You finally have approval to start looking for a new community platform! Exciting times are ahead. Your management understands the importance of having technology that will make the lives of your customers, employees and/or partners easier. So what now?
How do you make sure you pick the right technology for your organization's needs?
- If you currently have a community platform and it’s not adequate, make sure you list out what’s missing and critical. Sort by “absolutely essential” and “nice to have”. What do you like about it? Make sure you write those down too. There’s nothing worse than losing an important feature because you thought it was “table stakes” and “the other platforms should have it.”
- Put the objectives of your community front and center. The technology has to align with meeting the goals. Although technology alone won’t do it for you, it’s critical that it doesn’t get in your way either.
- Make a list of all the people, departments and roles that will be working directly with the platform. What are their goals? What tools do they currently use for their jobs? Is there anticipated changes or new technologies that will come into play? Meet with them to understand their concerns and expectations.
- Make a list of all the managers and executives that will want to see the results from the community. Ask them what kind of information they are looking for: think about KPIs, Customer Satisfaction Ratings, Employee Engagement, NPS, etc. Meet with them to make sure you understand their expectations.
- Bring IT and Operations to the table and figure out what their concerns are with the new platform. Make sure you address those from the get go by getting their requirements. Will you need their help in deploying the selected solution? Think about the flow your intended audience would have to interact with your community (SSO from your product, LMS, CRM, etc).
- Define a list of requirements - or better yet, download our new community requirements RFP document. It details out every important benefit/feature that needs to be in the technology to ensure it will meet your needs, ensure that you aren’t blindsided by missing important features and addresses all the security and IT concerns.
- Build a vendor short-list - keep it fairly tight. Too many and you’ll be overwhelmed by sales processes. A great way to build the list is by a) looking to your competitors - what platforms are they using? What’s great about their communities? What’s not so good that you would like to do better? b) Look at 3rd-party review websites like G2Crowd, GetApp and others. c)Turn to your peers, what platforms do they use?
- Compare the vendors side-by-side based on the requirements list. Prioritize the features/benefits that really matter to you. Use this list to make sure vendors don’t try to convince you that what matters to you isn’t important if it doesn’t line up with their offering.
Selecting the right vendor is an important decision, particularly if you are moving off a legacy or home-grown system. Making sure you’ve got all your bases covered will make your vendor selection process easier.
Get our free Community Platform Requirements Checklist (RFP) - an editable Excel spreadsheet you can use to compare vendors side by side.
This practical requirements checklist covers 100+ specific features and functionality that organizations should looking for in an online community platform.