Whether the systems are core, Internet banking, loan origination or branch automation, the system selection practice at GonzoBanker’s Cornerstone mother ship continues to thrive. A few short weeks ago I dropped some financial analysis wisdom on you – how to make sure the vendor costs you present to your board and senior management are representative of the fees you’re likely to actually incur (see Subterfuge).
Let me take you a month or two down the Process road … to the land of the onsite functionality presentation, a.k.a. the vendor demo. You’ve analyzed the RFP responses, crunched the numbers, and cut away the dead weight to arrive at the few, proud vendors that will be asked to show their (soft)wares at your bank or credit union. It seems it should be pretty straightforward: You invite a vendor to your board room. The vendor shows you what it has to offer. You serve up some sandwiches and chips at halftime. The internal auditor, lonely as a prime number, falls asleep during the GL session. Shake hands and wish the vendor well. Done deal, right?
Think again, Gonzo Warriors. ‘Taint that easy. Ever. Unless you initiate some hard-core communication with the vendors well in advance of their day in the spotlight, the well-rehearsed performances can be delivered like it’s amateur night at the Sheboygan Improv. Truth is, vendor sales reps are very good at getting to know their prospects – what makes them tick, what software they need, what they think they need but really don’t, etc. And the vendor presentation teams are masters in communicating the vast capabilities of their systems in ridiculously short periods of time.
The problem is, there is very often an enormous disconnect between what the sales rep knows about the prospect and what the demo teams know. The hotter the vendor, the greater the disconnect. It’s hard – maybe even inappropriate – to blame the demo teams for this. Vendor presenters are some highly overworked pros who travel like somnambulant gypsies. The good ones are worth their weight in gold, but they simply do not have the time or resources to research every prospect in the detail necessary to get the demo just right, every time. The sales reps tend not to have the time to prep the demo teams with the information they need to hit a home run every time; and even if they did, just try giving a meaningful prep session to a demo team during the 10 minutes it has available in O’Hare before jetting off to Des Moines.
The result is likely an “A” rating through much of the demo day with one or two key “C” sessions that tarnish the vendor’s otherwise sound presentation.
These small divots in a vendor’s presentation can feel like huge potholes to the bank’s user community watching the demo. These are some typical problems that might arise:
CIOs, your demo attendees are going to give you (and maybe even your golden consultant) the dreaded Stink Eye for these demo problems. Vendors’ understandable tendency to show very similar presentations from prospect to prospect results in demos that in most cases have brief but crucial weaknesses and moments of imprecision. Right or wrong, it becomes our problem if we do not take steps to prevent it.
At the risk of sounding like a dime store psychologist, we simply must improve bank/vendor communication in the weeks leading up to the all-important onsite demo. We need to spend more time explicitly delineating our expectations. I’m talking something that can be as short as a 30-minute phone call targeted at making the vendors shine. Here are some specific tactics we can use in these conversations:
Typically, the core demo team does not show any third party products and, in many cases, does not show even the core vendor’s specialized ancillary products such as data warehouse, profitability analysis or CRMs systems. They leave that to the specialists. What often happens is the vendor tries to stick to core or just touch on the specialty areas for the main demo day(s), and then hope it can schedule in-depth, follow-up sessions for third party and specialty ancillary demos. Our more suspicious clients think this is a ploy to gain more face time with the bank, but I disagree. I think for the most part it’s the unintentional byproduct of very busy people who do not have the time to plan as much as they’d like to. That said, you and your user community were counting on seeing the whole enchilada during the allotted demo days and have little time to schedule, much less participate in, follow-up presentations. So, be clear about the ancillary systems you’ll want to review and make sure the core vendor gets the relevant third parties and internal specialists on the dance card.
Effective vendor demonstrations involve countless moving parts and cooperation among banks, vendors and consultants – all with widely divergent styles and motivations. The best way to make your demos a success is to be very explicit with your vendors – perhaps more explicit than we want to or should have to – about expectations for your demo day. We have to plan for the reality, not for the way we think it should be.
“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy?
I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Check you next time, GonzoFreaks.