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Monday, August 15, 2005

Training and Demonstrations

A few years ago some collegues of mine introduced themselves to a Vice-President of Sales for a Well Known Business Intelligence corporation at a local trade fare, and explained that they were familiar with his product thorugh a "cook-off" that our group had held between his product and that of a major competitior. "Ah ha", cries he, "is that British bastard here as well then?"

Heh heh heh. It had been an interesting exercise all right. It had culminated in a demonstration to users of the two product suites, with my own demonstration of Product A facing off against the corporation's pre-sales consultant's demonstration of Product B, followed by a round of discussion and voting by the users and project managers. Product A swept the board and was duly annointed the successor to our then-current tool. Apparantly there then followed much gnashing and grinding of teeth at the WKBI corporation, and a belief that the competition had been unfairly skewed in some way.

So why the overwhelming vote for Product A? The users believed that the product was more intuitive, easier to use, with a more simple interface. They believed that it would just be easier to get their jobs done with that choice. Whether they were right or not, I'm not sure. The difference between theusability of the two products is probably pretty slight, but the difference between the demonstations was very clear and is very well illustrated by the article at ComputerWorld that prompted today's stream of consciousness. I'll just pause while you absorb it.


The two demonstrations were almost exactly like those example methodologies. While the pre-sales consultant for Product B described every feature available to the users, your humble correspondant showed them how to login to Product A, how to run one of the standard reports, how to create and modify a personal report (once at demonstrate-and-explain-every-mouse-click speed, then at normal user speed), and how to send it to other users. It was a very *ahem* dynamic presentation with a great deal of audience interaction. I suppose that the essence of the matter was that a sales demonstration was turned into a training session of the type described in the article.

So the end result was that the audience saw that Product A did what they want, but that Product B did a lot of stuff that they didn't fully comprehend. From there the voting was practically a formality.

I wonder whether the Well Known Business Intelligence corporation's consultant ever realised why the bid was lost to them? The VP of Sales certainly had a strong opinions on the matter. The big baby.


At 12:04 AM, Blogger Tim... said...


You've lost me with that link. I just end up at Microsoft.com.



At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Bence said...

There is a typo in the link.
Try this:

At 6:55 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Corrected the link ... thanks bence.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

At the last company I worked for we were looking for an end-user query tool as well. About a week before WKNBI company's presenation, they contacted us so they could get some sample data and present "our" data on their tool. While they were explaining drill-down this and cube that, end-user-manager-A says "All I want to know is how many X widgets went out last month and how many came back." My manager (who didn't really know the design more than an end-user and who was SQL illiterate) whips open his laptop, fires up MS-Access, attaches to the appropraite data-source, clicks away, and in 2 minutes has the answer. WKBI company was still trying to figure it out after 30 minutes. There's something to be said about KISS.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Yes, these corporate packages area huge investment in terms of cash and effort in configuration and tuning. The fine art of the Trade Study seems to be dying, and irrationality and addiction to the latest trend has taken over.

Sometimes all a company wants is simple reports, and there are already any number of in-house technologies that can do the trick. That isn't to say that they couldn't benefit from something more flexible and powerful, but if the will to support and finance the effort isn't


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