What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
We’re very happy with the relationship. The automations that Emergent Software developed have helped us free up staff members and shift focus to our volunteers and program clients. We were less bogged down with scheduling phone calls and asking reference questions. We’re getting all of those online now.
It’s been great to have a database product that has grown with us as our needs and programs have changed. It’s great to have people on the other side of the line that understand our lingo and what we’re trying to do.
How did Emergent Software perform from a project management standpoint?
There’s an automated helpdesk that we can call from the database itself, but we have a long-lasting working relationship with Emergent Software, so, even if it’s a small issue or request, we’ll oftentimes just go straight to Mark or Nicolette. They’ll advise us or work with their team to make the necessary changes on our behalf.
Because of his new responsibilities, it might take 3–4 days for Mark to get back to us, but he’s typically been very responsive. It used to be that we could schedule calls within the same day. We understand that there’s just less time for us, and it’s not the same as it used to be.
In terms of timelines and deliverables, they’ve always been consistent. If Mark promises to deliver a project by a certain date, he’ll do so. The only issue would be if we made a shift in the customization. We’ll typically discuss the need internally, I’ll write it up and send it to Mark for review, and we’ll get a quote and set up a timeline.
Because we spend a lot of time talking through a customization and its implications, there are typically no delays in development once we commit. We’re willing to pay a bit extra to also have a sandbox environment to test out the customizations without any risk to the production database.
What did you find most impressive about them?
They’ve identified easy-to-use vendors that connect to their platform, allowing outside organizations to start building on their own through those services. The database itself connects to a number of services, including SurveyGizmo and SendGrid, which allows us to automate various tasks.
The services they’ve connected to the database have been easy enough to work with, so we don’t necessarily need the team to make modifications.
Since we’ve made the connection with SurveyGizmo, we’ve been able to create our own surveys and even use it outside of our database for external purposes. Emergent Software is really good at keeping UX top of mind.
Are there any areas they could improve?
While I mentioned that the UX is pretty good, the UI could use a bit of a polish. It’s a bit dated. If someone isn’t trained on it, they may get lost in the ways in which files move through it. It’s okay once we get familiar with it.
One of our initial requests was to spruce up the database, and the Emergent Software team told us that they, unfortunately, couldn’t. We’ve grown accustomed to its look, though.
They’ve always been able to push out new features inside the database, but I personally feel it would be helpful if they had other users come in for feedback. We do it because we have a close relationship with Mark, but I don’t know whether other nonprofit or mentoring organizations using their platform have as much voice as us.
Do you have any advice for future clients of theirs?
The best thing someone can do is set up a time to talk to Emergent Software’s project lead and let them understand what the needs are. Clients should be clear on what their ask is and whether they need any kind of customizations.
They should talk to the internal team before sending out the message, just to make sure they’re using Emergent Software’s time efficiently. I believe they’ll deliver exactly what the client needs, but it’s important to be intelligent in formulating the ask.
Being vague isn’t going to be helpful for anyone. One thing we came to realize is that, even though the team knows mentoring, they won’t necessarily know what our problem or use case is, so having that fleshed out is helpful.