit if you need a refresher? It's recommended that you select a provider that makes it easy to search for ‘how to’ content online, offers training videos and webinars, or provides useful user guides. Knowing what training resources are available to you, and how easy is it for your team to access this information, is critical before you make a selection.


Communication is key when working with a technology provider. Find out how they intend to communicate with your team from implementation through to go-live, and then transitioning into support. Will you have a dedicated Customer Success resource to answer questions or manage your upgrades? Having open communication with this key contact will ensure that you stay informed about any potential changes to your solution and are given key information to ensure your success. You should also find out how you can request or escalate Support's help should an issue arise. Ensure that you understand the different levels of support your provider offers and what this process looks like from request to resolution. At Sparkrock, we understand that choosing a technology partner is difficult. There are many factors to consider before making a decision, especially when you have limited resources at your disposal. With over 13 years working successfully in this field, we've gained unique insight into the administrative processes and reporting requirements of Ontario K12 school boards. Armed with this experience and the welcomed feedback of our dedicated clients, Sparkrock has built a solution that is tailored to solve the unique challenges and needs that school boards face.
Want to learn more about how you can use Sparkrock’s solution to easily and effectively manage your school board’s business processes? Register for our upcoming webinar or book your own personalized demo and take a virtual tour inside our K12 solution.  

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