Scared to ask for help? Or perhaps not confident in your own ability? If you're not sure if a tech consultant is necessary for your new grants or scholarship management platform purchase, read on.
Expanding your tech stack -- or creating it from scratch for that matter -- is an exciting but often overwhelming process. Getting a real grip on what you want and what all the software solutions on the markets today can offer can be a lot to handle. So it’s no surprise that many organizations hire consultants to partner with them on such projects. Of course, working with a consultant is an additional expense and, often, time consuming. When is it the right way to go?
If you are looking for a new platform to help you run your grants management or scholarship management process, take these ideas into consideration:
1. The complexity of your program’s process
Before deciding to hire a tech consultant, you and the senior leaders of your team should have an understanding of the complexities of your technology programs and where you’re looking to go. You’ll want to answer these basic questions:
What technology solutions are you currently using?
How clean and up-to-date is your data?
Who uses your software on a regular basis?
What’s your budget -- for both the software and a consultant?
Do you know what type of features you want/need?
If answering these questions is difficult, then a consultant might be a good person to have on your team, as they can objectively look at your current process and platform, your goals, and connect all the dots. Consultants are often well versed on new features, best practices, and emerging trends, too, and might help you improve your process as part of the project.
On the other hand, if you know exactly what pains you about your current process or platform, the features you want from a new platform, and the budget you have to make it happen, your team should be able to review demos and weight the pros and cons of each option independently.
2. The number of integrations needed
This might sound scary, but it’s something you’ll definitely want to consider when you weigh your decision on hiring a tech consultant. This recent post goes into more detail on integrations and why they are important. If you hire a tech consultant, you’ll want to make sure they are familiar integrating the systems that are right for your organization, whatever they might be. Depending on the scope of your project, hiring someone who has experience developing or managing API integrations, solution design, technical process documentation, and audits are valuable skills to look for.
3. Data migrations
Data migration can be tedious and lengthy. But a consultant with data migration experience can provide a lot of value here. Before getting started, determine exactly which type of data you need to move. For example, you might need donor data like contact information and giving histories, the profiles of awardees from the past five or so years, or all of your historical data for reporting purposes.
A tech consultant could also play a valuable role in helping you clean up your data before a migration, helping to remove any duplicate data or information no longer applicable. They can also bring value to the process by helping you document a plan for how data should be captured and updated in the future to best fit your organization’s goals.
In addition to a consultant, consider appointing someone from your team to take the lead on data migration. For a large enough data migration, this team member could work closely with your consultant to develop timelines, communicate updates to the larger team and organization, and create data standards for the future.
4. The tech savviness of your staff
Are you and your team familiar with onboarding new platforms? Do you understand how implementations and trainings work? Are you comfortable working in new systems? Then with the help of your new platforms implementation team, you should be fine. If you have an internal IT team, even better, as you have backup knowledge and assistance to lean on.
However if you are often overwhelmed by new platforms and have little to no internal IT resources, a consultant with a solid tech background can be a helpful player.
In the meantime if your organization struggles with adopting new technology, start by building a more tech-focused culture. This might include training your internal staff on new technologies and making sure new hires go through a robust onboarding process that includes hand-on training. Avoid making technology decisions for your organization in a vacuum. Ideally, key players from all aspects of your organization should be included in the demos and decision-making process for new technology. That way you’ll ensure you have the needs of the full organization and ultimately internal buy-in of new technology.
A quick recap....
A consultant may be a helpful if:
You should be fine on your own if:
You want to overhaul your grant or scholarship's full process
You are unsure what features you want/need
You are unfamiliar with how cloud-based technology works and is managed
You need a lot of possibly complex integrations set up
You require a large amount of data migration
You know the data you want to collect and manage, and the KPIs you want to report on
You have a wish list of features and functions
You are comfortable learning about and being trained on new software
You don't need integration, or you know exactly what data you want to share with what systems
You are coming from a paper-based process, or are migrating clean data
Think a consultant would be helpful for your team? We work with a number of pretty great ones -- let us know if you'd like an intro!