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The Importance of Networking: Seeking Advice from Other CoCs During an HMIS Transition

When seeking a new homeless management information system (HMIS), it’s natural to lean on members within your community as you try to identify pain points, team aspirations, and must-have features—and you should. After all, no one understands the needs of the community better than those who assist clients and use the HMIS every day. 

However, navigating the HMIS transition process can be difficult. To overcome as many knowledge gaps as possible, consider networking with other CoCs who’ve been through it. 

This will help you avoid major missteps and mistakes they may have made throughout their own transition to a new HMIS. You’ll likely find the software that works best for you while establishing relationships with communities you can return to in the future. 


Gathering More Real-World Information About an HMIS

Even experienced members of CoCs have a difficult time outlining the necessary requirements for a potential new HMIS. A lot goes into transitioning to a new HMIS, and it’s challenging to know how well an unfamiliar system will work. 

You’ll hope a new solution accommodates your workflows, unique needs, and processes. The more research you put into the transition, the better off you’ll be.

By networking with other CoCs, you can learn a great deal about a prospective HMIS and whether it’s a good fit for your particular needs. Most CoCs are happy to share this knowledge with you. Ultimately, you share similar goals: to leverage tools and systems to better assist the marginalized members of your community. 

Reach out to CoCs and learn more about their HMIS transition experiences. They’ve labored and toiled for the hard-earned knowledge they’ve acquired, and likely made some mistakes along the way they hope you’ll be able to avoid. Ask about the important team members to include and what roles they played. Discover what features they can’t live without. Inquire about hiccups they didn’t foresee. 

While it’s most ideal to network with CoCs who have transitioned to HMIS solutions you’re considering, there’s still great benefit in connecting with those who fit your profile. You can find out what was important to them and compare it to your own list of priorities. 


Getting Tips for Writing a Quality RFP

As much as it helps to converse with CoCs throughout the HMIS transition process, networking might benefit you the most during everyone’s favorite vendor selection task: producing requests for proposals (RFP). 

Think of the steps that make up writing an RFP. 

Research what’s out there. This is where networking with other CoCs is a huge asset. Identify major players in the HMIS space and then reach out to CoCs to learn more about their experience with the HMIS they use. That will shed light on potential pitfalls, deficiencies, or incompatibilities between the prospective HMIS and the needs of your community. 

Build your own list of vendor requirements, and supplement it with information from CoCs on what’s worked for them. Then establish a clear rubric for evaluating vendors

Examine and cite RFPs from other communities. Consider this an acceptable form of copying homework. If you don’t know where to start when it comes time to put pen to paper, use other RFPs as a reference. Some are readily available including the following: New Bedford, Massachusetts; North Carolina; San Diego, California; Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio; Santa Clara County, California; and Colorado


Bringing It All Together

Selecting a new HMIS is a collaborative process. Your core team members will ultimately lead the effort, but you’ll need assistance along the way. That means connecting with HUD TA when writing RFPs. They have personal experience with most of the HMIS candidates you’re considering and will provide honest feedback. You should also consult resources such as the HUD legal primer for drafting RFPs to ensure you’re in accordance with best practices. 

But you can’t overlook the benefits of establishing a network of fellow caregivers, CoCs, and HUD experts you may already consider colleagues. Don’t hesitate to seek out their advice and foster stronger relationships with them. It can help you avoid mistakes and give you confidence that you’ll land with the right HMIS for your community. 

Bitfocus is the provider of Clarity Human Services, a rigorous HMIS designed to empower systems of care in your community. Contact us to learn more about transitioning to a new HMIS.

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