How to get the best out of vendor demos when selecting new software How to get the best out of vendor demos when selecting new software

How to get the best out of vendor demos when selecting new software
31 May 2017

Q: I am payroll manager at a company with about 1,100 employees. The HR manager and I are looking for a new software system and have been tasked with arranging product demonstrations with five vendors. How can we get the most out of these demos?

To maximise your chances of success, there are two key considerations, one relating to physical location and the other to content.

Taking them in order, the site of the demo is crucial. It will need to accommodate all of the attendees comfortably and be light and well-ventilated enough to ensure people stay alert. Concentration is important and, if you have structured the demo correctly, it will be an intensive exercise so try to limit the experience to around two hours.

Also be sure to provide water to guard against dehydration, especially in the case of the presenters. Likewise ensure that any equipment requested by exhibiting vendors is present and working, especially if the software requires a decent WiFi connection.

As to who should attend, the project sponsor and heads of HR and payroll are obvious candidates as well as system users. Influencers such as finance and IT should have a voice too as well as anyone else whose patronage will support the system once it is selected. Also ensure technical support is at hand in case of any hiccups with the equipment or network connection.

The importance of content

The second consideration relates to content, which is vital when talking about product demos. Personally, I favour a two-stage approach. In this instance, the first session would cover basic requirements. As a result, it is necessary to provide vendors with an overview of your key processes in advance, including dealing with starters and leavers, absence and appraisals. Also send them a sample of dummy or anonymised data to work with. Doing so will enable them to demonstrate on a step-by-step basis how their software can be configured to replicate your way of working.

The second session, held perhaps a week or two later, should take a more in-depth look at areas of pain experienced when using your current software. To this end, provide candidates with examples of processes that you want to be automated using self-service, workflow and triggered actions.

Problem areas such as grossing up pay, undertaking holiday liquidation, introducing electronic payslips or conducting auto-enrolment calculations should also be highlighted.

Scoring and weighting

For both demos, create score sheets and itemise what it is you want demonstrated. But keep the scoring technique simple. For example, use three categories: Fully demonstrated/Partially demonstrated/ Not demonstrated, and assign points to each one, weighting the most important issues.

You could also ask users for their views on how usable the software appears to be. But remember that fantastic, whizzy features you did not request should be assigned no points at all.

After the demo proper, always allow time for general questions around the vendors’ potential approach to the project, roll-out timings, support and the like. In the interests of fairness, also allot each supplier the same amount of time and, if they go off-topic, gently remind them that it is their own valuable time that is being spent.

Finally, do not try to fit too many demos into one day. Two is generally quite enough. And on that note, good luck with your search. 

Denis Barnard, founder of the Global Payroll Association’s HRcomparison.com investigates the secrets to success when undertaking a supplier beauty parade.

Please drop Denis a line at denis.barnard@hrmeansbusiness.com if you require help with any of your tech trials and tribulations and he will be happy to answer your queries here.

Q: I am payroll manager at a company with about 1,100 employees. The HR manager and I are looking for a new software system and have been tasked with arranging product demonstrations with five vendors. How can we get the most out of these demos?

To maximise your chances of success, there are two key considerations, one relating to physical location and the other to content.

Taking them in order, the site of the demo is crucial. It will need to accommodate all of the attendees comfortably and be light and well-ventilated enough to ensure people stay alert. Concentration is important and, if you have structured the demo correctly, it will be an intensive exercise so try to limit the experience to around two hours.

Also be sure to provide water to guard against dehydration, especially in the case of the presenters. Likewise ensure that any equipment requested by exhibiting vendors is present and working, especially if the software requires a decent WiFi connection.

As to who should attend, the project sponsor and heads of HR and payroll are obvious candidates as well as system users. Influencers such as finance and IT should have a voice too as well as anyone else whose patronage will support the system once it is selected. Also ensure technical support is at hand in case of any hiccups with the equipment or network connection.

The importance of content

The second consideration relates to content, which is vital when talking about product demos. Personally, I favour a two-stage approach. In this instance, the first session would cover basic requirements. As a result, it is necessary to provide vendors with an overview of your key processes in advance, including dealing with starters and leavers, absence and appraisals. Also send them a sample of dummy or anonymised data to work with. Doing so will enable them to demonstrate on a step-by-step basis how their software can be configured to replicate your way of working.

The second session, held perhaps a week or two later, should take a more in-depth look at areas of pain experienced when using your current software. To this end, provide candidates with examples of processes that you want to be automated using self-service, workflow and triggered actions.

Problem areas such as grossing up pay, undertaking holiday liquidation, introducing electronic payslips or conducting auto-enrolment calculations should also be highlighted.

Scoring and weighting

For both demos, create score sheets and itemise what it is you want demonstrated. But keep the scoring technique simple. For example, use three categories: Fully demonstrated/Partially demonstrated/ Not demonstrated, and assign points to each one, weighting the most important issues.

You could also ask users for their views on how usable the software appears to be. But remember that fantastic, whizzy features you did not request should be assigned no points at all.

After the demo proper, always allow time for general questions around the vendors’ potential approach to the project, roll-out timings, support and the like. In the interests of fairness, also allot each supplier the same amount of time and, if they go off-topic, gently remind them that it is their own valuable time that is being spent.

Finally, do not try to fit too many demos into one day. Two is generally quite enough. And on that note, good luck with your search. 

Denis Barnard, founder of the Global Payroll Association’s HRcomparison.com investigates the secrets to success when undertaking a supplier beauty parade.

Please drop Denis a line at denis.barnard@hrmeansbusiness.com if you require help with any of your tech trials and tribulations and he will be happy to answer your queries here.