Throughout the 30-plus years Meal Magic Corporation have been providing school food service software, we have received reams of Requests For Proposal (RFPs) filled with pages of desired features and functionality. Likewise, we have published our fair share of “product features” literature. Truth be told, however, features and functionality are not the best measure for determining if a software package is good or bad. The true indicators are how those features and functionalities interact to provide solutions to problems with the least amount of effort.
Your basic school food service management software, for example, provides means of entering information from submitted applications and determining what, if any, benefits should be extended to the listed students. Application processing is inevitably listed in every RFP, and every vendor is going to indicate that they have the features and functionality necessary. The real value, however, is in the processes: what does it take to enter an application, make a determination, notify a family, and possibly perform verification? Are these tasks simple or complicated? Does one vendor make the process easier than the others? Has anyone thought outside the box to provide a new and better way for handling the job?
Flashback: Pre-2004. Schools had two choices for applications: hand-written forms or scannable forms. The former meant a lot of keying; the latter reduced entry labor, but required special forms and expensive scanners. Then came a proposed new way: online applications. Parents would apply securely online, and schools would pull the information into their computer programs, saving countless hours of labor without any costly computer peripheral equipment.
Vendors scoffed at the idea. No one would do that! Scanners are the better choice! We suppose if one is selling scanners and special pre-printed bubble forms, reaping in extra profits, then, yes, scanners were a better choice — for the vendor.
Splitting from the views of other vendors, Meal Magic Corporation, having conceived the idea and having successfully pitched it to the USDA for approval, was the first company to offer online applications to schools. It didn’t take long for word to spread that there was a better way of working. Food service departments were getting more applications, and they were spending a whole lot less time processing them. They had found the proverbial better mousetrap.
It didn’t take long before other vendors began offering electronic applications. We are pretty sure online applications are now a standard “feature and function” of all school food service software packages. You’re welcome!
Fanciful screens and the latest buzzwords look and sound impressive, but you have to look beyond their glitter and glamour. If you want great software, you have to look deeper. What problems do I face? How does this software solve those problems? Does the vendor offer true solutions that are easy to implement or cumbersome workarounds to disguise inadequacies of their software? Don’t settle for features and functionality alone. Expect well-thought-out, creative solutions. You deserve them.
Over the years, Meal Magic Corporation has introduced lots of out-of-the-box solutions (Build-A-Meal, Intelli-credit, palm-sized sales registers, and iPad sales registers, just to name a few) to make school food service management easier, and we’re not stopping. Meal Magic Insight is loaded with creative solutions and innovative approaches. Just wait until you see what we are doing!