A Good Scripted Demo Is Key in Software Selection

One of the main challenges in evaluating business software solutions is first creating a good script to demonstrate the software—one that’s neither too vague nor too detailed. If it’s too vague, all the vendors will be able to demonstrate all the criteria listed—and this will have little value for decision makers who need to assess one solution against another. On the other hand, if the script is too detailed, vendors will take a lot of time to demonstrate the criteria they support and may get lost in the details—again running the risk of not being very useful for someone evaluating how well a solution meets a particular business’s needs.

Just to give you an idea, for a typical demo that is part of Technology Evaluation Centers’ (TEC’s) software selection projects, each vendor is afforded between 1 and 3 days, but it could be even more for large projects. No matter how much time is allotted, you need to create a script that will focus on the most important business needs that the software must address. Demos for TEC software selection projects typically are tailored to the unique needs of a specific business.

For the 2-day TEC Vendor Challenge event coming this September, we allocate only 1.5 hours for each vendor demo, and it must address the typical enterprise resource planning (ERP) software demands of the industry we’ve chosen to focus on for this event, the distribution industry; so creating a good demo was even more challenging—yet paramount.

Our approach was to make vendors show features and functions that attendees would be interested in seeing, while giving vendors the freedom to focus on their strengths. To this end, at the start of the demo, each vendor will be allowed 15 minutes to demonstrate any features and functions that may not be included in the script but that the vendor wants to highlight—these may be the x factors that differentiate the vendor from its competitors.

As for the scripted demo itself, its goal is to allow attendees to compare solutions on an apples-to-apples basis. It will be structured as follows:

  • The first part will be about navigation and we ask vendors to show how different types of users (e.g., administrators, managers, regular users) can benefit from the usability of the solution.

  • The second part will cover setup of master files (for customers, suppliers, and products), as well as warehouse configuration.

  • The third part will follow a typical distribution workflow that starts with creating quotes and placing sales orders and ends with picking and shipping. This flow has 14 steps, which cover general features such as sales order pricing, shipping and handling, wave picking, etc.

To further differentiate the solutions, we used TEC Advisor, our online decision support system, to create an industry benchmark and understand which criteria stand out as being differentiators between advanced and basic ERP solutions for distribution. TEC Advisor uses vendor ratings that vary from fully supported out of the box, to third-party support, customization, future release, etc., which are assigned scores from 0 (Not Supported) to 100 (Supported). Using these scores, we calculated an average score of 74.88 for our ERP for Distribution research model and were able to see how vendors are positioned.

For instance, for slotting optimization, the level of support provided by 17 of the 43 solutions listed in our research model falls below the average. This does not mean that the 17 vendors don’t do it, but that they don’t deliver it out of the box. In other words, beyond identifying the functionality they offer, vendors will show attendees how they deliver those features and functions. If two vendors provide slotting optimization through modification but one of them requires an administrator to spend 10 minutes doing it while the other only requires a few clicks, the difference between the two will be obvious, but you can’t see that difference in a graph—you need to see a demo.

Figure. Level of support for slotting optimization, compared with the average product in TEC’s ERP for Distribution research model

The main advantage of a demo during software selection is that it shows not only what features and functions a vendor supports, but how they’re delivered. Will the vendors participating in the TEC Vendor Challenge be able to demonstrate a high level of support for all of these features—or at least most of them? And how exactly will they be able to provide such support? Come to the TEC Vendor Challenge – ERP for Distribution and find out how each of the vendors will address the features that are critical to your business environment!
comments powered by Disqus