Digital Workplace Insights

What to ask during an Intranet software demonstration

Knowing which Intranet platform to choose requires you and your team to sit through a demonstration of the products on offer.

But what questions should you be asking to assist you in making informed decisions?

Following are some examples to help you test your vendor and dig a little deeper into their approach and experience.

How long does a typical Intranet project for you take to complete?

While the vendor has probably outlined in their proposal to you how long they expect your Intranet project to take (and their estimate will be based on what you’ve documented as being your requirements), this question will highlight how much experience the vendor has in delivering Intranet projects, and will also help you to understand that a lot of Intranet projects can be very different from one another. This is due to budget, expectations, and the skills of the customer, factors like security, content migration and population, and more.

What are our key responsibilities as the customer?

Intranet projects are similar to a marriage. Both parties are responsible for ensuring the relationship works. Asking the vendor what they expect from you throughout the project is one of the most important questions you can ask. Customers can make the mistake of believing that the vendor is responsible for delivering a successful project that requires little to no involvement from them. The success of the project is directly proportional to the amount of effort you invest in the project. The more time you can invest, the better value you’ll extract from the project delivery. The less time you spend is likely to result in a delivered solution you and your team know very little about. Ask the vendor to list what are the key items you're expected to deliver, and when they are expected.   

What are the risks in working with your intranet platform?

This is a great question, as it will put the vendor into an uncomfortable position. All the power to you. Vendors know their own strengths and weaknesses, and this question is designed to go straight to discussing the weaknesses of their Intranet platform. As there’s no perfect Intranet solution, a transparent vendor will openly talking about those areas of their product that may require additional learning and training, or require a few more steps to solve in meeting specific items within your list of requirements. There’s no problem with most of these items, and a vendor who cares will be happy to talk about them with you in detail.

Intranet projects are similar to a marriage. Both parties are responsible for ensuring the relationship works. Asking the vendor what they expect from you throughout the project is one of the most important questions you can ask. 

What are the key strengths of your product?

This question is equally important as the previous question. Vendors are ready to sell their product and boast about how good it is compared to their competitors, but hearing them talk about their strengths will be different to how they say it on their website and in their documented response to you. The vendor is likely to cover things you perhaps didn't know about their Intranet product, and you’ll be able to gauge how much the sales person actually knows about the product they are selling.

How much support do we really require if we choose your product?

This is a really important question because most vendors don't actually know how much support you will require. Your needs are going to be different from one customer to the next. There are two types of support; user support (how much help you and your users will require in order to use the Intranet) and technical support (how much assistance you and your IT team may require to ensure the Intranet platform operates smoothly without interruption). Vendors will have different support plans which are mostly aligned to the number of users who will be using the new Intranet. For example, the support costs for a fifty-person company are going to be a lot less than the support costs for an organization with five thousand users.

How much custom development is required with your product in order to meet our requirements?

Customers approach Intranet software procurement in two distinct ways. The first is looking for a solution that meets the needs as discussed and confirmed internally. The second is creating a long list of features and functions by harvesting information from vendor websites, and believing the value of the project is proportional to the number of modules you can buy. Wrong. Successful Intranets solve key business pain for the organization, and rarely require all features and functions that vendors will offer. Be sure about what your business needs are, and then have the vendor confirm if their product meets your requires out of the box, or how much it will cost to modify aspects of their implementation to suit your exact needs. 

What would your existing customers say about your Intranet product?

You may choose to speak with referee’s who are already using the Intranet software you’re considering, but if you’re not prepared to engage with third parties in a conversation (in our experience only about half of our new customers will make the time to reach out to our referee’s), then ask the vendor to speak about two previous Intranet projects that they’ve recently delivered and how the project as a whole was received.  

Describe a difficult project you’ve undertaken, and why it was difficult.

This might seem like a loaded question, but this question is designed to help you understand what could go wrong with your project. Vendors aren’t perfect, and neither is the customer, but learning upfront about what the vendor deems a difficult experience paves a good foundation for all parties accepting that an Intranet project will always have complexities that will require collaboration to overcome and succeed. Have humility when the vendor opens up about an experience that wasn't all roses, as this will assist you in appreciating the learning journey you’re about to embark upon.

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