Seeing Through the MES Demo Smoke and Mirrors

Don’t be fooled – for some software companies, the demo is more about hiding the truth than illustrating how they can help you.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Okay, I don’t often rant, but today will be an exception.

Not long ago I sat through a demo for a new computer application (not an MES or paperless manufacturing system) sold by a big-name company. The demo consisted of beautifully-shot and professionally-done video “highlighting” key features of the system.

Making sense of some MES demos can leave anyone with anger issues. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Making sense of some MES demos can leave anyone with anger issues. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

There were screenshots of the application, mixed with scenes of happy people enjoying a life of improved productivity with their new software purchase. There were graphs showing how significantly productivity would be increased. The narrator’s soothing voice walked me through every scene and feature, even taking time to crack a joke or two. There were snazzy special effects illustrating the real-world results of the application, and infographics to expand on key concepts. Problem was, I never saw my material in the video or how I could use it. I was never certain how it would work for me, and the software supplier never made answering that question a priority.

I spent 30+ minutes going over those key features in the video, and sure, I’d love my office to run as smoothly (and happily) as the one they presented. I’d love to work like the models and actors in that perfect office, to point at the screen and watch as the work magically completed itself and my KPI’s unfurled before me, but I knew that’s not how it was going to work.  I really wanted to see my material in their software. I wanted to see how it would work for me, and how it would solve my problems.

I asked the moderator (let’s be honest, she can call herself a moderator, but she was a sales rep) if she could see my material in the system, and she gave me some canned excuse about “pre-configured” settings and how they offer an “industry-first user-centric” platform. I asked her a few more questions about how to use the software, and she repeated lines from the video. She promised to talk to the engineers about getting me answers and a private-look at how the screen would layout with my material, but she couldn’t do that today. It was a verbal dance of almost yes that still ended with a resounding NO.

Why not? Why couldn’t they say yes, turn on the application and show me something? Share the screen with me so I can see how it would work! Was it too difficult to put my material into the system, and if it was that difficult then how could I possibly do it? Was the software too tired? Was there something fundamentally wrong with my stuff that would cause the “web of functionality” (the narrators’ words, not mine) collapse into oblivion? If the software is that easy to use, why not use it for me?

I’ll be honest – I’d be happy if it didn’t work the first time. You can learn a lot from an inadvertent mistake and the steps taken to correct it. I know you can’t get perfection in a live system, and that’s great. Let me see the moderator dive into the system and figure it out. Let her fumble around just like my team would once they started using the system.

Here’s my rant – you should be able to demo in the actual system of a true off-the-shelf software solution, especially and MES or paperless manufacturing system. If you can’t, then I don’t believe it is off-the-shelf. If the system can really use outside material easily, then why not do it? I’d rather have honesty than perfection in a demo, so take that software for a test drive and let’s see it!

If you can’t do that, then you probably don’t have the right software for me. What do you think? Am I being too critical here? Has anyone else had an experience like this?

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