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ERP Demo Scripts ERP Demo Scripts—A Software Selection Critical Success Factor

 
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By Chuck Schaeffer

Getting The Most Out of Your ERP Software Demonstrations

Ask a few executives after watching ERP software demos which is their favorite solution? Many will advise “the last one”, as almost all the business applications impress when left to demonstrating what they do well, and the last one demo'd is top of mind.

The challenge of course is understanding what the ERP systems don’t do so well, what’s being omitted from the ERP demo and how that may impact your business goals. Failing to meet this challenge certainly contributes to the oft quoted but seldom learned from ERP failure rates.

ERP software demo scripts can mitigate unforeseen problems, including a poor user experience, an absence of process automation, missing ERP software feature sets, an inability to get information out of the system or just a lack of needed reporting. Clearly these undetected gaps will impact user adoption, business process automation, information insights and getting an ROI on your ERP software investment.

Here’s the top 10 things you can do to identify ERP software shortcomings before making a purchase, and incurring the not so pleasant surprises once you’re already in implementation.

  1. Start with a Demonstration Script
    Begin with a Demo Script designed to deliver a guided tour that emphasizes the ERP functionality most aligned with your top business objectives. ERP software demonstrations are tools used to understand and verify how the application software solves or responds to the company's specific opportunities and challenges. To achieve this, ERP buyers should bypass the traditional dog and pony show demonstrations, and insist upon a custom demo that speaks directly to the company's most pressing issues and business requirements.

    Forget the generic presentations and insist upon using scripted demos, but don't try to get overtly prescriptive. Instead, scripts should provide inputs and desired end results but generally not specify the process in the middle. Give the ERP vendor latitude in determining the best way to deliver your results.

    Also, I’ve been giving, receiving, evaluating and scoring ERP software demos for 24 years and have yet to have an ERP vendor suggest a custom demo pursuant to the customers top business objectives. The onus is clearly on the customer to provide those objectives and application software requirements to the vendor and assure that the demo clearly illustrates how the business software will aid and enable those business objectives to be realized.

  2. Separate MUST HAVES from NICE TO HAVES
    Creating an exhaustive list of ERP software requirements is not realistic as not all requirements are equal in importance. ERP buyers need to separate their 'wants' from their 'needs'. Too many businesses fail to make this distinction, and end up with ERP software systems that offer many capabilities, however, may be unable to accommodate the most strategic objectives. Consider weighting your requirements on a scale from 1 to 5, and then making sure you clearly see how the application software will achieve all of the highest weighted objectives.

  3. Focus on What’s Really Needed
    From many years in the industry, I have found that customers normally take advantage of about one-third of the ERP applications capabilities. For various reasons, why more ERP feature sets are available, many customers just don’t get around to using them. Therefore, trying to compare vendors based upon which application offers more functionality is just not relevant, as the bulk of that functionality won’t be used. Instead, it’s critical to know what you need and focus on just the (one-third or so of the) software features that will actually be used.

  4. Don’t Focus on the Easy Stuff
    The ERP systems all create recurring, repeating and reversing journal entries. They can all cut checks and create debit memos. But do they permit unit accounts to achieve operational (not just financial) reporting? Probably not. Can they support allocations based on dynamic values such as allocating expenses based on sales volumes? Doubt it. Can they deliver revenues or expenses from an invoice or voucher over more than one period? Possibly not. Do they permit inter-company transactions from the Accounts Payable module and automatically create the Due To / Due From transaction? Hard to say. Does any of this matter? Maybe.

    It’s up to you to identify those requirements that are useful or important to your business but may be missing or clunky in the ERP applications. Skip the easy stuff and focus your time on those functions that are likely to really separate the ERP systems.

  5. Have the Right People in the Demo
    Demo scripts also aid advanced scheduling so the right people can attend the right portions of the ERP demo. You probably don’t need to have the voucher entry staff view the financial report writing portion of the demo. However, while the demo audience should not be so large as to need a conference hall, there is merit in having the key stakeholders present. For example, in addition to the receivables, payables, inventory and similar line of business managers and subject matter experts present, the executive sponsors should also be in attendance, IT management should be on hand to field any technical considerations and procurement staff should be invited for governance issues. Depending on the scale of the decision, its impact on the business, and the budgetary implication of the software deployment, significant C-level presence is likely required.

  6. Stay on Course
    Some ERP vendors emphasize the hype and are only too proud to boast their latest marketing award or advertising run. Some may even emphasize the hype of their newest software offering in a guided effort to change your buying criteria to align with their latest software features. This dynamic adds even more complexity and confusion to the already arduous task of selecting the best fit ERP software. Even worse, force fitting new, never before considered software features into an implementation effort will likely add cost and risk. Instead, stay the course and don’t get enamored with gadgets, bells, whistles and features you didn’t know existed. These new items may add value in the long run, but are unlikely to trump what you need to get done first. Focus your ERP software selection on the most salient and concrete criterion collected during your internal information gathering phase and which most directly correlates to your organizations most strategic business objectives.

  7. Even In The Cloud, Technology Matters
    Don’t forget technical considerations that may impact cost, risk, success and ROI. ERP systems don't live in a vacuum. To achieve end to end and enterprise-wide business process automation ERP software must integrate and share data with other legacy applications. It's important to make sure that all business applications which contribute to common processes can be easily integrated, that data is not siloed or isolated, and that data is automatically updated simultaneously across applications.

    If you have system integration needs or may incur software customization to accommodate software gaps, it’s important to understand the tools and methods available. Does the ERP vendor offer a Platform as a Service (PaaS), visual design or other tool for these technical tasks? Based on the tools and methods, who can do the work, how long will it take and how much is it going to cost? Is system integration a set-it and forget-it task, or will it need to be modified with every ERP software seasonal release? These are the types of questions that can dramatically influence total cost of ownership (TCO) and ROI.

  8. Score the Demos
    Only when each ERP software vendor responds to common requirements can an apples to apples comparison be made. Therefore, it’s critical for every ERP vendor to adhere to the same custom demo script so that the vendor solutions can be objectively compared and scored. When ERP vendors respond to your requirements, and you score their responses, a simple decision will follow. One last caution note here. What worked for your last company may or may not work for your next. To this end, it’s also important that demo attendees with prior ERP software experience exercise caution not to introduce bias based on what they previously learned or what best fit a prior company.

  9. Score More Than Just Software
    ERP demo scripts aren’t just about software. Further considering and objectively measuring the vendor’s reputation and stability, any proposed implementation consultants or similar services, and of course customer references all factor into the final score.

  10. Consider Outside Help
    Don't be afraid to ask for help when reviewing ERP software systems. Even minimal advice from experts can add value, reduce risk, answer lingering questions and keep you pointed in the right direction. ERP software selections are very infrequent events, generally not occurring more than every five to seven years for most companies. With such long intervals, and a rapidly changing ERP software and technology market, companies seldom possess the in-house skills to perform such a meaningful project in a reasonable time frame and acceptable level of risk. Engaging (independent and objective) ERP software selection consultants, even on a part-time basis, can bring structure, reduce the learning curve, lower the time requirement, reduce risk of choosing the wrong product and segway the effort directly into a thoughtful and well planned implementation effort.

Once the ERP demo is complete and the vendor has parted, the attendees and project team should immediately hold a consensus meeting. Don't put off the meeting until another day as memories fade quickly. Your goal is to develop a consensus on each vendor among the team members, considering what each product did well, couldn’t do and what gaps will have to be plugged by workarounds or software customization. Solidify your conclusions and any concerns in a document that reflects the group’s impressions. Strive for as clear a picture as possible, since this will be an important reference in the final decision.

Key to a successful ERP software demo is maintaining a balance between customer control (i.e. ensuring the vendor addresses the customer's priorities) and vendor freedom (i.e. allowing them to show their product in its most favorable light). Demo script requirements must be addressed, but they shouldn't prohibit a vendor’s creativity and ability to showcase their solution.

ERP demo scripts deliver thee big benefits. First, they facilitate a common approach and objective scoring model which delivers a clear decision. Second, they empower customers to identify (before making a purchase) those business objectives and software requirements which the ERP software will satisfy and not satisfy. Finally, they save time by allowing people to attend just the parts of the demo that are relevant to their needs and accelerate the final decision making process without all the anguish. In many ways, the software demonstration is the crux point of the ERP selection process. It is often the best opportunity to see hard evidence of whether the solution can meet your needs, or not, as the case may be. End

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Forget the generic presentations and insist upon using scripted demos, but don't try to get overtly prescriptive. Demo scripts should provide inputs and desired end results but generally not specify the process in the middle. Give the ERP vendor latitude in determining the best way to deliver your results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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