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Jason Corsello

Great post Jim. I think business-based scenarios are still needed during an evaluation, though. The scenarios shouldn't be vanilla (ie "show me how you cascade goals in your system") though and should align with what the business is doing today or planning to do in the future (ie we have a corporate goal of increasing revenue by 20% next year. Show us how you can cascade goals eight layers down in a matrix organization).

I'm a big fan of "sandboxes" but its not as easy as getting in the car and press the ignition. It takes relevant data, configuration, workflow, etc for it to respond accordingly. Evaluating multiple sandbox environments in the selection process can be hard especially considering the short period of time most companies have to make a decision. Additionally, as someone that has purchased and deployed enterprise software, I often learn a lot about the system/technology after the first 30-60 days.

With that said, we often recommend a that a client create a "sandbox" as the last step before signing the purchase agreement. Keep in mind though, we still have a lot of vendors today that can't support a sandbox environment.

Peter DeVries

I agree with Jason - scenarios shouldn't be generic but should reflect specific business requirements for a company.

On the other hand, many vendors have a hard time demonstrating how their solution meets company specific requirements and revert back to demonstrating general functionality. This is where I agree that usability testing is critical. It allows the users of the system to truly get a sense of how the application would fit in their daily life.

As Jason mentioned, specific scenarios are essential and it does take time to work with the vendor to stage the sandbox to allow users to replicate "a day in the life".

Great post!


Thanks, Jason. I agree with you about the scenarios. They are not going away and they should be business-oriented. I also agree with how easy (or difficult) it is to do scenarios and "sandboxes". It takes work (which is why I posed the question at the end about if it is too hard). There are a lot of ramifications for consulting firms working with clients on selections that I could not explore in a short post. Maybe I will in a subsequent post.

working girl

I think you're right although I also think it will take a while to phase out. Logging onto an unfamiliar system can be intimidating, whereas looking at colorful slides and a well-thought out demo performed by a friendly, charismatic person while sipping coffee is not a bad way to spend a morning. Kind of like reading on paper v. reading online. Obviously paper books are going away for the masses but I think it will take a while. In the nearer term I think we'll see more short, scripted demos available online, rather than wide open sandboxes.

Bill Kutik

No disagreement here, Jim, only the observation made by Mike Krupa, who's helped buy a lot of HR technology for Charles Schwab, that many vendors haven't gotten the very first part right yet -- the demo -- let alone the next step of the scripted scenario and your suggestion for the sandbox.

Sorry your blog doesn't shorten URLs like Twitter (or that I don't have that software) because here's a gigantic one that leads to Mike's blog and comments about it on the new HR Technology Conference group on LinkedIn:


Lisa Rowan

The benefit of the scripted demo is that everyone in a decision-making capacity sees it together and at the same time. I don't think this can go away as it is not likely that everyone will find the time to get some (even minimal) training to undertake demoing on their own. I think giving buyers a sandbox is a lovely idea but I see it as supplemental due to the varied and numerous stakeholders normally involved in decisions.


I agree 100% that buyers need a process/workflow oriented demo script and hands-on access to the "sandbox" in order to focus on what the company needs and get buy-in from the end users.

We typically do either a hands on orientation or a show & tell demo a few key people before giving the buyer the car keys.

However, there are two things that buyers need to do before they 'get behind the wheel' and drive their own demo: 1) Document their business process and analyze what they have now with an eye toward where they want to go, and 2) Focus on what the company needs rather than the minor features/functions.

In other words - they need a roadmap and a destination.

We advise customers that everything on their wish list be RANKED on a scale of 1 to 3, being the 'must have' vs 'nice to have' vs 'pie in the sky' bells & whistles. This also helps us understand if our solution is a good fit, or not.

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