Evaluating Procurement Tools – Are Demos a Waste of Time?
Should you invest time in a demo if you are considering a new procurement tool or platform?
Before I provide my opinion, I will provide some practical context.
- Purchasing needs can vary dramatically among business units
- Spend categories are rarely uniform in importance for departments like IT, MRO, HR, Manufacturing etc.
Other factors that senior executives have shared with me that impede collaboration Include:
- Autonomous operating practices may be the best business practice for some units
- Cohesive operating styles may be a goal but not a reality
- Turf protection is common even if people don’t want to talk about it
- When new businesses are acquired people will resist integration
- Systems that “work” even if they are not efficient are often preferred to the unknown
- People fear they will lose their job if a new system promises significant time savings
With all these issues, is it any wonder that choosing a new system can be a daunting challenge?
What are the pros and cons of demos?
- Typically, a minimal investment of time
- Most providers can schedule one within a week
- Quickly determine if the functionality is intuitive or cumbersome
- Answers you hear to your questions should provide a good indication of the competence of the demonstrator and their understanding of procurement
- Sanitized environment with limited complexity is rarely a good way to evaluate a tool or platform
- Easy for users to “dive into the weeds” on issues that may or may not be critical to overall functionality
- The leadership style of the most senior person in the demo may inhibit questions or concerns
- How a tool looks may not match the underlying engine
After participating in hundreds of demos in the past 3 years, I believe there is a better way.
- Schedule a demo and provide a list of key functions you want to see.
- Ask your users to provide key questions and submit them ahead of the demo – they can be answered in advance and then demonstrated or simply demonstrated if time allows
The next step will depend on your organization.
If you have a centralized procurement group or your business units operate in a similar way, then request a deeper dive using actual data from a prior event or events. A mutual NDA should be part of this step.
In my experience setting up pilot projects will give your team a much better user experience.
Expect to invest time and money in this.
I would recommend investing in a minimum of 3 pilot projects with different levels of complexity with different user groups, if applicable
The goal should be to determine if the platform will provide obvious strategic gains.
Rarely will it work perfectly for every nuance of your operation. If you find a 10 fantastic but a solid 8 should make your life a lot easier.
I would suggest the following basic parameters for the pilots:
- Senior management must be on board with the approach
- Users should be allowed to consider all options without criticism
- Managers and analysts should both be hands-on participants
- If different business units are participating, then each unit should be allowed to observe another unit’s project to cross pollinate ideas and best practices
- Establish a very short deadline to keep them moving
- Provide clear goals but temper those due to the learning curve for the first project
- Get excited and fully support the process
If you do all these things, your evaluation should be clear even if it isn’t universal.
Back to my original question.
Simply using a demo to decide is not the best use of time.
And it is unlikely that your experience if you move forward will mirror the demo.
Demos work because they are designed to work and have been scrubbed.
They are all shiny like a new car – I have test driven many cars that looked great. In some I felt like a sardine, others were clunky to drive, and others had very little acceleration.
The one I ended up choosing was a pleasure to drive.
They all looked great, but the test drive made the choice easy to say yes or no.
I would strongly suggest that putting additional time and money into pilot projects will yield a better result for your company.
If you are ready to drive your competitive advantage, please request a 30-minute discovery call with me using the link below.
If I can’t help you, I will let you know that, and we can part friends. If we both agree that we should continue the conversation, we can set up the next logical step.
Ask better questions, make changes and 2019 will be your best year ever.
Action Step: If you are uncertain where to start the process of change, a procurement professional like myself can provide guidance and expertise to help your organization achieve the results you want.
If you want to go explore this topic in greater detail, please contact me. I invite you to request 30-minute discovery conversation. In my experience the next step will be apparent at the end of the call. I never assume that what I have to offer will be right for everyone, so don’t expect a sales pitch. You can reach me at 973-936-9672.
If you would like to know more ways to reduce costs without changing the way you do business, simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact information and the best time to reach you.
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Until Next Time, I Wish You Great Success in Your Business and in Your Life