The consultant may be leading the demo—but you’re in charge!
Searching for an ERP software package is a huge step for you and your business, but deciding on the one is a monumental task. The addition of a new system can increase your technology resources available to employees, automate daily processes, and alter the very way you do business. It is imperative that your final decision is an ERP package that meets your needs and is customized to your unique business.
After you have narrowed down your package selection, ideally to 2-3, you are ready to begin the demonstration portion of the ERP selection lifecycle. This step often involves more groundwork than many realize. The one thing you do not want to do is not be prepared.
REGULATE THE DEMO CONTENT
We all know the last thing needed in any demo situation is a ‘salesy’ individual showing up to talk about functionality you don’t need or even want. To prevent a colossal waste of time in a meeting that will end up serving you no purpose, provide the demonstrator with documentation of the system requirements you need and functionality you are interested in. The last thing you have time for is three hours listening to product configuration functionality when you are a distributor who doesn’t do production. You could even take your requirements documentation a step further and tell them exactly what you don’t want to hear about. Maybe you are a small operation without the need for mobile devices linked to your ERP package, there is no reason to spend time on how your staff can access the ERP software via tablet when you don’t require mobile device functionality. Regulating the content of the demo helps you ensure you are covering the features you need and not being subjected to a sales pitch that isn’t customized to your business.
Having a demonstration schedule can be the difference between learning everything you need to know and leaving the meeting feeling like you still don’t know the product. By giving the demonstrator a schedule (ahead of time), you can ensure that there will be time to cover each aspect that is important to you. This can eliminate the risk of getting caught up in one aspect of the system and running out of time to cover remaining information. A schedule will keep the demonstrator on track and you getting the knowledge you are after.
It is also important to stress the schedule to all attendees of the demo. Punctuality and attendance to each demo are key to a fair and relevant evaluation of the product. If an attendee misses a demo or is late, they lose the ability to return feedback for the segments they didn’t experience. For example, if the HR Director is tardy and misses the portion of the presentation regarding the Employee Portal, they will be unable to comment on its usability for the organization. Scheduling everything from set-up time to breaks to Q&A can provide you, your attendees and the demonstrator with structure and guidance.
BENCHMARK YOUR EVALUATIONS
This step is critical to your actual decision-making. Throughout the demo, you and your team are evaluating and scoring the ERP package but the key is to level-set what you will be evaluating. An obvious here is to determine to what extent the software meets or exceeds your operational requirements. But are you also evaluating on scalability and its ability to grow with your company? Are you evaluating the presenter and how prepared they were as a glimpse into the skills of the implementation and support teams you could be working with? Is user interface important? Will your employees be more willing to adopt a new system and its processes if the software is visually appealing? There are many factors that can come into play during an evaluation and it is important that you and your team are on the same page. The demo feedback and score sheets can be the final resource for your ERP package decision.
If carefully planned and executed, the demo phase of selecting an ERP package can be the most informative and valuable experience. While demonstrations can last anywhere from one hour to all day, it is a time to ask all the questions you need, cover all your bases and really dig deep into the software as it relates to your business.