Seeing a product is an important step in learning about the ultimate solution a procuring government agency may select. Fortunately, vendor demos are a near-ubiquitous stage in the government procurement process. Unfortunately, the manner in which those demos are run could be largely improved.
With little guidance from the agency, vendor demos often turn into flashy, highly rehearsed showcases of the product’s best features. This isn’t surprising - given a near blank slate, a vendor will surely highlight their strengths while downplaying their weaknesses. After a flurry of flash, drama and sparkle, a vendor demo can leave an agency feeling simultaneously impressed and yearning for a few more answers. The demo, however, has ended and the agency has to take the vendor’s word.
If, however, the agency can take control of the demo narrative and describe highly specific needs of the agency, a demo day can be far more fruitful than it would be otherwise. Agencies should solicit a comprehensive set of scenarios frequently encountered by user groups in the agency. The vendor should then show how the agency would accomplish each scenario using their product offering. By doing so, the agency squashes demo fluff and vendor distractions while confirming that the solution truly fits the agency’s objectives.
It can be very tempting to ask the same questions you did in your last go-around for a new technology solution. “We still have similar needs - let’s reuse all of the work we invested during the last RFP.”
This can cost you in the long-run! Take the time to understand how your agency has changed and what you really need to know before committing to a solution and a partner. And make sure your questions account for the now, but also the future - your needs today may not be your needs tomorrow, and you’re going to be in a multi-year partnership with the vendor you select. Make sure they can evolve with you.
Here are some sample demo questions that account for the evolving needs of the agency:
- We’re known for frequently updating business processes. How would you keep up with our pace of change if we were to select you? Which members of your team would support us during these updates?
- We are aware of the enterprise and government shift to the cloud. How are you suited to make that change, or why have you chosen to remain with an on-premise solution?
- You’ve provided examples of previous product implementations, but they understandably don’t quite fit our agency’s unique needs. Can you specifically describe how you think your solution would scale up to our use case, and select a set of multiple deployed clients that, in total, represent the functionality we would need?
- We want to procure new technology that makes our agency more efficient, not less. Please describe, specifically, how much ROI your solution has generated for similar agencies.
Choosing a new technology vendor will impact your agency for years. By taking note of the suggestions above, agencies can capitalize on their in-person interactions with potential vendors, from meeting prep to live demos and Q&A. If you can make potential vendors prove their worth on demo day, you can be that much more confident in the solution they will ultimately provide.
Matthew Polega is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.