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.

12-tips-killer-software-demos

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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What golf teaches us about evaluating legacy systems

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Credit: Thinkstock

A decade ago, a 72-hole score of 10 under par could win the PGA championship. Today, it’s a new game, where 20 under par clinches the trophy. As in golf, the right software and information technologies – when used strategically by skilled pros – can make a business more competitive. Here are some pro tips for evaluating legacy systems.

Last weekend, I watched the PGA Championship on TV. Several 20-something golf pros made the tournament exciting, setting new distance and scoring records. I asked an avid golfer friend how the young players could score 20 under par for the four-day event, when a decade ago, 10 or 11 under par would have won the trophy. My friend said that it’s the equipment – high-tech golf clubs make the high-tech balls go farther. Yet the average golfer would be thrilled to score par, which has remained the same forever.

Business performance and agility depend on IT equipment – hardware and software – and how well you use it. If your organization has a variety of legacy systems that are not integrated, do not communicate with each other, are built with outdated technology, or do not perform the way you would like, then it’s time for an evaluation.

Take lessons from a pro

Few great golfers are self-taught; nearly all use teaching professionals with specific methods and drills.

If your organization does not possess the skills to evaluate legacy systems, then enlist a pro. Your pro should employ a proven methodology and should be conversant in business, subject matter, and IT.

Assess your game

Pro golfers periodically assess their game and make adjustments to stay in the game.

Take the time to properly assess your IT systems to keep your organization in the competition.

  • Does your short game (immediate needs) or your long game (mid-range and long-term needs) need improvement? What are the most critical unmet needs?
  • Are your legacy systems agile, flexible, and scalable to meet your needs?
  • How well do your legacy systems align with your current IT strategy? For example, have you transitioned from on premises to Cloud deployment? Do you have a lean IT staff and outsource maintenance and support? Is mobile technology a must for new systems?

Look in your bag

It is good practice to empty your golf bag every now and then. You never know what you will find – unused gadgets and old golf balls just make the bag more cumbersome.

You should do the same with legacy systems. Put everything on the table. Identify all of the software and tools assigned to the task at hand. This includes “shadow IT” systems and small tools that are not approved software applications. Also, you may find that some software is not used as intended. These complicate, rather than enable, your business.

Engage lines of business and power users to help triage legacy systems. Document which systems and tools you should keep, eliminate, or replace.

Rank your legacy systems in order of importance. At the same time, consider what you can consolidate to lighten your load.

Get a grip

If you’re still using small wooden drivers with steel shafts (e.g., Excel spreadsheets and homegrown databases) and everyone else is using oversized titanium drivers with carbon fiber shafts (e.g., integrated, holistic software apps), then it may be time to replace your legacy systems with newer technology.

Sometimes all you need is a new set of grips on your golf clubs. This is a low cost, effective, solution that can provide additional years of play. The same goes for software. You may be able to extend the life of your system by

  • expanding the user community,
  • extending the systems to additional facilities, or
  • enabling new features and functionality.

If legacy systems are holding you back, then enlist a pro to help you sharpen your game. Conduct a proper legacy systems evaluation, triage your IT tools and apps, and determine if extending their life makes sense.

Up-to-date tools and equipment, coupled with a good strategy, skills and training, can make both golf pros and organizations more agile and competitive.


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Debunking common software implementation myths

I read an article this morning about three ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation myths. I come across the same ones in EHS (environment, health & safety) software implementations. Let the debunking begin…

Myth 1. You cannot use your software selection consultant to implement the software.

no entryI have seen resistance to using a software selection consultant to implement the software. The hiring organization perceived that the consulting firm could not do both; there should be a separation between selection and implementation.

If your consultant has proven project management, communications, subject matter and technical skills to successfully implement the software, then use them. Once your consultant helps you to document and prioritize needs and select software, then they know your needs and business better than anyone else at this point! Take advantage of this knowledge.

Bringing in another group to implement the software will cost you lost productivity, duplication of efforts, extended timelines, and other avoidable costs.

Myth 2. You must have a software vendor or reseller implement your software.

sign-160675_1280While the software vendor/reseller should be conversant in the software, they may lack subject matter expertise or a broader perspective of implementation best practices.

Instead, I recommend a team approach to implementation:

  1. an integrator/implementer that is comfortable with the software and its configuration,
  2. vendor representatives–implementation and product specialists, and
  3. software customer key stakeholders.

Myth 3. The most important aspect of implementation is technical proficiency.

signs-38588_1280I have seen talented technical staff lead software implementations that become “challenged” when the teams focused solely on technical issues.  Warning!

Instead, I recommend a team skilled in several disciplines. Beyond technical (IT) proficiency, subject matter expertise, and industry experience, remember to round out the team with skill sets such as:

  • project management
  • risk management
  • business process management
  • organizational change management
  • training
  • analytics
  • etc.

With these implementation myths are debunked, you can make more informed decisions on your path forward for software implementation. This is my “quick take.” You can read the Panorama Consulting perspective here.


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ISO 14001 environmental management systems standard under revision

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Photo: ISO

Every five years, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) reviews its standards. ISO is revising the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems standard and plans to release the new version in 2015.

ISO 14001:2015 is available for comment in the Draft Informational Stage. According to ISO, revisions will reflect the latest trends and ensure compatibility with other management system standards like ISO 9001.

Revisions of note include

  • understanding the organization’s context to better manage risk,
  • added emphasis on leaders to promote environmental management, and
  • a shift towards improving environmental performance vs.  improving the management system.

Click here to view the official Web page on ISO 14001 revisions.


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Upcoming Sustainable Performance Forum to focus on operational risk and process safety management

The Enablon Sustainable Performance Forum (SPF) will bring experts on operational risk management and process safety management to Houston, TX on the afternoon of 21 May. Book author and award-winning journalist Loren Steffy will deliver the opening keynote address. Environment, health & safety (EHS) management information system thought leader Jill Barson Gilbert of Lexicon Systems, LLC will moderate a panel discussion. Panelists include Jess A. McAngus, respected compliance expert and Co-founder Spirit Environmental; Jonathan Commanday, Director Applications Services at Axiall Corporation; and Leah Cartwright, Process Safety subject matter expert from Enablon North America Corp.

Enablon’s North America Product Manager Alexis Merydith will present the Enablon V7.0 Road Map and demonstrate the software’s Management of Change (MOC) capabilities. Global risk expert John Kill, Partner in ERM’s Risk Practice, will deliver the closing keynote address.

EEnablon sustainable performance forum houston 2014xisting Enablon software customers are invited to participate in a pre-conference Customer Workshop. Here they will meet with Enablon founders Dan Vogel, Phil Tesler and Marc Vogel and the product team to learn about and provide input on future software releases.

Consulting firm ERM is the conference co-sponsor. Read the press release here and register for the complimentary conference here.


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Windows XP support ending soon

Microsoft stops support for the Windows XP operating system (OS) early in April, and stops support for the associated malware software in July. Despite Microsoft’s warnings to update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 before “end of support,” many large organizations continue to use the almost 13-year-old computer operating system. It is the most popular OS next to Windows 7. And some companies will switch to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.x.

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Image: Microsoft

Companies can

  1. continue to use Windows XP and later change to another OS;
  2. upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1; or
  3. upgrade to an OS such as Chrome OS, Mac OSX Mavericks or Android.

Windows XP end of support allows an opportunity to evaluate how IT needs have changed in the last 13 years. Organizations can decide which new technologies—hardware, operating systems, mobile, Cloud and Big Data—will work best for them.

The next “IT Insight” column, Windows XP sails into the sunset… maybeappears in em Magazine on April 1. Check back here or on our web site early in April for a link to the column.


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The paperless office: are we there yet?

The other day I tackled overstuffed file drawers and the papers piled on my desk. I filed, recycled or shredded several reams of outdated documents. During this exercise (it was pretty physical), I noticed that my company saved fewer paper records in the last few years than when we started the business. Likely, we continue to retain more printed paper than needed. How much is enough?

office clutter

Image: USA Today

We are far from the “paperless office.” Running a management consulting firm with an environment, health & safety (EHS) IT focus, one might think that most transactions are electronic, not paper. We send essentially all work products electronically and print some of them. We use accounting software and print invoices and reports for our records, even if delivered electronically to clients. We receive electronic documents from others, and print some of those, too. Each party seems to save time, printing and postage costs. Are we reducing paper use, or just shifting the burden to others?

 “Less is More” aptly describes paper records. Lack of trust in electronic records may cause us to use more paper than necessary.

In businesses large and small, email remains the most common transmission method. Email is inefficient because it allows multiple document copies, versions and “message threads,” not to mention redundant storage. With so many email attachments, which version is the correct one?

I prefer shared workspaces to email and have promoted their use for many years. Collaboration tools like Google Documents, Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Zoho are gaining acceptance in large, global organizations. These tools are worth every penny when they

  • promote consistent business processes,
  • increase productivity,
  • make content readily available,
  • provide a “single version of the truth,”
  • have a user-friendly interface, and
  • offer a secure way for people to interact 24/7.

Collaboration tools are in their infancy and have limitations. Often, the tools seem easy to administer but require multiple attempts to properly set user permissions. Often, their interfaces and features are so simplistic that they do not meet user needs. For instance,

  • online document editors are simpler (read: less functional) than desktop office software.
  • document work spaces have limited functionality without customization.
  • calendars are rudimentary.
  • survey tools are rudimentary with few data analysis features.

Software vendors, please make tools more functional, yet keep them simple!  And offer me more FREE Cloud storage space, so I do not need several Cloud accounts to manage my work.

I welcome more mature, yet user-friendly collaboration tools.  With increasing content management in the Cloud, we can better manage day-to-day work. The result? Less paper, I hope!

Pixel This: No Paper! sums up the “paperless office” issue pretty well.