So, your organization has decided it is time for a new certification management system.
But, how to select the best one?
Through the years, we have gained a lot of experience in different certification management systems. The most effective system selections happen when the client organization is well prepared to evaluate the technology/vendor fit with the needs of their organization. If you are struggling with the selection process, we have put together a guide that will help.
Here are the seven steps to prepare for the best certification system selection process.
Step 1: Define Your Organizational Goals
The first step in the best certification management system selection process is to define your organization’s goals in acquiring new technology.
Why do you need a new system? What will the new software do for your organization? How will you measure success? While these questions may seem obvious, at a certain point in the system selection process, having your north star will offer guidance as you get into all sorts of details, big, small, and often distracting.
Examples of organizational goals include:
- We need a new certification management system so that we make it easier for certificants to recertify. We expect customer service calls to go down and recertification rates to go up.
- We need a new certification management system to support our transition to continuous testing. We expect application volumes to remain steady, customer service calls to go down, and staff to have a more balanced workload.
- We need a new certification management system because our current technology is no longer supported. We expect to be adding new programs and shift staff time from managing the old system workarounds to launching new programs. We need to be fully launched in 12 months.
Step 2: Know Your System Requirements
In selecting a certification management system, begin with understanding your certification process, which will then define your system requirements. Key areas to inventory include:
The initial application process
- What information does the applicant need to submit to meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the exam? Is there more than one eligibility path?
- How does the staff approve the application?
- What are the audit requirements, and how does the staff want to operationalize their audit?
- How is data shared with the exam vendor?
The recertification process
- What information does the certificant need to submit for recertification?
- Do you need to review supporting documentation?
- Does your program review and approve continuing education providers and courses?
- Do you require the CE providers to upload attendance data?
- Do you have a preferred payment gateway, or will you use the vendor’s supported options?
- Do you take third-party payments?
- Do you offer payment discounts, vouchers, bundle program offerings, charge late fees?
- Do you accept foreign currency?
There are various tools you can use to capture and communicate requirements, business process mapping, and user stories. As you go through this process, it will be helpful to the vendors if you are able to build consensus around system requirement priorities.
Are there stakeholders outside of certification with requirements that can influence the system selection?
Step 3: Know Your Team’s Capacity
One of the most common challenges organizations face in both the system selection process and the implementation is allocating staff resources both to the day-to-day operations and rolling out the new system.
In addition to staff availability, you will also need a certain set of skills in communicating requirements, making decisions, providing organization information, and managing the vendor relationship. At a certain point in implementing the new system, your vendor will ask you to accept their delivery. Make sure you have the team in place who is equipped to sign off.
Step 4: Know Your Budget
The budgeting process typically comprises three key components: the short-term implementation cost for the new system, the ongoing cost to maintain and/or expand the system, and the costs associated with system upgrades.
As you are budgeting, you will also need to think of how to free up staff time for implementation and any future staff reallocation due to operational efficiencies gained in the new system.
You may also want to revisit operational revenue opportunities, for example:
- Will the new system make it easier to recertify?
- Will the new system help you add new programs faster?
- Will the new system help you broaden your revenue sources?
Lastly, you may find that your new system gives you new opportunities in other areas. For example, do you have more testing partner options? Can you eliminate another platform (cost) you are using?
Step 5: Know Your Timeline
A timeline typically has a variety of factors in play. These typically include:
- Key operation dates – Application windows, recertification dates, end of current vendor contract, etc.
- Staff “blackout” times – Due to operational workload spikes, other organizational commitments (like conferences or board meetings, holidays, and planned leave).
- Third-party availability – If you integrate with other systems, anticipate additional time for third-party technical support. In our experience, this is the most common cause of delays.
If you have a hard launch date, work backward from that date to your start date, factoring in any periods where the staff may not be available to support your chosen vendor. Give yourself an additional buffer if you have any third-party integrations to schedule.
Step 6: Know Your Evaluation Criteria
We have been surprised (and disappointed) when an organization has been unable to articulate its evaluation criteria in the system selection process. Here is why it is important:
- Forces the team to agree on what is most important before talking with vendors.
- Allows the vendors to self-select out (if they can’t meet the criteria).
- It gives you a framework to evaluate vendor demos and proposals.
It is a considerable investment of time to go through the certification management system selection process for both you and the vendor community. And it can get overwhelming.
The exercise of defining your evaluation criteria will give you a lens through which you can more clearly evaluate the demos and proposals once you are at that stage in the process. Like the organizational goals for a new system, it can help you stay focused on your most important priorities and not get distracted by “that shiny thing” in a system demo.
Lastly, clear evaluation criteria enable you to give a vendor specific and professional feedback in a post-selection debrief on where their proposed solution fell short of the organization’s requirements. They earned it.
Step 7: Prepare What You Are Going to Share With the Vendors
Some might say, “the best certification management system selection process begins with a detailed RFP.”
Personally, I believe we can get to a good portion of organizational/system fit through a high-level conversation, then get into specifics as the “easy stuff” is checked off. By engaging initially with an informal exploratory discussion, maybe an RFI before moving to an RFP will give you a sense of the current technology market and perhaps revisit requirements before a formal RFP.
The preparation you put forward earlier will allow you to be consistent in representing your organization’s requirements, and most of your homework will be done should you publish a more formal RFP.
These seven steps will give you the information you need about your organization to select the best certification management system for your team.
The End of the Best Certification Management System Selection Process: Getting Started With Heuristic Solutions
Heuristic Solutions provides software solutions for certification and licensing boards that improve your process efficiency, reduce staff time, and enhance your brand. To learn more about the best certification management selection process, sneak a peek at one of our webinars and connect with us on our contact page or schedule a meeting with one of our expert team members.