In the first installment of this series, I provided a few observations — and referenced some useful observations from Gartner’s Debbie Wilson — on the ideal place for fitting product demonstrations into procurement/sourcing technology selection. In this second post, I’ll share handful of lessons I’ve learned over the years to get the most out of demonstrations in a real-world situation (i.e., when you’re the prospect contemplating the purchase of a solution rather than how technology vendors typically brief or educate analysts and channels about their products, in a far more generic manner, except when based on an actual prospect/customer evaluation).
To begin, I think the key to getting the most from demonstrations is to require vendors to demonstrate a range of product responses to actual business scenarios. In other words, take the concept a step further beyond what Debbie recommends in her previously referenced post (which is nearly right on the money). My colleague and friend Brian Sommer of firm Vital Analysis and ZD Net fame, suggests that the only way to learn about provider solutions are to request a series of demonstrations based on specifically prescribed scenarios.
Brian suggests in one such guide, “Business case scenarios are a technique used to identify particularly difficult, unusual or complex business problems and relate them to solutions providers. When used in software selections, scenarios help focus software demonstrations away from mundane, non-differentiated function and feature demonstrations. Instead, the value of scenarios comes from the focus they provide on the most important business problems of the customer. When all providers are required to respond to the same scenarios, it prevents the providers from showing the functions and features they want to demonstrate and makes them respond to the scenarios that matter to you.”
Brian also suggests that, “scenarios work best when they are developed across many dimensions. Each scenario should originate from a given role or perspective within the company…