Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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12 tips for killer software demos

When selecting enterprise software, demos are a key part of the due diligence process. Even with a short list of 3–4 vendors, sitting through several days’ worth of demos can try your patience. Learn how you can work with prospective software vendors to deliver a killer demo to engage and inform your stakeholders.

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Freepik/Jill Barson Gilbert

I recently facilitated an enterprise software selection process. This required gathering information on software and vendor capabilities, interviewing reference customers and participating in multiple software demos, among other activities.

While each software vendor on the “short list” can address a vast majority of the client’s business needs, each vendor has a range of capabilities. So, how do you set the stage to allow comparison and to make the demos informative and enjoyable, instead of exhausting?

12 Tips for Killer Software Demos

Avoid “demo killers” like poor preparation, dismissing key stakeholder needs, going off script, talking too much, failing to engage the audience, poor demo skills, bashing the competition and apologizing for the demos or software.

The most successful and enjoyable software demos were those where I worked with my client and the vendor in advance of the demo. Here is insight into my approach for “killer demos.”

1. Prepare

Ask important questions before the demo, for instance, the business drivers for the enterprise software; what systems the company uses today; the company’s primary concerns; the expected benefits of the new software; user community and job roles; stakeholders who will attend the demo; decision-makers and key influencers.

2. Focus on needs

Shape the demo around users’ needs — not wants — and priorities. This requires documented software business requirements, with user consensus on needs and priorities.

3. Avoid the standard demo

Standard demos show that the vendor did not consider the customer’s needs. Instead, take astandard approach as described in these tips.

4. Don’t change a thing… except…

Demonstrate the software in its standard, “out of the box” form — without integration,customization, or significant configuration — unless otherwise requested by the customer. An exception is minor personalization using the customer’s branding.

5. Show a day in the life

Simulate the user’s day-to-day experience. For example, show how a “power user” creates monthly reports, and enters detailed data. Show how a casual user completes an assigned task. Show how a site manager or a corporate manager views key performance indicators (KPIs) on a dashboard.

6. Stick to the script

Create a “storyboard” for the demo based upon business needs and priorities. If the customer provides software scripts and/or demo data, then make sure that the scripts align with the stated needs and priorities. Demo the software to best showcase its capabilities while addressing each script.

7. Start at the end… then go backwards

First demo reports, dashboards and workflow that show how a user interacts with the software. Then demo key data entry forms. Demo a workflow or two. Run a few key data queries. But demo software configuration, workflow configuration, report and dashboard creation only if the users would do this day-to-day.

8. Speak to selection criteria

Understand the customer’s software selection criteria, and address them throughout the demo and dialogue.

9. Address resource needs

Address how many subject matter experts (SMEs), project managers and IT resources the customer will need for implementation, roll-out and ongoing maintenance. Provide customer references that can back up these resource estimates.

10. Have IT experts available

Summarize the software’s architecture, hardware and software needs; installation options (on premises, Cloud, Software as a Service) and implementation — but don’t bore a room full of subject matter experts with IT details. Have IT experts present or on call during the demo to answer IT questions.

11. Distinguish yourself

Address how your software will improve the customer’s business. Be positive about capabilities and transparent about third parties you use to deliver software and services. Boast about your successes, and back up statements with evidence. Do not make negative or false statements about the competition.

12. Deliver strong

  • Know your audience – anticipate and address their needs.
  • Engage the audience – control the content and flow, and encourage dialogue.
  • Have a strong opening – capture the audience in the first two minutes.
  • Make your case – benefits the customers will gain, and what sets you apart.
  • Respect the clock – arrive in plenty of time to set up, and plan to finish early.
  • Get trained – learn how to speak to a group and how to demo software. 

Conclusion

A well-delivered demo can make up for software shortcomings, while a poorly-delivered demo can destroy the chance of customers embracing even the best software. Demos can be compelling and enjoyable when the software vendor and prospective customer organize a “killer demo” through preparation, focus, speaking to business and IT issues, and strong delivery.

This post first appeared on the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog.

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3 ways to avoid costly software selection mismatches

Some organizations faced with enterprise software selection make emotional, rather than objective, decisions; select technology before understanding their needs; get caught up in vendor hype; or find a solution that does not match their ability to adopt it. Here are three ways that software selection pros make the selection process easier.

Recently, I joined a tech product review forum. This is a volunteer assignment where the sponsors encourage objective reviews. The reviews help prospective customers to make informed buying decisions.

My first assignment was to review a robotic vacuum cleaner. I found the product easy to unpack and set up. I needed to watch the robot the first few times I used it, to ensure that the machine did not get snagged on something. After multiple random passes, it cleaned the ground floor of my home. This took about three hours and two battery charges to do what I could have done manually in 20 to 30 minutes with a regular vacuum cleaner. The robot did only a fair job of picking up typical debris.

In the end, I did not recommend this product.  This tool did not meet my basic needs—to clean quickly and effectively, with little effort. The robotic vacuum cleaner is an interesting technology, but not developed to where it can replace traditional vacuum cleaners. It is early in the product lifecycle, slightly costly for what it does, attractive to techies, though not ready for the majority of us to adopt.

If I had purchased this product, I would have been out a few hundred dollars at most. But what if I had purchased enterprise environment, health & safety (EHS) software? I could have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to have a mismatch. Here are three things the pros do to avoid costly software selection mismatches.

1. Start at the beginning

Don’t start looking at software until you know what you need. First understand your needs and priorities, and then seek out products that best match them. If you know your needs, you should focus on at most, two or three candidate software platforms that best meet your needs.

Do not review the universe of available software, because this only creates confusion. Back to vacuum cleaners for a moment… If you need to clean hard flooring and pile carpeting in a four-bedroom house with five family members, one cat and two dogs, then forget handheld vacuums and shop vacs. Instead, focus on the products and technology that meet your needs.

Since enterprise software initiatives can involve multiple phases over month or years, consider your most pressing needs, as well as mid-term and long term needs. Mid- and long-term needs—and project objectives—may call for software that is flexible, configurable, and scalable to accommodate new users, new business processes, and future mergers & acquisitions.

2. Separate the wheat from the chaff

Sometimes it’s hard to tell one software package from another, just by sitting through a couple of hours of demos. You may like each software platform better than the one before, or worse, may like them all, when, in reality, they differ greatly. And you may be subject to marketing hype like, “We are the leading provider of EHS software to Fortune 500 companies” or “We provide the lowest Total Cost of Ownership in the industry.”

To make your life easier, take a systems lifecycle approach and carry prioritized business needs from one project phase to another. This helps you to create an environment for apples-to-apples comparisons.

  • During the Analysis/Needs Assessment phase, make sure to clearly identify and prioritize requirements, considering key stakeholder input.
  • Use prioritized requirements (and, as appropriate, mid-term and long-term needs) as the basis for a Request for Information before the demos.
  • Ask each of the “short list” of 2-3 vendors to demo their software according to use cases that you provide, and evaluate how each of the vendor packages meets your needs.
  • Make sure to discuss and document your software and vendor evaluation and selection criteria before inviting vendors in for demos.

3. Understand IT maturity

  • Technology Enthusiasts love tech first and foremost and want to be on the cutting edge; they are the first to try a new product.
  • Visionaries love new products as well, but they also consider how those new products or technologies can be applied. They are the most price-insensitive part of the market.
  • Pragmatists are open to new products, but need evidence the products will work and be worth the trouble. They are much more price conscious.
  • Conservatives are much more hesitant to accept change; they are inherently suspicious of any new technology and often only adopt new products to keep up with others. They don’t highly value technology, and are not willing to pay a lot.
  • Skeptics are not just hesitant, but actively hostile towards technology.

When you select software, make sure that you understand your organization’s IT maturity. Is your company an innovator, salivating for the latest technology, and willing to work with software vendors to iron out the wrinkles in a beta product? Or does your company sit solidly in the market majority, willing to wait for software to be tested and proven before you purchase it?

Also consider where the software lies along a product lifecycle curve. Is it an early market product, lean and mean, gaining momentum, made by a vendor with lots of innovative capabilities? Or is it a more mature technology with plenty of breadth and depth, integration and reporting capabilities, in its fourth or later version, with more enhancements on the way?

Select enterprise software that’s a good fit for your organization and its needs. These are just three ways to make a better-informed and objective enterprise software selection. If you do not have all these capabilities within your organization, do not be afraid to ask your IT group or a trusted advisor to help.

This article originally appeared in the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog.


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New CIO.com blog post | 5 ways a consultant can benefit your software implementation

lifecycle-navigationIf you shudder when you hear the word “consultant,” you’re not alone. Yet a consultant can invigorate and strengthen your software initiative, while saving time and money.

Here are five ways that a consultant can positively impact your software initiative (read the full post).


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Lexicon Systems, LLC to speak at SPF Houston 2015

Enablon North America tapped Lexicon Systems, LLC President & CEO Jill Barson Gilbert for the keynote panel at their 20 May 2015 event. Gilbert is a thought leader in the environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability software market who advises senior management in industrial and software companies, venture capital and consulting firms.

Anna M. Clark will moderate the panel. Clark began her career in management consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM before starting sustainability consulting and communications firm EarthPeople, where she is President.

houston skyline nightEnablon is a leading software provider. SPF Houston is a one-day event for EHS managers and subject matter experts, IT managers and business leaders. 2015 marks the Sustainable Performance Forum’s fifth year in Houston.

This year’s conference theme is “Leveraging Technology to Increase the Efficiency of EHS Management Processes and Generate Cost Savings.”Learn more and register here.


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Learn from the experts and share best practices at September Sustainable Performance Forum

I am pleased to announce my upcoming presentation, “Business Requirements and Software Selection Best Practices” at the Sustainable Performance Forum, 25-26 September in Chicago, IL. The #Enablon #SPF Americas 2014 program features thought leaders on environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability, information technology (IT), and Risk. 

Former NASA astronaut, navy fighter pilot and test pilot and Boeing Chief Technical Pilot John O. Creighton will deliver the keynote talk on risk.

The Keynote panel features senior executives from industry, leading EHS subject matter experts and industry analysts. Author and writer Anna M. Clark will moderate the panel. Enablon CEO Dan Vogel, CTO Marc Vogel, Vice President Pascal Gaude and Enablon North America CEO Philippe Tesler will present their vision and company roadmap.

The Enablon team will lead program tracks on six different Enablon software solutions. Each track will include a session on issues & trends and a case study, in addition to presentations on the solution set and product road map.

Customers will have the opportunity to collaborate with subject matter experts and Enablon on future product enhancements. 

The program features two new tracks this year, beyond solution tracks and software training:

  • Technology Enablers–cross-platform, innovative information technologies
  • Implementation Strategies–best practices for business requirements and software selection; implementation, and more.

SPF also offers networking opportunities like industry roundtables and a gala dinner, and Lunchtime Expert series talks. Learn more here.


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Trends shaping EHS & sustainability software

Several trends are influencing the  environment, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability software market. This article touches on just a few.

Software as a Service (SaaS). Ten to 15 years ago, most software was installed “on premises” on a company’s own servers, with more software installed on each user’s desktop or laptop computer. Today, Software as a Service (SaaS) delivers software differently. The software vendor installs the software on its servers and each user accesses the it through secure Internet connections, with little or no other software on their desktop or laptop computer.

More and more organizations, including Fortune 50-sized companies, are embracing SaaS, where they would not consider it five to ten years ago. Some issues that changed acceptance:

  • information technology (IT) is not the core business of most organizations; adopting SaaS is a way to leverage limited IT resources.
  • SaaS allows transferring some of the risk of software development, deployment, maintenance, upgrades and support to the vendors.
  • they trust the SaaS providers to manage and deliver data securely, protecting sensitive information and trade secrets.
  • they seek alternative cost structures with “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions rather than large up front capital expense associated with “on premises” installation.
  • they can avoid hardware costs associated with traditional, “on premises” installation.

Global standardization

Standardization. Organizations place great value on streamlining and standardizing business processes across the organization. While most companies believe that they–or their data–are unique, the truth is, they are not that different from others. Companies can can benefit from the best practices of others within their company, as well as others within and outside of their industry.

Let me clarify… while regulatory standards and specific data points vary widely from company to company, the business processes are similar. For example, regulatory intelligence requires applicability analysis and regulatory change management processes regardless of the industry sector or regulatory topic.

Globalization. Organizations need to manage data and deliver information in context as close to real-time as possible to make sound business decisions. An enterprise-wide EHS and sustainability software solution that delivers rolled-up information from disparate operations can enhance compliance and sustainability.ghs-pictogram-harmful-human-healthThe leading EHS and sustainability software solutions provide multilingual capabilities without the need for translation services. This is important not only for companies with facilities spread across several continents, but also for companies that have customers spread across several continents. Think of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and the updated OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that require multiple language versions of a (material) safety data sheet (M)SDS.

Improved user interfaces. Users will not readily adopt software that is difficult to use. The leading EHS and sustainability software applications push beyond the competition for a reason–they are much easier for end-users to adopt. Both the “data in” and “data out” interfaces are more intuitive and visually appealing. Improvements include:

  • Kinder, simpler data entry forms.
  • More intuitive tabular data displays that allow “live” data sorting, filtering and “drill-down.”
  • Configurable dashboards with assorted graphic, charts and tables.
  • The ability to apply multiple dashboards tailored to different user needs.
  • Ready access to online help.

Ease of configuration. Many EHS software providers stress ease of configuration. The software architecture allows a trained user to add new users, update reports and forms, create reports and dashboards without writing software code. Why is this important?

  • the customer does not need to call the vendor or a consultant each time they need a small change.
  • it allows a custom look without actually customizing the underlying software code, allowing for standard upgrades.
  • companies can tailor help files to use their own terminology and to meet end-user needs.

Cloud, mobile, social and big data. These technologies–more than buzzwords–greatly influence software development. This is a good thing:

  • ID-10083418public and private clouds allow data access 24/7 from different devices, many of them mobile.
  • mobility allows data management at the point of generation; it  it allows automated data gathering that in the past used clipboard- and operations log-based methods.
  • in areas with limited or no Internet access,mobility allows offline data gathering with later sync to the database.
  • social tools allow data sharing and collaboration through automated workflows, messaging, shared work spaces and document repositories.
  • big data technologies allow quick data mining of very large data sets (1 TB and more) to spot trends.

Business and technical trends continue to shape the EHS and sustainability software market. Be up-to-date on these trends to have more informed discussions among your organization, software vendors and consultants.


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$Dollars still drive EHS software decisions

A large manufacturing client of mine recently completed a software evaluation and selection process. The project stakeholders used a set of objective evaluation and selection criteria to arrive at a decision. Interestingly, these criteria did NOT include cost. If in, the final evaluation two software solutions were rated equal, then cost could be a deciding factor. My client and the software vendor were excited to move forward with implementation at warp-speed, as the clock was ticking towards internal deadlines.

Since the EHS business and IT sponsors kept the executive suite updated, it looked as if formal approval would be easy. The company had strong business drivers regardless of the project cost. Of course, no project has unlimited funds. In the end, the project was approved–only after a lot of number-crunching and many revisions to the executive presentation.

Why? Executives run the business using performance-based metrics. Most C-level executives are trained to value a project based on “hard numbers” metrics such as cost saving, cost avoidance and Return on Investment. Often, they dismiss the value of compelling “soft numbers” associated with benefits that are harder to quantify, such as making decisions based upon solid data, the ability for users to adopt (and gladly use) the software, data entry at the point of activity, and productivity gains from EHS process automation, self-service reports and dashboards.

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Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen

Prepare a compelling business case based upon a good understanding of your business. While this does not require exhaustive research, you need to know where to look.

  1. Keep it simple. Find 2-3 relevant “hard numbers” cost avoidance and cost savings examples.   These savings alone could pay for the project in 3-5 years.
  2. Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO). This includes software license/subscription, maintenance and implementation fees PLUS the cost of internal EHS and IT resources, external consultants, hardware and other expenses over the lifetime of the software. Many organizations have tunnel vision and compare only license and implementation costs; TCO allows a more realistic and credible evaluation.
  3. Avoid selecting the low-cost option just to save a few dollars. If the software fits current, near-term and long-term needs, then it may be a good option. Reread item 2 above. You may wish that you had chosen a more “expensive” option, as it would save effort and money over the life of the software.
  4. When in doubt, seek expert advice. Seek assistance if you lack the know-how to prepare a business case for C-level or Board approval. The skills needed to develop a business case are very different from the skills needed to administer the software after implementation. This expertise may lie within or outside of your organization.

While dollars still drive EHS software decisions, look at the bigger picture. You will be glad you did!