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Six more ways to benefit the most from a vendor’s demo of software

Here are some more tips for how to take the most away from a software demonstration (See my posts of April 27, 2006 for five other suggestions; and Sept. 18, 2007 for additional suggestions.).

First, have diverse observers, which should include at least a lawyer or two, a paralegal or someone who will use the system the most, an IT person, and perhaps attendees from internal audit or security (See my post of Sept. 18, 2007 on the value of calling users of the software.).

Second, allow ample time. In my experience 90 minutes is the minimum for a vendor to explain why they should be selected and for your people to look carefully at the offering. If, however, you go more than two hours, your people start to glaze over.

Third, give each of your people a short form that has five questions on it. They should evaluate each package on each attribute. The attributes are ease of use, whether the software does what you want it to do, how useful is the help system, what reports come from it, and the focus on invoice. When you aggregate the scores, you will have a better collective sense. Decide whether to stop three-quarters of the way through the demo and insist that your observers fill out their form as best they can.

Fourth, ask the vendor to provide you with selected screenshots of the basic views. This will help people remember the packages after they have seen several and it will help you analyze it more carefully later on.

Fifth, be careful about merging the demonstration of what the package can do with how you would implement it and role it out (See my post of July 20, 2007 on pilot programs.).

Sixth, reserve five minutes at the end of the session. Invite the vendor to leave and then ask everyone who has attended the demo to give an overall rating and comment. Go around the table and collect opinions from everybody. It may be that after you do so you will have some additional questions for the vendor.

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