Shopping for a new school management platform is a research-intensive process. You can’t just implement the first solution you find; you need to evaluate multiple vendors to find the right solution for your school’s unique needs.  

What determines “the right solution” for your school? While it usually comes down to features and functionality, pricing and contract terms are two equally important considerations. Keep reading to learn five questions you should ask every vendor during the software evaluation process — including your current provider. 

Software Evaluation Process 

Before we get to the questions, let’s back up. One of the first steps in the software evaluation process is to assess your current solution and identify any pain points or gaps. This insight will help you prioritize the right features in your new solution. Once you have a good idea of your software requirements, budget, and ideal transition timeline, you can begin to evaluate vendors. 

Some schools craft a formal request for proposal (RFP) and invite vendors to respond. Others forgo the RFP and rely on client references and product demonstrations to survey the options. Whichever evaluation method you choose, be as specific as possible with your questions to potential vendors. You want to get as much information as you can up front and eliminate any surprises down the road.  

Chances are, you can rattle off a dozen (or more) questions about database architecture, data privacy and security, and integration opportunities. And while yes, those items can make or break your selection, don’t forget to ask the tough questions about software pricing and renewal terms. Too many schools get locked into a contract without realizing it auto renews, or experience sticker shock with an unexpected price increase. 

Software Pricing Terms 

Your school management platform is likely one of the largest technology expenses at your school — make sure you won’t be surprised with a substantial price increase in year two or three of your contract. Here are two questions to help you get ahead of any unexpected fees. 

“What is the percentage rate increase each year upon renewal?” 

Most software vendors increase their prices slightly each year to account for new features, add-ons, or economic trends. That said, a price jump of ten percent or more can be a huge red flag (and a huge hit to your budget). 

Ask your current or potential software vendor what their typical rate increase is each year. This will give you an idea of what to expect upon renewal and help you budget accordingly. 

“How soon will we be notified of any changes to this pricing model?” 

Any changes to your software pricing should be shared with you well in advance and spelled out for clarity. You should never be caught off guard with an immediate price change or little warning. The best software partners provide a long runway with multiple touch points to communicate the change ahead of time. 

Ask your current or potential software vendor to state in writing what the notification timeline looks like. Keep track of their response and reference it if any surprises come up later.  

Software Renewal Terms 

Before you sign a new vendor contract, it’s important to think through all the possibilities. What happens if you’re unhappy with the new solution and need to terminate the agreement? How will you be notified of impending renewals or contract extensions? Use these three questions as a helpful guide.  

“What is your notification schedule for when we’re coming up on renewal?” 

As a valued customer, your software vendor should give you ample warning about service renewal or expiration. You should never be surprised by a contract renewal.  

Ask your current or potential vendor what the notification timeline looks like for renewing your contract. Mark the date in your calendar and make sure you’re involved in the renewal process. 

“How many years is the automatic renewal term?” 

Some vendors include automatic renewals in their contracts. These may come with certain benefits like a lower price increase upon renewal. Just make sure not to forget about the auto renew — some vendors will lock you into multiple year terms. 

Read the fine print and ask your current or potential vendor about any possible auto renewals before you sign on the dotted line. If you happen to forget about an impending renewal, you shouldn’t have to pay the price for more than another year. 

“If applicable, how soon before renewal do I need to give you notice that we’re not renewing?” 

Even though you (hopefully) won’t have to switch vendors again anytime soon, in the future you will be thankful you asked this question.  

Find out how much advanced notice your vendor needs before you stop service. Additionally, ask them if there’s a certain protocol you need to follow to officially conclude your contract. This will give you peace of mind and help ensure a smooth transition to your next school management platform.  

Next Steps 

Whether you’re content with your current vendor or you’re shopping around for a new solution, it’s always a good idea to review your contract and know your exact terms. We hope these questions help you narrow down your list of potential vendors and find the right software partner for your school. 

Not sure where to begin? We’d love to assist. Veracross is the trusted school management platform for 500+ schools around the world. We prioritize transparency in everything we do, including our contract terms and pricing. Contact us to learn more about our software packages for private and independent K-12 schools.