Buying your next system

How to run a successful procurement process and choose the right solution for your organisation

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Changing the software you rely on for ticketing, marketing and fundraising is a big decision.

Getting that decision right can unlock huge potential for your organisation, your customers and your staff. It's likely that you won’t change again for at least a few years, so getting it wrong can be a costly hassle.

Use this guidance to design a procurement process that leads you to an efficient, informed and straightforward choice.

ASSESS YOUR CURRENT POSITION

Before you can take the first step on a journey, you need to understand where you're coming from.

Talk to colleagues and audiences to understand what they love, what they rely on, and what they’d love to improve.

Define what ‘system’ means in your organisation

Although usually referred to as the ‘ticketing system’ or ‘box office system’, your existing system is likely to be used by marketers, fundraisers, general managers and operations teams. Who are the key stakeholders who need to have a say in your process?

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Understand your current provider contract

Many system providers will ask you to commit to a minimum term, ranging from 12 months up to multiple years. Your contract expiry date will define your timeline for a procurement, so make plans early to give yourself the time you need.

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Establish your approach to software procurement

If you’re a privately run company, you may be able to design your own process. If your organisation is a charity, part of local government, an academic institution or receives full or part public funding, you may be required to run a competitive tendering process. Determining this early will save you considerable effort later.

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Learn what is important to your customers

Are there particular bugbears that your customers raise with you about the booking process? Perhaps your booking facilities for classes and courses aren’t up to scratch compared to performances? Consider consulting with some of your customers, or using software to monitor online behaviours and sticking points, to understand their requirements.

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Making the decision to move

Before you spend any further time thinking about systems, your organisation should commit to the project. You may have decided your organisation needs to change systems, but has your executive leadership team? If you are in a leadership role, has your team accepted that a review may lead to a change in systems?

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Bring your team together

We’ve helped 550+ organisations change systems. Drawing on our experience, these are our top tips for forming a project team.

  • Form a cross-department team with representatives from each relevant area of your organisation.
  • Make sure daily system users like box office staff are included, as well as those who use the system less intensively but rely on it just as much, such as fundraisers and front of house teams.
  • Think about every aspect of your audience journey from ticket purchase to event. Is everyone involved in delivering that experience represented on your team?
  • Ensure you include at least one person from your leadership team who can advocate for change on your behalf to your board and other decision makers.
  • If you know of a colleague who's concerned about the possibility of change, consider asking them to be on the team so they feel fully involved.
An illustration of a large tree with deep roots

Keep colleagues informed

Once you’re confident you can move ahead with a process and have your team in place, think about how you can keep everyone else who will be affected by the project informed.

We recommend:

  • Giving a short update once a month at an all-staff meeting or similar gathering.
  • Creating a short, internal newsletter with details of the process and who is involved.
  • Creating a simple page on your staff intranet with a summary of current events and the team involved.
  • Creating opportunities for other colleagues to ask questions about the process and the options being considered. If you use an instant messaging service like Slack or MS Teams, you could create an ‘ask us anything’ channel for this purpose.