Before you do a demo, do your homework.
Get your evaluation pared-down to your requirements – that’s the Excel spreadsheet that lists what everyone a) needs and b) wants. The time-wasters – which require duplicate entry, or are cumbersome – should be part of the requirements too. You want a solution that will eliminate them.
Determine what you need from the application. A complete, integrated system? Just collaborative tools? Accounting? Media? Project management? A DAM system? Online proofing?
There are hundreds of applications out there. New ones daily, and I’ve been reviewing a ton of them. One size does not fit all.
Keep this in mind: Managing your projects, your department, your agency is NOT social media. It is also not Excel, Google Docs, email or IM.
Consider a solution that will allow the minimal amount of data entry (a single platform is my first choice), with a maximum of time-saving – everything is organized and easy to find.
Start your search. Google, colleagues, groups on LinkedIn all help. I can help too.
Every solution out there has a lovely, short, glossy four-minute video showing how easy their application is to use. They should also have a list of features, and a table of costs associated with those features and the number / type of users.
Consider the benefit of putting your entire agency or department on the system. Collaboration reduces the use of redundant systems (IM, email, system alerts, and so on). At this point, don’t let price dictate what you review. Deals can be made.
Beware of free applications. The bar of entry is low, but once you start using an application, your data, documents and history are there. Adding users, features and using up cloud storage will most likely incur charges. You’re becoming more and more committed. If you need to move to a more robust application, migration of data is a huge pain, so think ahead.
Got a list of solutions? Okay, now ask for demos. Fill out the questionnaire: let them know what kind of organization you have (in-house department, agency); how many employees / users; applications you need; and the key issues or problems you’re trying to solve.
Have a phone call with the rep. Make sure they understand your business and your needs. I worked with a sales rep who was clueless when it came to media, yet he was attempting to sell me their software that “had” a media component. It didn’t. They wanted me to pay to build one. Nope.
Make sure the rep is clear on your objectives. What do you need out of that demo?
Schedule your demo in the morning. At least before lunch. If it’s a lunchtime demo, get there early, get your plates filled up and pay attention.
Setup a room – yep – everyone in one room. No distractions. You’re making an investment in capital and your colleagues’ time.
Have a representative from each area of your team (accounting, creative, AE, media), who will be using the application, in the demo session. You will gain a lot of understanding as to how others will use the solution (and if they have expectations that are out of the blue).
The rep should be very skilled [and engaging] in giving a demo. Everything should work. You should be viewing an actual demo of an actual live program. If they’re giving you a PowerPoint presentation or a video, cut them off immediately. You have to see how their system works.
I like to see how a program works from start-to-finish. How do I open a project? How do I collaborate? How does the system know the message I just sent is linked to a client / a job / a document / a file?
Now that you’ve seen the workflow, what kind of setup and configuration is required? What does the setup look like? How long does it take? What kind of support will they provide?
Ask questions as you go. And do make sure the rep knows that in advance. They must allow time for a little Q & A.
Try to keep the demo within an hour.
If you have detailed needs in specific areas, such as accounting, I’d do the first demo, then ask for a second, in-depth demo so specific questions can be asked and answered.
After the demo, get feedback as soon as possible. 24 hours or less so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.
Were requirements met? Are there questions? Do a followup with the rep and convey questions. Get answers. If the answer is vague, ask the rep to show you. A five minute GoToMeeting will go a long way to clarify details.
Never accept a “sure we can do that”. They have to demonstrate it.
Once you’ve done your demos. It’s time for an estimate and a scorecard.
This is a process. An important one. Do the work because it’s a big investment in time and money. Committing to a new application changes how you work. It should improve your workflow, reduce redundancy and confusion, and be easy to use. There is a learning curve on anything new, and culture can dictate how well change is adopted.
But that’s a whole different discussion.
First, find the solution that works for you.