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Ellen Duero Rohwer, CFRE
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Master my software

Driving the Software Demo—Your Role


Once you've established the unique requirements for your organization (see Car Shopping and CRM Selection: Lessons from a Pontiac Grand Am), use those requirements to send out an RFP, score each vendor's response based on your requirements, and then narrow the field to your top software candidate. Now it's time to arrange a demonstration to your team. A well-executed demonstration is vital for confident selection and implementation of a new system, and your role as the NPO-vendor interface is key.

A good demonstration positions you and the vendor with a thorough understanding of where your requirements exactly fit and where they don't, so you're not talking past one another.

Before the Demo

Preparing for the optimum demo will require more of your time than you may think, but it's worth it! Sure, the vendor has your requirement checklist, but you need to tailor and enrich the agenda. Create a demo script based on your use cases, and unique requirements, to help elucidate system differentiators. JCA recommends sending the script to the vendor three to four weeks before the demo.

You'll also need to think about which of your colleagues will be in the room during the demonstration. Don't invite everyone to the demo. It's tempting to show everyone everything, but this will likely not yield the results you want: honest and deep evaluation of the proposed system. Pick a few, key people for your "Primary Evaluation Committee," and involve them as you develop your script. Select them from specific functional areas, make sure they understand the demo script and scoring system, and invite them to attend the meeting during pertinent, applicable use-cases. You need focused attention and feedback, not just seats-in-chairs.

A good demonstration positions you and the vendor with a thorough understanding of where your requirements exactly fit and where they don't, so you're not talking past one another.

During the Demo

Controlling your colleagues may be your biggest challenge. You'll need to manage the interaction between your team and your consultant to stay on-time and on-topic. To make sure your colleagues understand the positives and work-arounds of the system at hand, interject clarifying statements at key moments to underscore the importance of the agenda item. Keep a parking lot notepad at the front of the room for items requiring further clarification or follow up.

After the Demo

When your vendor leaves at the end of each day, take a deep breath and refresh the sodas in your meeting room. Gather your Primary Evaluation Committee back together, and take an hour to review and discuss the initial scores people provided based on the proposals. Run through the requirements that correspond with the day's demo script, and ask the group about the main scores. Based on what they've seen, would they raise the score, lower the score, or leave it the same? In a short paragraph, document why. These conversations help your group calibrate with each other while the demonstrations are still fresh in everyone's minds, and point to vital next steps with your vendor.