Software demos are an integral step in the process of selecting a new accounting or ERP system. The question isn’t whether you do it, but how you do it right to maximize the effectiveness of this critical task and maximize the likelihood that the best suited system will be selected.
Let’s start with when a demo should be scheduled. Resellers and vendors want to conduct a demo as soon as possible to lock a prospect into their product and overwhelm them with advanced feature and functions. This wow factor seems to be the underlying factor, but is this really what a prospect needs? The answer to this question is a strongly worded NO!!
A demo should be scheduled only after the user has had an opportunity to examine their firm (not just functional requirements but also business process improvements) and create a detailed picture of what they really require.
Demos should be utilized to confirm the fact that a product can deliver specific features and functions that will assist a firm move from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow. The critical notion here is this whole concept of a more effective and efficient tomorrow that will help the firm achieve greater business success. They cannot just duplicate what they are doing today, for that implies that there is no basis for improvement.
If tomorrow is what’s important, then the first step a firm needs to take is crafting a picture of their future. What do we need to do well in order to achieve excellence? A well conceived and detailed needs definition creates this structure for success. I’m not necessarily advocating a requirements document that contains 5,000 line items (although this might be the detailed blueprint that allows a company to identify all of the elements that need to be in place), but I certainly think a firm needs to create a comprehensive description of the software elements that will help people do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
What do I mean by efficiency and effectiveness as that’s going to drive what’s on the demo list? Efficiency implies completing a task as quickly as practical. Effectiveness means being able to do a job/task well. The user needs to look at key software processes supported by an accounting or ERP system and determine if tasks such as taking an order can be accomplished within an acceptable length of time. That’s an efficiency analysis. If employees can get bogged down trying to take an order simply because the software process itself is convoluted or there are so many fields in the system being evaluated, then that could be an issue.
Effectiveness measures whether certain critical tasks are present. Of course that will depend on the individual needs of the firm, but applications such as credit and collections, exception management, demand planning, inventory replenishment, and other functions need to be evaluated. These are the higher level requirements that need to be in place and that need to be done well.
There is one other element that should be present in an effective demo. It’s unlikely that a firm selecting a new accounting or ERP system has had any recent experience with what we might call a “modern” system. After all, they may have been using their present system for five or more years. As such, they may not even be aware of what’s possible. This is where the reseller or vendor can play the role of trusted business consultant.
Resellers and vendors operate much more in the here-and-now. They know what’s possible, at least in terms of the products they sell. If they are in fact going to assume the role of trusted business partner, they will need to understand where a prospect is today and where they would like to be tomorrow. While the demo will confirm that they can meet a prospect’s needs in terms of functionality, they can also suggest new functionality that will help the prospect achieve excellence. I’m not talking about everything cool their product can do, but just those functions that they believe can assist the prospect compete more effectively.