Sep 21, 2007

Product Demo: A great way to introduce your team

Product demo is one of the first activities that you tend to perform in an implementation. In an Oracle Apps implementation for example, the product demo is done in a demo database called 'Vision Demo Database'. This is a preconfigured database with all the standard flows built in to a significant level of detail.

In my experience, the implementation team takes this phase very lightly. For them this is a phase where you put in some stop gap consultants and ask the customer to go through the user manuals and aquaint themselves. For the customer also this phase is like an interval, the period of time before the actual 'real' activities start.

The implementation team starts the vision demo is by using the existing data and minimally tuning it to the customer's requirements. For example, you may create a supplier named 'Test Supplier' and a few items like 'Test Item' etc. Some of the standard processes are demonstrated in a demo company called 'Vision Operations'. The customer users who start the demo very eagerly, quickly lose interest in the procedings since they are not able to identify with the data!

The end result is that the implementation team has lost out on a fantastic opportunity to gain the confidence of the customer. Since the customer confidence in the product and the implementation team is a prerequisite to successful implementation, the 'real' activities of the project will start with the baggage of a sceptical or a 'neutral' customer as against a possible 'convert'.

The best way to use the Vision Demo effectively is to create a set of the customer's configuration in the Vision instance. For example, you could create an Organization as the customer's organization and link their set of books to the organization. Use actual suppliers, actual customers, actual invoices, payments, actual users etc. Most importantly, use actual items and actual warehouses where they will be transacted.

To improve the effectiveness, you could create the financial reports with the customer's chart of accounts and take out the actual financial reports after posting the transactions to GL. Nothing inspires more confidence in the project than seeing your actual financial transactions being recorded correctly. This inspires confidence in the finance team who will be one of the signatories to almost all the deliverables in the project.

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