I’m married to a marvelous guy who happens to be a database architect. He brings home great techie jokes on a regular basis. Here’s one of my favorite. A guy dies and meets a spirit as he passes into the afterlife. The spirit gives the guy three choices on how he can spend the rest of eternity. The first choice is a tropical island filled with lithe, bikini-clad women. The second is on a sleek, well-powered fishing boat on a large, tranquil lake. The third choice is to relax in a warm bungalow nestled in the mountains, surrounded by earlier-deceased friends and family. The guy chooses the tropical island. (Sorry, this is a guy telling the joke.) Moments later, he is whisked away . . .to a hot, fiery landscape – hell of course! The guy asks the spirit – who we now know is the devil – “What happened?” The devil replies, “Oh, you understand, that was the demo version.”
Of course, applying this joke to software is a great over-exaggeration. However, like most jokes, it is a nugget of truth that makes it funny. Why? Because most demos are very well scripted to avoid showing prospects (and analysts) the weaknesses of a solution. So – setting up a new supplier master record? Don’t show that one . . it takes twenty clicks! You get the idea.
What does a demo get you? If you aren’t really sure what a solution does, a demo is a great way to get, at a glance, the highlights of functionality. Often, a picture is worth a thousand words. A demo can also give you a rough idea of how aesthetically pleasing a solution is to use. But if you really want to learn about a product – don’t ask for the vendor’s stock demo – demand a custom SCRIPTED demo. In other words, take the applicable tasks you do most often, and require the vendor to show you, in the live application (no screen shots!), step by step, how it is accomplished.
Set your expectations accordingly, too, that a demo isn’t going to show you everything you need to know. When I evaluate products, I typically test for at least 100 features and often many more –up to five hundred features – to finalize a rating. I have learned though my career that getting a demo of everything is impractical because each feature can take 5-10 minutes or more to show. That is why references are so important, for prospective buyers and analysts. References are absolutely indispensible, in fact. They are the only source of feedback from someone who uses a solution day in and day out, to provide a read on whether a feature is complete, usable, and to verify that the application doesn’t require 20 clicks to complete a simple task.
So should you demo? Sure, only entertain live demos with proper scripting and appropriate expectations.
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