In Part 2, we discussed how to research possible ERP solutions and how to create a request for information (RFI). In Part 3, we will look at preparing for and conducting software demonstrations.
The software demonstration is a crucial component of choosing a new ERP system. When handled properly, the demonstration will provide you with critical information on whether the system will best fit your needs allowing you the opportunity to compare different ERP software systems in order to make the best decision possible. If handled incorrectly, the demonstration will turn into a cheerleading exercise for the vendor, nearly devoid of all useful information.
Clearly Communicate Your Requirements via a Demo Script
Attempting to sit through too many ERP software demos is sure to overwhelm and confuse the selection committee. Instead, shortlist two to three products that stood out in the Request for Information process (i.e. within budget and met a majority of the needs). Prepare a demo script which outlines the key requirements based on your functional areas. For instance, ask them to enter a customer order, create a purchase order, receive the goods, ship to the customer, and complete the invoice. The request for information asks can you, the demo process asks show me how. The key to an effective demo script is to ask the vendor to show you how to do what you need the system to do so you can determine if their system can meet that need in the most efficient and effective way.
Arrange For Site Visits
Vendors you are considering may ask to visit your business prior to the demonstration in order to see your operation and consult with you face-to-face on your expectations and needs. In most cases, these visits begin with a facility tour, followed by a meeting with the selection team, including top management or the lead on the project. Again, the purpose here is to let the vendors know exactly what your company is looking for as well as what you expect from the product.
Schedule the demo
Using your demo script, schedule vendors for full-day or half-day demos so they can show you that they can deliver on what they have promised. You have thrown a lot of information at your potential vendors, and they will need time to consider your company and needs as well as prepare their products prior to their demonstration. You may be asked to provide them with workflows on current key procedures allowing them to prepare their system to replicate and improve upon that process.
Allow Plenty of Time
A well-rounded ERP software demonstration that covers all of the bases takes time to evaluate all of the product’s relevant features you outlined in the demo script. Remember that you set the schedule, not the vendor. Outline the time in each area (purchasing, sales, etc.) allocated to keep the demo moving and on topic and allow you to have others in the company join that section of the demo relevant to them.
Let the Vendor Lead, but Maintain Control
Those who have experience buying ERP systems typically allow the vendor to lead the demo but retain control of the timeframe, agenda, and points to be demonstrated. Listen carefully to the presentation and make notes, list follow-up questions; some can be asked during the demo, while others are best addressed by the vendor in more detail after the demo.
You’ll want to evaluate the product’s reporting, workflow, feature sets, security and remote access, and business processes that directly affect your company’s most pressing objectives.
Organize the Post-Demonstration Meeting
After the demo, try to meet with the selection team as soon as possible while the demo is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Analyze what the product did well, what it did not do, and what gaps will need to be filled by custom programming or workarounds. Document your concerns and share them with the vendor for reply.
In Part 4, we will elaborate on the post-demonstration meeting and discuss finalizing the selection and implementation of a new ERP system.