(Evaluating & Choosing Accounting Software)
Thursday, 29 September 2011 19:17
Your client is ready to look at a demo of new accounting/ERP software. How will you help them? Read on to learn some great ways to help them prepare, conduct and evaluate the demos.
Obtaining a great demo is integral to the software selection process, and occurs towards the end of the process, well after all kinds of preparation and documentation.
However, ALL CUSTOMERS, without any exceptions, can’t wait to get their hands on the software. They want to “kick the tires,” “test drive it,” “see if they can figure it out themselves,” and “try and see if they can run their company on the software.” Unfortunately too many vendors have been providing online demo systems that the customer can access anytime to conduct their “trial” test drive, giving the customers a sense of entitlement to see the software very early in the process.
A lot of customers are feature-driven, and think an online test is the best way to choose the winning software. But the customer usually doesn't really know the software, so gets overwhelmed, and eventually frustrated by “no functionality, difficulty of use, and lack of intuitiveness”. This is because they both see, and try it, out of the context that it will be used to support their business operations.
The software demo
The demo is the best time to make this evaluation because it happens after your client has finished: analyzing their business needs, defining their requirements, and short-listing software choices & appropriately experienced vendors. To be effective, the demo needs to be well planned, and based on the requirements that were defined. To get the most useful demo possible:
Don’t let your clients start the software selection process by looking at software choices. Guide them through an in-depth process that puts the demo (looking at the software) in the later part of the process, AFTER the needs and requirements are well defined. Help them use an effective selection method, and choose the right software.
- Choose vendors for the demo short-list. Preparing and delivering a demo is a time intensive and costly investment for a software vendor. Be sure to only invite those vendors that your client has already determined as meeting the functional requirements, and will be a good partner fit to implement the solution.
- Have the selection team finalize the selection criteria for the demo. In addition to meeting the functional requirements, add criteria such as references, industry experience, implementation methodology, and personality fit.
- Provide an agenda and detailed demo script, based on “a day in the life” of your client’s business. A grocery list of features will not be an effective way to gauge the potential for the software to support company operations. The best approach is to get the vendor to demonstrate how the software runs your customers major work-flow business processes; activities that users have to conduct every day.
- Brief the software vendor on the demo agenda and script, and allow for Q&A sessions (equitably among all the vendors - meetings, emails, conference calls) so that they completely understand what will be required of them. A two to three week preparation period will suffice for the vendor to get ready.
- Prepare the selection team by assigning specific roles (checking off the script and requirements list; managing the Q&A; departmental reps, etc.), and having a demo prep meeting to ‘walk-through’ the agenda.
- Review the demo results and determine a 1st and 2nd choice. Invite the 1st choice vendor to return to answer questions leftover from the demo, and conduct additional demo activities if required (questions about additional functionality, customization, scalability, etc.). If successful, and satisfied with the 1st choice vendor, proceed with instructions for obtaining a formal proposal. If in doubt about the 1st choice vendor, invite the 2nd choice along the same “call-back” process.
They’ll definitely thank you for that!