Scheduling System Research Tips

What To Consider While You Shop for On-Site Interpreter Management Software:

The old adage of you get what you pay for is especially true in the language service business.  Government, healthcare, social services and legal customers are continually demanding higher quality oversight of your workforce at lower fees.  As a matter of survival, language service providers must find new ways to save money and efficiently and effectively deliver the service.

In today’s language management market there is a variety of interpreter scheduling solutions available. Listed below are some important factors to consider while shopping for this critical piece of your language agency’s data management infrastructure.  Once you make the choice it is very time consuming and expensive to change software platforms and start over

1). Costs - What are the TOTAL costs of the software per month when fully rolled out to your users?  Are there any hidden costs for support or increased usage over time?  Does the software vendor seek a percentage of your receivables?

Knowing the total costs up front can make the difference between spoken language and American Sign Language interpreter management systems that appear reasonable in the beginning, however, can quickly exceed your budget when fully integrated into your business operations.  Can you reasonably build your business while holding down and predicting costs of using this 3rd party scheduling, dispatch, billing and reporting solution?

2). Security (HIPAA compliance) - How does the software vendor ensure that Personally Identifiable Health Information (PHI) is protected? Do they have a HIPAA compliance audit? If you are managing patient information your organization is responsible for securely maintaining PHI according to health IT standards and best business practices.  Interpreting agencies deal with high stakes personally identifiable patient information every day.  Your interpreters and requestors must be allowed to securely manage their account with your agency at all points of the interpreting encounter lifecycle, while always safeguarding data according to industry standards.  HIPAA requires a documented a data security policy.  Do they have one they can share with you?

3). Documentation and User Guides - Do they document their software? Do they have a User’s Guide that you, your interpreters and your customers can use for reference? Can you get a copy of it?  Is it available online anytime and every time you access the services?  Can you quickly search for answers you need explained in clear and concise English?

4). Customizations - How easy is it to make changes if you want the system to do something it currently doesn’t do?  How expensive is it to change something, or to get a new report interface?

5). Upgrades - What version of the software are they running? Has it been through a series of improvements over time, or is it  the same version they have been selling for years.  How many versions and upgrades have they delivered and how did new functionality get discovered and trialed? 

6). Depth of the Solution, Does it Capture Your Business Reality? – Unique billing permutations, unusual scheduling scenarios, customer variants by industry, type of appointment, time of day, geography, interpreter qualifications add up to a very complex environment that over time, simple capture of date time and location data will be insufficient for most agencies. Have the software engineers profoundly understood the unique workflows and business rules of our just-in-time language staffing industry?  Is the solution big enough to grow with you out of the box, or will new business demands outlive the software’s usefulness to deliver the data how and when you need it?

7). Plug-Ins – Does the software have a painless and efficient manner to communicate with your accounting software?  Can you download reports into MS Excel of PDF files effortlessly?  Can interpreters access business-class mapping software?  Can your agency accounting department quickly track accurate travel time and mileage based upon a reliable industry-leading 3rd party interface?

8). Customer Support - How do they support the software? Do they have a dedicated 24/7/365 support staff that you can call when you don’t know how to do something you need to do? Ask them to send you the resumes and other credentials of their support staff.  Will you connect with someone who can help you with your issue when you need it, or will you have to wait for an e-mail response when they get around to it?

9). Who is the Software Company? - How long have they been in business?  Do they have a physical location?  Why did they select interpreter scheduling software as a service? Is it their core industry or an ancillary service they are adding on to other scheduling products for other industries, like plumbers, housekeepers, and window washers?  Do they understand the nuances of face-to-face interpreting services?  How have they incorporated feedback from interpreters, requesters of interpreting services, and agency management as part of their improvement cycle?  Is their parent company interested in more than just your monthly fees?

10). Cancellation Policy - If you don’t like the software, how do you get your data back? What is their cancellation policy?  Is there a long-term contract you are locked into that is expensive to cancel before the term expires?

11). Data Storage and Back-Ups - Precisely how do they back up data to a secure and safe location (remember HIPAA requires that patient data cannot be stored off-shore)? Is your data stored in a U.S. based co-location facility with acceptable best business practices for data security, bandwidth and redundancy of hardware and Internet connectivity?  How do they store your critical data? Where is it located? Can they ensure data security, and by what protocols? They need to give you a complete technology and security rundown, because you will be running your entire back office and financials on their platform.

12). Licensing Agreement – Do they have reasonable deal points detailed in their contract?

13).  Insurance - Can they provide you with certificates of insurance and a physical business location?  Do they have a DUNS number, a Federal Tax ID?  Where are they incorporated?

14). Personnel - How many people work for the organization?  What is their background?  Are they qualified to deliver what they are promising?  Do they have professional support personnel that can provide immediate support when local resources are exhausted or unavailable?  Can you get a copy of the resumes of their support and technical staff?  What do they know about the interpreting business?

15). Service Level Guarantee - Can they provide you with a Service Level guarantee?  That is, how often does the site go down and prevent you from accessing your data and critical scheduling workflow?  Has a reputable 3rd party verified their data delivery infrastructure?  Can you get a visual depiction of their servers and security architecture?

16). Customer Referrals - Can their current clients’ interpreter schedulers and financial staff vouch for the ease of use and high volume capabilities? Can you get the names and numbers of their satisfied customers?  Do they have testimonials from their current clients?

17). Reliability - Does it do well what it is supposed to do over and over again, in ever increasing volumes?  Software can only work when daily users are happy with the workflows and capabilities of the platform. 

A Final Note:  Remember this decision is far too important to rely solely on price or a pretty interface to get the job done.  Finding an interpreting scheduling platform may be the single most important business decision your organization  makes.  The scheduling and interpreter management system you eventually choose will be used every day, many times a day for a long time by potentially thousands of customers, requesters, interpreters and agency employees. Research carefully, ask questions, and demand to see verifiable evidence of what interpreter management software service providers promise you over the phone or via their websites.   So in the words of the famous Jedi Master Yoda, “Choose wisely you must!”

What To Consider While You Shop for Interpreter Management Software.