How to get the most out of a software demo

In the process of selecting a software solution, the demo is a very important step. Business software demonstrations are one of the key components to evaluating whether the software fulfills your requirements and if the vendor truly understands your needs. Unfortunately, for many companies the software demos don’t provide the answers they were looking for. A few tips to help you:

1. Know what your goals are

Are you simply looking to replace your current, outdated software solution because it is no longer supported? With that motivation in mind, it will not be easy to select the best system for your organization. You need a vision of what you want to achieve with the software. What are your goals as an organization? Don’t think in terms of features and functionalities, but think in strategic objectives. Perhaps you want to improve customer service by increasing and enhancing the options for your customers to reach out to you. Or you want to save time in the production process to bring products faster to the market. Keep those goals in mind when looking at a software demo.

2. Make sure all facilities are there

If your demo setting and facilities are arranged perfectly, that will contribute to getting the most out of the demo. Think about a meeting room that is large enough to host the demo for the entire audience. It should be a comfortable room with good seats and the right temperature, especially if the demo takes a half day or longer. You will also need a high definition beamer or projector, or a top-quality monitor to make sure all details are visible for everyone. And perhaps a reliable and fast internet connection is required. Top facilities will help to concentrate and make the demo a pleasant meeting.

3. Provide real data and use cases

You can look at test data in a demo, but wouldn’t it be great to look at your own data? Real customers, real products, real contracts, etc. are much more appealing and relevant for the audience to look at. Provide the software vendor a demo script or use cases of processes at your organization and see how the system handles that. You can include some examples of situations that happened within your organization and where you struggled to deal with.

4. Involve management and end users

Who should be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to software? Your IT department, finance, management, middle management, end users? You cannot invite everybody to attend the demos. Make sure that if the software impacts your business, as with ERP software, that your management is involved. You are dealing with a business project rather than a software project and you will need full support from the management. But you should also listen to your end users, as they are best able to judge whether the system supports the processes the way it should.

5. Evaluate after the demo

The demo has finished, time to go home, right? Not exactly. When the software vendor has left, make sure to do a quick evaluation with the whole team. The demo is still fresh in the minds then. Make sure everybody is heard and make notes of what people are saying. Discuss all aspects, such as how processes are supported, features, technology, user interface and implementation method.

6. Go for quality, not for quantity

More is not always better. Carefully examine the different options you can choose from and select maximum 3 to 5 vendors for a demo. It would be a waste of time and resources to invite all vendors for a demo. Also, don’t try to cover every process and every feature in a demo; it can take days to go through an entire system. Focus on the key processes.

April Potts is responsible for Marketing & Sales at Dysel North America and combines experiences in marketing, at dealerships and with ERP software to help dealerships move their business forward.