It’s highly likely you’ll be reviewing multiple products as part of your evaluation process. Consider the process of buying a new car. You want to understand the price; the performance, what other customers think and most importantly, you want to take each car for a test drive. In the same way if you don't undertake a product demonstration and evaluation, then how can you possibly make the right product decision? We have seen this happen before. A potential customer chooses a product without undertaking an evaluation, only to return to the market within a short period if time to undertake the entire process again. Ouch.
The Run sheet
You need to be able to compare apples with apples. All products are different, but they all have their own unique way of achieving the same outcome. The best approach is to define what are the key features that are most important to your organization, and then create a run sheet around these features. You will then circulate this run sheet to all of vendors you have invited and ask them to prepare their product demonstration based on the supplied run sheet. We have developed a run sheet that you can download and modify to suit your own purposes. This run sheet can be downloaded from the White Papers section of this website.
The Product Demonstrations
It’s important to see every product that you have invited to respond. You may have preconceived ideas about what an Intranet solution is, or should be, but you will benefit the most from seeing all products. Assuming you’ve circulated the run sheet to all vendors, ask them to prepare a 30-45 minute demonstration of their product based on the run sheet. Be ready to take score as each vendor presents their software according to your run sheet. Ask lots of questions and take notes. This process will highlight how knowledgeable each vendor is about the product they are offering, and will give you good insight into how comfortable you feel in potentially working with them on the actual project.
Following the product demonstrations, you will be able to confidently create your shortlist. You should know who is the preferred vendor and who are the challenging vendors. Typically a shortlist is no more than 2 or 3 vendors. In the interests of keeping momentum in the sales process, you should inform the shortlisted vendors that they have been shortlisted and ask them to provide a second and final demonstration. In the interests of keeping momentum in the sales process, you should ensure the second and final demonstration occurs within two weeks of the first demo.
The Second and Final Demo
For the final demonstration ask the vendor to prepare the demonstration based on their preference. This will allow you to see other aspects of each product that may not have been exposed through your run sheet. You should allocate up to 90-120 minutes for this final demonstration with each vendor, and be prepared to challenge him or her on what they demonstrate and how that is of value to your business needs. You should allocate the last half hour to discussing their proposal and the commercial terms of an engagement with them.
You will know by now what is the preferred product. Do your background checks on the vendor and talk with others who are using the product. Once you’re comfortable, set up a time to discuss the vendor’s offering in further detail. The vendor will likely know they are the preferred vendor, so be open about what you’re expectations are for the project. It’s a great feeling for the vendor to be told they are the preferred solution, so if you have endorsement from your executive team, tell the vendor they’ve been successful as soon as possible.
Good luck with your Intranet project.