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Beware the Demo Dolly

Friday 8 October 2010

How often have you seen a demonstration of a product and been left feeling “all might not be exactly as it seems”.

We have all seen “slideware”. Some carefully hand crafted screen mock-ups in PowerPoint, designed to wow and amaze the target audience without having to reveal too much about “how” it works and indeed whether it does.

Sometimes it might just be a load of “vaporware”. Software that’s nowhere near finished or in some cases not even started!

Sometimes, reality runs deeper than just slides. Software is involved. You get shown an early “proto-type” or an “alpha release” or in other words, software with a caveat. “Don’t be surprised if something goes wrong as it’s nowhere near ready and the real thing isn’t going to look anything like this anyway.”

If the salesman has over egged the pudding, you may go away with the feeling that something is “too good to be true”. Wondering what the “catch is” and looking for support from someone else who has just seen the same thing to see if they had been “convinced or maybe not”.

Too often in IT, we get sold a “Demo Dolly”. Mocked up software that is spliced together to create a “sexy sales prototype” that holds together just long enough to get you through a pre-canned demo without erroring.

You are being sold the ‘sizzle’ NOT the steak.

A “Frankenstein” application superficially integrated together with nuts, bolts and a bit of sticky tape. Something that was architected on the back of a fag packet and pulled together over the weekend by some poor souls having to work through the night fuelled on pizza and caffeine drinks… but demonstrated in a slick, well rehearsed and flawless way that makes it strangely believable…

…Welcome to the strange world of software development! This is often how software design starts; building a rapid proto-type. Getting something together quickly that can be shown off by the sales team to generate interest and feedback, creating something that can be shown to the market to let them know that you’re on the case, being innovative and listening to what the customer needs – and of course getting someone credible to wow you with pretty screens and an engaging smile to sell you the vision.

The trick is to make sure you don’t hand over the cheque until you are sure you know what you are letting yourself into. Dig into the demo, throw some challenging questions at them; ask them to go off piste…

At Connexica we offer our customers the opportunity to get their hands dirty. We don’t do PowerPoint’s and our demos are real, NOT dollies.

Rather than trying to flog a dream, we leave the software with the client as part of a proof of concept (POC). We train them up, show them how easy it REALLY is to use and configure and let their users loose on the system.

If enticed in by the smell of the sizzle (slick sales presentation), demand to taste the ‘steak’, how else are you going to know whether this particular solution is more than you can chew.

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