I asked each of our three finalists to answer questions about the strength of their company and the direction of their products. HDC is a large operation, and the investment we will place in software goes far beyond the costs charged by the vendor. I expect that we will invest significant hours/days/weeks in design and implementation, significant time in data conversion, and a massive investment in training our staff. Beyond the staff, we have volunteers to educate about the use of the system, our people to train in using the check-in and web functions, and cultural and procedural shifts that will accompany something of this scope.
In short, I don't want to get this one wrong.
I want to be sure that the company we choose will be around in a five years. I also want to be sure the product won't be abandoned, and I want to know what the future plans are for it. I won't share these responses with you, because they are too confidential for a public forum such as this, but I will give you my questions:
(1) What is your largest church. How many people records do they have in their database?
Who do I contact to ask about the database?
(2) Please provide me with contact info for a forward thinking church of about 4000 weekly that uses your solution.
(3) Please provide me with list of ten references other than the two above.
(4) What is your "signature church?" In other words, what church do you believe uses your solution more effectively than any other?
Who do I talk to at that church?
(5) What is the single strongest selling point for your solution?
(6) Why should I choose your product over the others in this comparison?
(7) What does the development roadmap look like over the next year?
(8) Is your company profitable?
(9) How many people are on your development team?
Tech support team?
Any unique positions that you feel set your company apart from the others?
What is the total staff size of the company?
(10) How many total churches are using the product?
(11) What are the technical details of the backend?
What SQL database?
What other technologies is the product based on (php, .net, ajax etc.)?
(12) Please explain to me, in detail, the setup and conversion process. If I signed a contract with your company on September 8, what would the process look like from there?
(13) Our current database is Roll Call.
How much of our data can we expect to carry over from Roll Call?
Is the responsibility on me to figure out how to export or data or will your team work on our database directly?
We are operating under the assumption that all of our data (name, address, phone, email, group membership, keywords, attendance data, confidential comments, contributions, etc.) is valuable unless proven otherwise. We are willing to pay extra to facilitate this conversion properly, but we'd need a quote. We currently have 24354 people records, 12650 addresses, 136791 donations.
Have you done a Roll Call conversion before?
Please give me a contact name & number for the church as I'd like to ascertain their view of the conversion process.
(14) How will our online giving and event registration be processed?
What is the fee schedule for online giving, registration etc.
(15) Please explain where my data will be located.
How often is it backed up?
How far back is the data kept?
Is there offsite backup in a city/region other than the primary one in which my data is located?
How often is that offsite backup updated?
(16) What is the annual cost for my database at 3900 weekly adult attendance (which is our current average for September '07 through August '08),
6000, 7000, 8000, 9000 and 10,000 weekly?
(17) Please explain how customers can extend your product.
Is there an API?
What does that API cover?
What are some ways your customers have used that power to do creative and unique things with your database?
What is in place to allow customers to share those tools that are developed?
(18) Is there a method for us to get direct read access (for pure SQL queries and such) to our data, or a very recent copy of our data?
(19) Please detail the technical requirements for a checkin station: processor, ram, hd space, version of windows (or better yet, linux or mac os) required, label printer (and average cost), screen resolution, can it utilize a touch screen, does it require a keyboard, does it require a mouse, and anything else of note.
(20) Does the checkin continue to function if our internet connection goes down?
(21) Please describe what security is in place to protect our data from hackers.
(22) Please describe what method is used to insure that separate users do not simultaneously edit the same record, or if they can, what is in place to protect against data corruption?
(23) Is there an online community of users for your product?
Please provide me with a login to peruse the members area of the community.
(24) What are the tech support hours?
How do I get ahold of someone if there appears to be a significant problem on a weekend?
How do you troubleshoot speed issues with clients?
(25) Does the database have any provision for login from "lite" internet devices, such as an iphone for on the go access to data?
(26) Is there an LDAP server providing our mail clients the ability to search our database to address an email?
These questions are general in nature, but will help me understand the companies better as we look at this with a long term view. These are only one part of the analysis. I'll share the other parts with you in another post.