During a software DEMO, many users know what to ask, many don’t know what to ask, and many get overwhelmed with every detail that the software can offer.
What really matters is how the solution will solve pain points. The following are the most common basic questions one should ask during a demonstration of a software designed to enhance month-end process for your functional users:
1. Are there integration or connection capabilities to my ERP system? – There are many methods to connect to an ERP system. Many of these systems lock down their environment, making it difficult for 3rd party software get data out of an ERP system. Only a few have found the ‘secret sauce’ by integrating the software into the ERP systems… some call this method “intrusive” but it works very well and is accepted by many IT personnel because is easy to use, can be supported by IT personnel, and training is minimal. The integrated software looks and feels as if it is part of the ERP system, and is intuitive for end users and IT departments. It is also worth mentioning that end users adapt to change faster with an integrated solution.
Another option is external software with a connection to the ERP system. While this method could have a longer acceptance period by end users, there are many benefits to it, such as easy maintenance, in-premise or in the cloud options, multiple source connectors and more. This method is easier to maintain by the 3rd parties and is known as “non-intrusive” in your ERP system. There are many advantages of this type of connector, but keep in mind there are many variables that could limit reporting capabilities for month end.
2. Does the 3rd party software offer On-Demand live transactional data? 95% of the population in a business needs real time data to make business decisions, adjustments and much more. Having data updated in a data warehouse delays decision making during month end, and timing could cost thousands of dollars or more. Whichever software is acquired, make sure live transactional data is available for one or multiple sources in one framework. Multiple frameworks mean multiple support fees, please do your research and find which software offer connections to multiple sources in one framework and on-demand live transactional detail for reporting. Note, one framework = one support fee.
3. Can it give me my data in Excel? – ‘Nuff said! If your ERP system cannot give a clean format template in Excel, then find a 3rd party tool to help you get your valuable data in Excel. This simple functionality saves a tremendous time for end users and helps bypass the struggle of cleaning up downloaded data in Excel. You don’t believe me? Just ask anyone how important Excel is for reporting in HR, Payroll, Finance, Accounting or FP&A.
4. Does it have the ability to Schedule and Distribute? – When we talk about enhancing month end, then scheduling and distribution functionalities play an important role of closing the books faster. Have your reports ready when you need them by scheduling daily, weekly or monthly. If one report takes 5 minutes to complete and you have to run 10 of them, that is 50 minutes of precious time for analysis. Automate your reporting needs by scheduling and distributing reports to enhance month end. Not many 3rd parties offer both as a solution, please make your research and ensure these features are available for functional users.
5. What about Drilldown capabilities? – I see the invoice number on the report, but I need to check 25 invoices and navigate through 10 different steps per invoice to get customer, invoice, tax, vendor, distribution and more…running 15 different reports and merging data is a solution that could cost valuable hours during month end. Maybe requesting IT to build a report is the solution, but when will it be developed? Sometimes ERP systems offer a drilldown capability but it is limited, not modifiable and normally is not in an Excel format. As simple as it sounds, drilldown is a must for analysis. If you cannot live without a drilldown capability, make sure the software provides this feature and allow IT to easily modify, support, and get your drilldown in Excel for easy reporting. Many 3rd parties offer drilldown but only in HTML, so be sure to ask if drilldown can be offered through Excel.
In my functional experience, all these capabilities enhance analysis and speedup month end close. For some enterprises, many of the items above are not pain points, but around the globe many beg for these type of simple solutions. Since IT normally does the research and their concerns are different from users (such as performance, resource usage, security), it is important to know what functional capabilities will help the user base. I hope this blog brings awareness of what functional users look for and what to ask during a demo of a software.