Looking for a new Research Management Software? Here's Where to Start.

Ashley Kramer wrote this on April 19, 2019


Before you begin your search for a new research management system (RMS), it's important to do a little homework. To make the right decision, it is essential to understand the pain points associated with your current software and research practices so that you can define the goals you want to achieve with a new platform in place. Taking some time up front ensures everyone is on the same page from the get go.

 Here are a few simple steps to help you spark the conversation and create a framework for finding the RMS solution that best aligns with your teams immediate needs and, more importantly, future goals.

Understand the Pain Points:

Before the search for a new solution can begin, it is critical to understand what is not working with the current RMS and why. Different teams with different processes will experience different pain points, so it is important to capture every end-user's opinion about your current research management practice and the tools used to support it.

By sending out a questionnaire you can receive honest feedback regarding both your team's processes and the software you have in place supporting them. Here are a few examples of questions to include to easily uncover what's working well and what isn't:

1. Explain our current research management process from your vantage point.

By asking a simple question like this you will gain insight into what the process looks like for each team member, and immediately identify any bottlenecks.

2. What is your least favorite aspect of our current research management process?

The best insights are obtained through open-ended, thought-provoking questions like this that directly reference faults in the current process.

3. What is your biggest pain point with our existing software tools that support our research management and due diligence efforts and WHY?

As mentioned previously pain points will vary from team and even the individual on that team. This question will help you easily compile a list of pain points in the current RMS tool that can be used to determine the "must-have" features and workflows in your next RMS.

4. Identify the five specific RMS software features that you can't live without and explain why they are important to you.

Requiring your users to identify the five (or fewer!) features they can't live without makes it easier for you to isolate pain points and focus on fixes while concurrently whittling down your list of potential vendors. We all have a tendency to want our tools to do a million things but in reality, most fluffy software features never get used. We've been making software and watching user behavior for decades and we see this every day. Focusing on the few things that will give your team the biggest boost is how you win with software.

Once you've collected feedback from your team, it's time to get cracking.

Set your Goals:

Before discussing any of the specifics, the first question to ask your team is: "What is our main objective for implementing a new RMS?" Involving all stakeholders, from analysts to directors, will ensure everyone's vision for the new software and improved research management practice is heard.

Coming to a consensus on the top-level objectives for this project will help ensure that your search and ultimate selection of an RMS provider stays on track. After compiling this core feedback you can easily work together to break the responses to question four from your survey up into the real "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves."

Defining meaningful top level objectives can be tricky, but utilizing the SMART goal-setting framework helps create a clear definition of what success is for your firm. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based. Spell it out in detail to provoke thoughtful input from your team:

  • Specific: Ambiguity can leave your organization confused about the direction of your initiative, so it's important to be specific when setting your goals and how you hope an RMS will assist in achieving them. For example: "By using a modernized RMS system, eliminate the research related work captured in excel in 2 years."

  • Measurable: The goals you set should be measurable over time to accurately calculate the value of your RMS's impact. Periodic reviews on operational efficiency and investment decision-making ease compared to last year, are important in communicating the value that this new RMS has brought to your team.

  • Attainable: No platform will perform all of your organizational needs, so make sure to keep your goals focused on the "must-haves" and not on all the "nice-to-haves" for improved research management and due diligence. Perhaps even make it a point to look for systems that offer API integrations so you can easily integrate with existing tools or layer on new ones as your needs shift.

  • Relevant: What your organization needed in the past isn't necessarily what it needs today. It's important to have recent and relevant insights regarding your team's current struggles to actively search for a solution that addresses all their needs.

  • Time Based: Finding a new RMS can take some time, but clearly defining milestone due dates can help your team stick to a schedule. This sets clear expectations for all stakeholders involved in this process for when the new RMS will be implemented.

Thoughtfully running through this exercise will make the resulting next steps in your journey to implement the best RMS for your firm that much more focused and successful. Having an organized framework surrounding your team's objectives for the new RMS solution will be a vital resource for your team to have on hand at every stage of this process from conducting the initial search to watching software demos to making a final selection.

Use our helpful RMS Buyers Guide to begin your search and find the research management system of your team's dreams.