I've been at this now for over 15 years. Believe it or not - often times, I still wake up in the morning thinking about the innovative ways we help and can be helping our clients.
Today, more than ever it does seem like there are more companies popping up that offer software for caseworkers. So, what it is that makes FAMCare different. What is unique about our software?
Is it a fair statement to say that all that matters IS the software? Is the product all that really matters when making a buying decision or investing in a software solution like FAMCare?
Enter the Success Triangle
What is the Success Triangle - > People, Process, Product. Each have equal prominence as the sides of a triangle. If this were a stool - each would represent a leg on a three legged stool where all three must be part of your consideration when placing your trust in a consultant. The stool needs all three legs to exist. All three should guide whom you hire and ultimately your buying decision. Most agencies who are out there looking for a solution have their primary focus on the software itself... but, it's not about the software really.
Sure - the software is the vehicle to get you better data and workflow... but software alone doesn't solve your problem(s). In fact - software represents about 30-40% of the solution. In the Social Services world - the software will not install itself or configure itself. The software can't read your mind. The software can't collect data without your help. The software cannot correlate specific reports without someone's guidance. I can go on and on here. Is the software important? Absolutely. But your decision to invest in software should be based on a combination of factors. The Success Triangle is a great tool to use when evaluating buying decisions.
At the end of the day - some software can be viewed as a commodity. Over the last 2 years the Feds have granted funding for projects in the human services industry and as a result, new alternative software options to help manage case work have been introduced into the market. Many promise to do a lot of things. Some deliver, some do not. Most handle case management functions, but offer nothing new to the marketplace.
For some industries this is a great thing. But for human services industry - it's made the software landscape confusing for many buyers. How does each one work? What functions does each one have? Which one do you choose? How many do you need to look at before you can decide?
In an environment with so many software options - are there any other important factors to consider BEFORE asking your board to invest in new software?
What's Important To You?
When looking for new software, you really need to start here. What's important to you? What's the priority? Do you want good software or a good vendor or both? My guess is that you want the best of both. Or, is PRICE the driving factor?
Unfortunately, I've seen many agencies look for the cheapest option, without any consideration being placed on other factors such as vendor vs. consultant or partner, or the future exandability or configurability of the software. They want it. They want it now. They want it cheap.
When buying new software - you can buy software that is ready-made, off the shelf and that doesn't need configuring or customizing to make it work. Or you can buy a platform created to work for your industry and that can also be tailored or configured to include specific things that you need based on how you work and serve your clients.
What About the Tools?
In the social services industry - I have yet to come across a tool that answers every question for everyone in social services. So as a "technologist" in this space - over the years we've had a few options to consider when designing and upgrading FAMCare: we could've created a tool that would be flexible enough to expand into any area of human and social services and scalable enough to meet the needs of agencies big and small OR we could've made a simple application that would work for one agency type, say foster care. However, our vision did not lend itself to just one agency discipline. We wanted to create a case management solution that could work for all agencies - no matter if they served families, children or adults. As a result - we chose flexibility and scalability as the two main factors behind the development of FAMCare.
But, today - the one significant factor that makes FAMCare different than all of the other case management solutions - FAMCare leverages GVT's proprietary software development engine, the Visions Server (VS).
If your software plan is to have a system tailored for your specific needs and agency workflow - there is no better tool on the market today for rapid and "safe" customizations than our Visions Server suite of development tools. So what about the tools? What's most important to you? I leave you with a few things to consider.
What About the Company?
Software aside - what about the company? There are three things that always stick out in my mind when it comes to investing in a software solution or any large purchase for that matter. (1) Does the vendor just sell stuff or are they a consultant who can guide me on best practices, help me with decisions, have my best interest at heart and protect me when things go awray and they will :-) ? (2) Do they have a track record of success, meaning - can you interview a few of their customers (who you can relate to) so that you can begin to visualize your journey based on what they say (and not based on what the vendor says)? (3) Do they have the right people on their bus who can serve your needs, present and future and can they do it timely?
What About the People?
What about the people? As a company in this space - our hiring choices have been very clear: we could've hired people from the social services industry such as former MSW's and case workers who understand the inefficiencies of case management and who can help bring solutions and creative ideas to our software design team to help other caseworkers... OR hire we could've hired just "anyone"... any client service person would do, a body to answer the phones and reply to email. At GVT, we put a lot of emphasis on getting the right people to join our team. We've hired and strategically placed consultants with experience in social work and former caseworkers to help align your mission with our software. The right people help fill in the pieces to our operational puzzle, however with a focus on YOU, your work, your productivity, your protection and your success.
What About the Process?
How important is the process that is followed to implement your new software? How important is it to know that the implementer of your solution has implemented hundreds of software systems for clients from many different backgrounds (foster care, aging, juvenile justice, disabled, domestic violence, etc.,). And by implemented I mean - be with you, in the trenches, learning about why and how you do what you do - so that they can configure the software to have the biggest impact on your productivity and client outcomes. Behind every successful implementation is a process, a proven process that mitigates risk and optimizes each opportunity for success. How a partner helps you manage the software, manage your time, teaches you, coaches you, supports you... should impact your decision to choose one solution over another.
AS someone who makes large purchases on software to help me do the things that I do at GVT - the success triangle (people, process and product) is always the foundation behind my decision (and probably in that specific order).
- How "strong" is the team? Do they "know" me? Can they relate to my work, what I do and my industry? Can they help guide me on the best way to see the greatest impact and results? Can they help me avoid mistakes or eliminate tasks that impact my productivity? Do I feel protected?
- How "solid" is their process? Is it proven? How can I find out? What are their implementation timelines? Do they help mitigate my risk? Do they help me with change management?
- How has the software worked for others? Are there case studies I can read or videos I can watch? Is there a visible track record I can review? Can I speak with references?
At the end of the day - this 3 part system has never failed me.
Good luck on your next purchase!