Once you get to a Short List of approximately 3 software solutions, the next step is to do scripted software demos with the finalists. The success of the demo process is directly related to how well the software vendors are able to show how their software can handle your requirements.
Because you are taking the vendors out of their canned presentations, you need to give them the information they need to successfully demonstrate their solution. Pre-Demo Meetings allow vendors to ask questions and get clarification of demo script items. They also allow you to meet the software vendor (either face to face or via conference phone) and start to develop a relationship with the vendor.
We have seen some organizations decide to shortcut the demo process by expecting the vendors to just demo their solution based on the script – with no further information. This has led to vendor misunderstanding of the client environment and certain requirements on the script which results in a demo that does not capture the capabilities of the software solution. In fact, one organization wrote a very complex business case scenario that none of the vendors clearly understood. None of the vendors showed they could handle the requirement on the demo date, which meant that follow up demos were required. Had the organization simply spent 1-2 hours on the phone with each software vendor to clarify their needs up front, the vendor could have better tailored the demo to meet the client’s needs and the client could have been much more efficient in their decision process.
The bottom line is that you should open the lines of communication with the finalist vendors. Give them every opportunity to ask questions and get to know your organization prior to their demo. Then when the vendor is on-site for demos they can put their best foot forward and there will be no excuses that they didn’t have the opportunity to understand your needs. This will also allow you to efficiently evaluate the vendor solutions and make a more informed decision.