How to Make Sure You Receive a Great Demo

May 21, 2015 Marlo Hertling

Where is the demo?

Now that you have used the tools from Act I to narrow down your vendor choices, it’s time to request a demo from your shortlisted People Management solutions.

The question that you now face is how do you make the most out of your demo time?

After all, the demo is your opportunity to be able to see how the proposed solutions will not only meet your requirements but improve processes and save time across your organization.

Act II - How to Make Sure You Receive a Great Demo!

Before the Software Demonstration

Let’s start by looking at what you should take into consideration when planning for your demo meetings.

Make sure the right people attend the demo

1. Make sure the right people attend the demo
Ideally you want the key stakeholder from each business area in attendance at the demo so they can understand how a new HCM will benefit their department and the business as a whole. It’s important to have your executive sponsor participate and if there are going to be any technical questions invite an IT representative as well. Let your team know ahead of time how they are expected to participate, encourage them to create a list of questions ahead of time and let them know how much time has been booked for the demo.

Let the vendor know ahead of time who will be attending the demo so they (the vendor) understand the audience and ensure they cover off areas of interest for each participant.

2. Provide an agenda
To ensure the demo covers off your organization's needs, create an agenda of what you want to see in the demonstration. An agenda will help keep the demo on track and ensure all demonstrations are as consistent as possible, thus aiding in your comparison of each. Make sure everyone has the demo agenda well in advance so they can identify if anything is missing. Agendas help your vendors make sure everyone in the room sees what they need to so that the attendees can make a well-informed decision.

3. Write down your objectives for the demo
And be sure to share those objectives with everyone attending – including the vendor. If there is a specific functionality or process you need to see, make sure you request to see those first so that you see exactly what you need to in the demo. If you issued an RFP make sure you provide participants with a copy well in advance so they know exactly what the key requirements are and can check them off and make notes as they see them. If you did not issue an RFP but used information gathering or a discovery session consider creating a software demonstration list to assist your team in assessing the solution as they see it demonstrated.

Need a little help to get started? Download our Software Demo Field Guide.

4. Keep in mind what you need to have vs. what’s nice to have
Make sure attendees have a good understanding of what you need in a new solution and what would be nice to have, this will pay dividends when it comes to the implementation process. It bears repeating that you make sure all of the things you need in a People Management solution are checked off first. Then you can take a look at any of the other cool features the vendor or solution offers. As an example, the demo may showcase a really neat feature … but if what you really need is a real-time vacation accrual report, make sure you see that capability first.

During the Software Demonstration

What to do during the demo

1. Show me the software
Be sure that the vendor demonstrates their live system. You can't get a good feel for how the solution works if you are only seeing the product through a PowerPoint or slide deck.

2. Use your RFP list or software demonstration checklist
Keep your checklist of 'need to have' items close by during the demo, that way you can check off all the requirements as they come up during the demonstration. Not to mention, make note of the ones you didn't get to see.

3. Participate
Remember in school when you used to get graded on your participation in class? That still rings true during a demo. The more you participate and engage in the demo, the more valuable it will be. If something in the demo is unclear or you're wondering if it meets your requirements, don’t hesitate to ask more about it. Vendors appreciate it when you ask for clarification in demos. Participation ensures the vendor is showing you what you need to see and that you can see how their solution will help your team, not to mention your whole organization.

4. Take notes
Jot down notes as you won’t remember everything afterwards (tools like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, or even a paper notepad are helpful). This will provide you with the ability to remember specific items when you go to compare the different solutions you saw demonstrated later on.

5. Include time for questions and answers
At the end of each demo section, ensure that there is time for your participants to ask their questions. If a question will take the demo off track or the vendor indicates it will be covered in another section, note those questions and follow-up on them at the end of the entire presentation so you can keep the demo focused and on schedule.

After the Software Demonstration

After the software demo

1. Review the solution as a team right after the demo
While the demo is fresh in everyone’s mind, get them together to talk about what they saw. Review everyone’s checklists and address any discrepancies you uncover. Have participants provide a brief list of what they saw as benefits and challenges in the solution. Use this opportunity to collect outstanding questions to follow-up on with the vendor.

2. Follow-up
Let the vendor know what the team thought of their solution. Provide any questions or scenarios that require further explanation or understanding. Be sure to communicate any of the communications to the team so they know all of their items have been addressed.

3. Compare solutions
After all of the demos have been provided, get the team together to discuss and compare the different products they have seen. Work with your team to determine which solution provides the best overall solution fit for your company. 

In Summary

The key to a successful software demo process is a balance between identifying the requirements your team needs to see in the demo and being flexible enough to allow the vendor to show those requirements in the best way possible in their solution.

Stick to your plan. Don't get blinded by shiny toys during the software demo.

By taking time to plan for your demo you’ll make sure you get the right People Management system for your organization’s needs.

Extend Your Branches of Learning

In Act III, we’ll look at what you need to know about the final step in your search process – selecting the right people management partner.

About the Author

Marlo Hertling

Marlo Hertling has worked with leading HCM organizations and has been helping Canadian companies implement HCM solutions for more than 15 years. She is the Vice President of People & Culture at Avanti Software Inc and serves as Avanti's HCM subject matter expert.

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