Six Critical Questions to Ensure Your Online Collection Process Has Flexibility
Many associations and meeting professionals seek online solutions to manage their process for collecting final presentations or their “Call for Abstracts” , but moving toward a new solution shouldn’t have to mean changing your process.
Here are the top six questions you should consider when choosing an online collection system that meets your needs:
- Does the online collection system really do what you want it to do? Think about what you are trying to collect and manage and what you are going to use the data and files for. Does the online collection system you’re considering facilitate this, or do you have to compromise your process to match the limited capabilities of the system?
- Can you make the system yours without extra hassle or cost? Some online abstract and presentation collection systems have basic functionality and are locked down where you can’t change the fields you are collecting or alter the process in any fashion. These cookie cutter systems are very rigid with what you can collect. Other collection systems rely on custom programming for any deviations you may have from a “standard” process, and these customizations require extra time and money. Are you going to have to pay for additional custom programming to get the system to behave as you would prefer?In addition, custom programming means your system’s uniqueness may be difficult to keep “bug-free” and challenging for the vendor to manage. Other systems are configurable, where the vendor has tried to think of customers’ various needs and built them into the system where they can be turned on or off. This vendor will typically build in requested functionality you need as long as they feel it will benefit all of their current and future customers.
- How many logins do you need to get the data you need? Because some systems don’t offer the flexibility that is needed, organizations end up having to house their data on more than one system. Not only does this unnecessarily duplicate labor, but it increases your chances to lose data or have outdated information. The better solution is to choose one system where you can access the latest data real time and export it for any additional uses.
- Are you trying to fit a square field into a round form? Some online collection systems are so rigid that you end up having to use fields for a purpose other than they were designed for, such as trying to collect the learning objective in four different fields because the character limit on those fields cannot be changed. Another example might have contributors typing their desired topic instead of choosing from a “drop down” or “pick list” field because you run out of fields. This can cause inconsistencies in your data and is unintuitive.
- Can your system keep up with the times? How flexible is your system after the collection process has begun? In a perfect world, you would know exactly what you want to collect for your final outputs and products. But the unfortunate reality is that sometimes you need more data or reports than you initially anticipated. Find out if the system you might choose allows you to add fields at a later time, after the initial set up. For example, can you send emails from the system asking users to come back to the site to complete additional data?
- Is your system as good as you are at wearing different hats? Another need for flexibility might be for staggered deadlines. Do you have completely different time lines for collecting different presentation types? For example, will you collect oral presentations until March, but accept poster submissions until June? Or do you have different deadlines for when a speaker can add new presentations, edit submitted presentations and withdraw presentations? A flexible system will allow multiple deadlines without making you change your process or simply deal with a system that does not meet your deadline needs.
Bottom Line: Research, Research, Research
When you go to change or enhance your online system for collecting presentations and abstract management, the more research and testing you can do, the better. If you’ve asked all your questions (for a complete list, download our white paper!) and your new system looks flexible enough to meet your needs, you’re likely to feel confident that you’ve made the right decision.
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Nine Considerations for Choosing an Abstract Management System
Chock full of key questions and considerations you should be thinking about when evaluating your call for papers, review and collection system.