Features vs Functionality: How to accurately compare software systems (Free Template)

If you’re in the market for boarding management software, it’s important that you don’t just dive into the first one you see or commit to a software product just because it boasts your checklist of features.

When it comes to school software, making the wrong decision can be a very costly mistake. Not only would you have lost a lot of time, money and resources implementing the wrong system, you’d also have to go through the long budget and board process again to switch systems.

Needless to say, the costs involved can be quite significant, but the thing is that this is 100% avoidable.

How?

By properly comparing the different systems and choosing the one that best fits your need.

The problem with checking features:

Relying on a checklist of features is like looking at a car, seeing that it has 4 wheels, an engine, electric windows and a bunch of other cool features, and purchasing it without taking it for a proper test drive.

It looks good on paper but when you actually drive the car you might notice that the electric windows don’t work, the body kit is made of cheap plastic or even worse, there’s a major engine fault.

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Checklists can give you a false impression of a product’s functionality

The same principle applies to software. While some software providers will deliver high quality features that offer a lot of value, others may cut corners and only provide minimal functionality just so they can check boxes.

So it’s important to remember that just because a product checks all the boxes on paper, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work well in practice. To avoid any costly mistakes, make sure you take it for a test drive and check if those features are actually Functional.

Features vs Functionality:

Features are the “tools” you use within a system to complete a set of tasks or actions. Functionality is how those features actually work to provide you with a desired outcome.

For example, a basic requirement for most boarding schools is the ability to customise leave types. In this case, “custom leave types” is the feature, and the process/level of customisation is the functionality.

Some providers may only offer basic customisation options while other vendors may offer advanced options like assignments, terms and conditions, workflows and rules.

When you start to think about functionality, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of what the system can actually do instead of what it says it can do. This will put you in a better position to decide which system will be able to provide you with the most value.

How to measure functionality:

We use many different kinds of software products at Boardingware and have had to perform our own functionality assessments to make sure we choose the right one. Here’s our step by step process that you can also use when considering software for your boarding school:

  1. Prioritise your requirements

    Create a list of all the requirements and functions you need to solve your problems with boarding management. Then prioritise them according to the value they will bring to your boarding operations.

    This will allow you to focus more on the features and functions that will make the biggest difference and help you to visualise which system will be able to provide you with the most value.

  2. Get a Free Trial

    Most software providers will offer a free trial period where you can properly test and evaluate the effectiveness of each feature. And if you have an organised list of functional requirements to test, you’ll be able to make the most of your trial instead of just trying random features here and there.

    Boardingware offers a structured 14-day free trial

    During your trial, go through your list of requirements and evaluate the following key areas for each feature:

  3. Test efficiency

    If the cloud doesn’t simplify your job, it’s not doing its job. Count the number of steps it takes to achieve your tasks and compare it with other systems or your current way of doing things.

    An extra click may seem like a minor issue but when you have to repeat actions for multiple students, the time to complete jobs can quickly pile up.

  4. Check quality/depth

    How well does each feature fulfil your requirements. Does it provide you with your desired outcome or is it missing important data and functions?

  5. Measure Intuitiveness / Usability

    If a product has a lot of functionality but is poorly designed and unusable, it’s going to have very little value.

    The design is an important element that is often overlooked. Software products that have been well-thought out in terms of function and navigation will help to close the technology gap and make a system not just intuitive, but useable.

    A way to test this is to pay close attention to your first encounter with the system and see how long it takes you to complete a task or objective on your own.

  6. Gauge the learning curve

    Your boarding staff will be the truest test of whether or not a system is functional. So it’s important to consider the time and money required to train your staff to be properly onboarded.

    Remember to consider not just your current staff but also new hires as well because every time someone new joins your team, you’re going to have to spend time and money to help them get up to speed.

FREE Feature and Functionality Template:

Boarding management software will only improve the way your boarding practices operate if you emphasise functionality over features. So to help you make the right decision for you, we created this feature and functionality checklist to avoid any costly mistakes.

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Vincent Paget is the Head of Content @ Boardingware (Safe and Simple Boarding School Management Software) who loves reading, design and the outdoors.

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