Every regulated company has different “need-to-haves” and “nice-to-haves” on their eQMS wishlist. But because money has a way of being the biggest factor in choosing the right system, it’s important to get a clear picture of how much each platform costs.
First off, an eQMS is a “Software as a Service” product, which means instead of “owning” it, a company pays a recurring fee to the vendor for the right to use the software for the length of the contract.
However, that fee can change. The sticker price you see on day one may not be what you pay six months later, depending on how a platform handles seat licenses, modules, validation, support, and more. Some systems include it all, some don’t. And that makes it tricky for buyers to truly compare apples to apples – unless you know the right questions to ask:
What is the cost of each module?
Many eQMS vendors sell their systems on a per-module basis. Depending on the size of your company and the phase it’s in, one or two modules (Documents, Training, etc.) might be sufficient to start. However, knowing the price of each available module today will help forecast those that might be needed later on.
Another option is the all-in-one eQMS, where every module is included and implemented as needed. Though an all-in-one eQMS might look more expensive at first, this model allows the system to easily scale to your needs as the company inevitably grows, without subjecting your finance team to sticker shock when you need to turn on new modules.
What is the cost of a seat license?
The price of an eQMS also depends on the number of users, often calculated by per-seat or concurrent seat licenses.
Per-seat: This model only allows system access for users specifically named on the account. One license = access for one user. Two seat licenses = access for two users, and so on.
Concurrent: This model allows an entire company to access the system, just not all at once. If a company has ten employees and five concurrent licenses, all of them are authorized users, but only five can use the system at the same time.
The downside to this type of pricing model is that seat licenses are expensive, so companies paying for these models are essentially penalized for growth. But not having enough available seat licenses can cause delays in visibility, communication, and ultimately, compliance. It can also cause burnout if company-wide training management is the sole responsibility of the few people on the quality team. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Instead, prioritize eQMS solutions that give all users access to the entire system in lieu of seat licenses. This model allows individual departments to take responsibility for their own training, raising the quality culture of the entire company. It also eliminates the need for the finance department to approve additional budget every time a new employee is hired.
What is the cost of implementation?
Every eQMS charges an implementation fee that includes migrating existing documents and training new users on the platform. Be aware, there may be additional charges if the process is delayed or if more documents are added to the migration after it’s in motion. And don't forget to ask if there are additional fees for system configuration and/or IT support.
Another hidden cost? The amount of time and resources it takes you and your team to complete the implementation process. Ask for a sandbox environment to test how your processes will work within their system. The easier it is for you to configure the system to match your current quality processes, the less time it'll take to get up and running. And time, of course, is money.
Remember, once a system is live, some eQMS platforms become locked and can’t be re-configured. A poor implementation can have lasting negative effects if not done correctly the first time.
What is the cost of customer support?
Even the most user-friendly system will have hiccups and users will always hit roadblocks. It’s best to know ahead of time how the vendor charges for customer support to keep costs under control.
Some charge per hour. Some charge per implemented module. And others build the cost of support into the contract, based on the number of employees. Each pricing model has its place, depending on the complexity of the system and the capabilities of the users.
What is the cost to validate, update and maintain the software?
It’s hard to find a silver lining where additional software fees are concerned. Some companies charge for updates, back-ups, and validation, and some don’t. Some even provide extras like validation checklists, templates, and all compliance documentation free of charge. So, during the vetting process, it’s important to know what additional fees can be expected, so you’re not surprised later on.
Or you could just find an eQMS that doesn’t charge these fees. They’re out there.
What is the cost of the system after the first year?
An eQMS is an investment, not just in money, but in time and resources. After an eQMS is implemented, it can be difficult to rip out and replace, so it’s not unheard of for eQMS vendors to offer an attractive introductory price and then…BOOM!...raise it significantly in year two after proprietary documents and unique workflows have been created inside the system.
Therefore, the true cost of an eQMS can’t be calculated by the first year alone. Having a chart that forecasts estimated fees for year two and beyond will provide a more accurate picture. It will also prevent an uncomfortable conversation with the C-suite later on.
What is the cost to cancel?
Because quality champions come and go, and companies get acquired or unfortunately, go out of business, cancellations happen. That’s business.
In the case of a cancellation, there are a few questions you’ll want answered up front: Are there any early termination fees? What is the process for retrieving data stored in the system? And what is the cost? Some eQMS vendors make this process simple and some make it complicated. It’s worth understanding each vendors’ policy before you get too far into the vetting process.
The eQMS vetting process can be overwhelming, but we can help. To make sure you don’t miss important cost information, download our free eQMS Cost Comparison Worksheet to help keep all of your cost questions and comparisons in one place.