Purchasing the wrong software is one of the most costly mistakes a business can make. From financial costs, to time investment, to reputation and stability – the repercussions are vast and mostly immeasurable, but the impact is huge. In this article we’ll show you how to define your functional requirements and provide a template for evaluating software solutions, to ensure you choose the RIGHT software for your training business.
Training companies are complex with a lot of moving parts and integrating systems. Therefore there is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to software solutions. Accurately defining your unique business requirements up front, and then evaluating software against your prioritized wants and needs, is an essential process of choosing the right solution for your business.
Read on for proven methods to get it right, the first time.
Defining your functional requirements
First up, let’s look at the meaning of functional requirements and a simple, proven way to define these for your business.
Functional requirements define system behavior. These are features you require the product to have, based on a user’s requirements, such as transactions, administration, authentication and certification.
A good template to use for defining your functional requirements is user stories. A user story looks like this: As a <user>, I want <goal> so that <reason>.
When determining your functional requirements you should consider all areas of the business, and the people within those areas who might be using the new software (e.g training management system). Define those key users of the software – training manager, training administrator, presenter, course participant. And then write your stories from the perspective of that person.
Keep the requirements singular. For example, “As a customer I want to register for a course online and pay for credit card” would be split into two requirements: “As as customer I want to register for a course online” and “As a customer I want to pay by credit card”.
Here are some examples of user stories for functional requirements for a training management system:
As a customer, I want to pay by credit card when registering for a course online so that there is no manual invoicing process.
As a training administrator, I want to automatically send confirmation emails to course participants upon registration so that they are provided with up-to-date information.
As a training manager, I want to download a CSV list of participants so that I know who is attending my course.
As a training administrator, I want to add eLearning modules to a course so that we can deliver blended learning.
Once you’ve written out all of your functional requirements you can go through the process of prioritizing them. As not all software will meet all of your functional requirements, you can use your priority system to determine what is a must-have, and what can be sacrificed. This helps you make a decision when comparing solutions.
You can also note down which of these requirements may be able to be fulfilled by an existing piece of software or process (e.g. a finance system). You may be able to fulfill this requirement with an integration. For example, if a training management system does not have the functionality to send invoices to customers (Arlo CAN do this, FYI), then an integration with a finance system such as Quickbooks or Xero may be able to achieve this requirement. From there, you’ll also need to consider what integrations are a requirement for your business – ie. an integration with Quickbooks.
Evaluating software solutions
Great, you’ve established your requirements and their order of priority. You can now explore potential solutions and begin the process of evaluating software.
Safe Beginnings Canada, chose Arlo after months of research and over 30 different software trials. Co-founder Holly Choi started her research by looking at training software on Capterra. She then evaluated each solution against her requirements in a spreadsheet.
“I actually went as far as making a spreadsheet with each of my business’ unique needs as a column, and tracking which software was able to do what. Ultimately, Arlo was the only solution that met all our needs. Every other piece of software was going to result in a lot of compromises that we didn’t feel were worth trading our manual system for.”– Holly Choi, co-founder
Based on the spreadsheet that Holly created for her own training business, we have created a downloadable worksheet. This is a template that is designed to be used in your own training business.
The worksheet includes pre-filled assessment criteria that you can customize to your own needs. As well as in-built formulas to weight your priorities and score each system.
How to use the worksheet:
1. Review the requirements in column A of the Scoring worksheet. Add, delete and rename the requirements to suit your team.
2. In column B, give each requirement an importance weighting from ‘1-Nice to have’ to ‘3-Must have’. These are used in scoring calculations.
3. For each vendor, assess their ability to meet each requirement. Give each a rating between ‘1-Very Poor’ and ‘5-Excellent’
4. At the bottom of the Scoring worksheet you’ll find a summary table – and hopefully a clear winner!
Tip: In the ‘Settings’ worksheet you can adjust the impact of your high to low rating in calculations. For example, changing ‘must haves’ from 3 to 5 points will make these requirements dominate the final scorecard – as you’re increasing their importance weighting.