Sitting down and researching nursery management softwares out there on the market today can get overwhelming. Questions like: “Which features are valuable for my business?” and “How easy will it be for my staff to use?” may be running amok in your head. And that is totally understandable! You need to choose a nursery management software and you want to do it right.
With companies such as Connect Childcare, eyLog, Famly, Parenta and Blossom Educational on the market today, you may not know where to start! From our own experience of operating a group of nurseries ourselves- and speaking with our customers, we’ve broken it down into 10 steps to provide helpful insight in your decision-making. Hopefully, we’ve made the whole process a little faster.
The first step to choosing your software is to set distinct goals that you want the tech to achieve. This can be goals for the children, parents or for the business side of your nursery. Take some time to do this and ask staff what they would like to get out of it as well. Think about how integrated you need the system to be. Must it handle the entirety of your nursery or just the finances? This will help you zero in on the important stuff.
You may find that, as you explore the systems on offer, you add more goals later as some features have inspired you. Or maybe you didn’t know that such features or functions even existed in nursery management software! We have come a long way since First Steps…
Now that you have your goals in mind, it is also valuable to spend time thinking about what are your deal-breakers. If you know, for example, that it is imperative for the software to handle invoicing, then softwares that do not offer this can be ruled out.
This is a biggie. You don’t want to end up with a software that offers valuable features but it’s too clunky or difficult to use. You want a software that is modern as older systems prove more difficult to use. Ask yourself the question: Will everyone on my staff be able to use this? If the answer is yes, you’ve found your match. And if not, the search continues. The best way to do this is to request a demo of the platform. This is an excellent route to actually seeing how the software works, and if it is user-friendly.
For your parents, what value will the software offer them? Is there an easy-to-use Parent App/portal that provides crucial info? How will it improve their experience of your nursery? You want your software to help get parents more involved in their child’s life- particularly with their time spent at your nursery. This can help boost your reputation and may even be a deciding factor for prospective parents. If they see that your nursery actively uses systems to improve their child’s life, they are more likely to join.
We did not put pricing first, because while we all have budgets to stick to, there is no point in choosing a software only because of price. What will your business achieve if you can afford the software but it doesn’t perform the tasks you need? Put plainly, that is a waste of money and time – two points that you are most likely looking to save.
Do your research beforehand. Most, if not all, nursery management software companies are open about their pricing packages on their websites. Take a look so that you have a ball-park figure of what you are willing to spend. It’s important to be reasonable. You can’t be considering spending £50 per year and expecting to get a bucket load of services and features. Unfortunately, a package like that does not exist.
One way to look at it is to think: affordability versus long-term gain. By this we mean considering the return on investment by purchasing a nursery management software. The software you are considering buying will speed up time-consuming tasks (such as recording child observations) and therefore will end up saving you money in the long term. This can apply to every aspect of your nursery – depending on what the software can do. So what may look like a large sum at first, may end up saving you three times that amount in the long run.
This circles back to your price research. Some providers charge extra set up fees and/or expensive training sessions. Considering that there is no getting around having the system set up and needing your staff (and you) to be properly trained to use it, this is where the costs can add up. So if the provider you are considering has a low annual fee, do not forget to check the training and set up costs. We recommend sitting down, whipping out the calculator and actually doing the maths. This way you will know for certain what your actual costs are. Better safe than sorry.
When you are weighing up nursery management softwares, consider what value as a whole does the software company offer your nursery. Check out their blog posts and social media pages to see what the company is communicating about the industry. Do they actually provide industry insight or are they only pushing marketing their system? During your demo this would be a good question to ask well. Ask your demo-doer to send you some examples of downloadable resources or interesting content for you to look at later.
Why is this important if they offer good software, you may ask. You want your software provider to be in the know. In fact, if they have any EE specialists or practitioners on the team that’s fantastic. And if the software owns and operates their own group of nurseries- well all the better! The more they understand the industry, chances are the better software features and general service they will provide. If they understand what your needs are as a nursery manager and/or owner, and understand what current topics/issues you are dealing with, they can offer better support to help your business.
That brings us to the next point: do they regularly update their system? You want to make sure that your provider updates their software fairly frequently. This will most likely improve your user experience of the software if the provider often improves its system. On top of this, it shows you that:
Finding out what the consensus is for the nursery management software you are interested in is another good step. If somebody already uses the provider you like and has an issue with them- you want to know. More importantly, you want to see what people are raving about.
Chat to other nursery managers about what systems they use (and if they’re happy with them). Take some time to read the reviews online about the provider. You could also check out Facebook groups and online discussion forums to see what members of the sector are saying. When looking at reviews, be sure to ask about the provider’s customer service. What is it like? Helpful? Friendly? Attentive? These are reviews you are looking for. You want to make sure that they don’t drop you once they have your billing info.
You can find the best nursery management software out there, but it won’t be any good if the providers do not offer proper support and training. You do not want a provider to have the attitude of once the sale is closed that is the end, and goodbye to you. Remember, if you are switching from another provider, your staff needs time to adjust to the new system. And they need training on how to get the most out of it. If you are switching over from paper, you may require even more attentive support. We’re not judging your tech-abilities here – just speaking from experience!
This is a lot of information to digest! We realise that and do not worry. You’ve already taken this first step to finding your ideal provider. What to do now? Take some time to let it all mull over and mostly importantly – start writing down those nursery management software goals. Remember if you have any questions (even after a demo with a prospective provider) do not be afraid to pick up the phone or pop them an email. Chances are they will be more than happy to assist you (and if they don’t you can probably go ahead and scratch them off your list).