15 ‘Must Ask’ Questions For Your Community Engagement Software Supplier

Not all community engagement software suppliers are born equal: A sad, but true, fact of life. There are lots of digital engagement options in the marketplace, but the truth is the vast majority of applications simply do not meet minimum standards for the public sector.

It’s all to easy to get excited about a shiny new toy without doing your due diligence to ensure it meets the minimum standards required by legislation – such as your local versions of the Human Rights Act – or government policy – such as the Web Accessibility guidelines or Website branding guidelines.

Often these questions only come up when it is too late: when you are dealing with a community complaint, or worse, sitting in a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission hearing!

On top of this one needs to consider issues to do with usability, reliability, support, ongoing service and fundamental functional requirements.

What follows is a compilation of the common questions we see in Tender documents from national, state and local agencies.

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘NO’, you need to have a really hard think about why you would still consider using the application.

  1. Is the application compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA?
  2. Has the application been penetration tested to ensure the security of contributors data?
  3. Can the application support SSL for additional security?
  4. Is the application designed to be “responsive” or “mobile first” to reach people when they are away from their desktop computers?
  5. Is the data hosted on servers in your country so that it is subject to local information security legislation?
  6. Do you own the data exclusively (particularly ‘identifying information’ about registered community members), or is the supplier building a database to on-sell your community data?
  7. Can the application be ‘re-branded’ to reflect and support your corporate branding and design guidelines or to match your corporate website look and feel?
  8. Does the supplier provide 24/7 technical support for server issues?
  9. Does the supplier provide 24/7 moderation of community generated content?
  10. Does the supplier provide training and ongoing strategic support (or do they love you a leave you once you’re signed up)?
  11. Does the application have integrated reporting that is relevant for analyzing community engagement or is it reliant on ‘Google Analytics’ (and similar products) and Excel spreadsheets?
  12. Does the application provide a variety of options for gathering community generated content in both qualitative and quantitative formats that support your face-to-face engagement methodology?
  13. Can the application be managed on a day-to-day basis without continuous support by the vendor (or will you need to contact them every time you need to make a change)?
  14. Does the application have an API to facilitate integration with your other systems?
  15. Is it possible to limit visibility of a particular project to a restricted list of people, or one or more email domain, for example, to engage with a focus group?

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