You will probably include some form of contact with reference sites as part of your evaluation. This may take the form of a questionnaire, a telephone call or a site visit. The value of such references can vary greatly and there are a number of factors you need to consider.
How similar are the reference site’s business processes to your own?
You will probably be looking for contacts within the sector (our willingness to share information is indeed one of our great strengths) but the difference between highly centralised and very devolved processing can be considerable.
What parts of the system is the reference site using?
It is worth checking this out with the reference site beforehand. We are aware of one example where a potential customer was sent by a supplier to see a “flagship implementation” of their new functionality only to find out the user had given up on the supplier’s product and was using an in-house development.
What did the reference site use beforehand?
There can be great differences in user expectations and satisfaction between sites that replace very old or non-automated systems and sites that try to keep at the leading edge of technological developments.
It is also important that you make the right contacts within the reference organisation. You won’t get an end-user perspective on admissions processing from a chief executive nor will you get a view on the company as a business partner from an admissions administrator. Make sure your questions are specific and targeted.