Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management


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This white paper attempts to look at the various aspects of Demo/Eval programs that are commonly used by manufacturers to test the usability of their product and also understand some of the basic user requirements that should be offered to enhance saleability.

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Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management

  1. 1. The case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management An Extron Whitepaper ©2009 Extron Logstics. All Rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission from Extron Logistics
  2. 2. Table of Contents I Executive Summary 1. Introduction 2. Widespread Use of Demo/Eval Programs 2.1 Examples of Demo/Eval Programs 2.2 Major Industries that use Demo/Eval Programs 3. Challenges with Demo/Eval Programs 3.1 Asset Loss 4. Finding a Solution 4.1 Finding a Packaged Demo/Eval Program Management Solution 4.2 Benefits of a Packaged Solution 5. Conclusion II About Extron The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 2
  3. 3. Executive Summary As new products are developed and introduced in the market, it becomes important for manufacturers to know the saleability of these products to further explore the marketing possibilities in the niche user segment. This white paper attempts to look at the various aspects of Demo/Eval programs that are commonly used by manufacturers to test the usability of their product and also understand some of the basic user requirements that should be offered to enhance saleability. The white paper covers certain specific examples of these programs, the challenges posed by these programs and how a packaged Demo/Eval program offered by an external provider can enhance its effectiveness. Read on to know how experienced players in the supply chain space can offer their expertise in increasing your product's visibility and reach. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 3
  4. 4. 1. Introduction 1. Introduction Today's product choices reflect increasing sophistication and integration of varied technologies - networking, audio/video integration, computing, and more. The long-stated “convergence” of computers and communication is actually happening all around us, only it is going further than many expected. To deal with this, and to familiarize buyers, both individuals and corporate, with these new products, Sales and Marketing organizations today are devising new and innovative ways to put spotlight on their products and its benefits. This is especially true of revolutionary products where users might not understand the true value of the product until they actually experience it. Evaluation Programs (also known as Demo or simply, “Try Before You Buy” Programs) are one such way since statistics show that people would rather opt to try something at no cost rather than buy products as soon as they are released. These Demo units are offered for trial for a limited period and sometimes with limited functionality. This way companies can ensure that more potential customers can experience their products. Similarly, demonstrating products at various consumer forums can also help companies to market their products in the best possible light. One very visible success story, for example, was the launch of the Wii Fit from Nintendo, which was promoted at retail outlets, shopping malls, County fairs and umpteen other sites. This revolutionary product line's significant consumer adoption was enhanced by many 'try before you buy' programs. Another example, in the technology sector, has been Barracuda Networks' “free eval unit” program. By all indications, this program has been wildly successful and helped supercharge Barracuda's sales effort. Similar programs are being used in video conferencing, storage, graphics, email archiving and many other sectors. This reflects the true breadth of the convergence of communications, computing and multimedia. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 4
  5. 5. 2. Widespread use of Demo/Eval Programs Demo/Eval programs are not new concepts to the consumer. Just like a trial ride on a bike or a test drive on a new car, these programs target the end-user directly, encouraging her to gain familiarity with the product even if she is not considering buying the product. This experience-based sale enhances the 'trust factor' in the potential customers mind. These programs are used by world's most successful OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to promote and showcase their products. Figure 1 below shows typical workflow of a well architected Marketers of Revolutionary Products Demo/Eval program. ignore the Demo/Eval Channel at their peril. Figure 2 below shows approximate percentage of industries actively using these programs. Demo/Eval Program Management Figure 1 The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 5
  6. 6. 40% 35% 30% 40% Percentage Users 25% 20% 30% 15% 10% 20% 10% 5% 0% IT Product Assistive Laboratory Others Companies Technology Equipment Percentage Users Figure 2 2.1 Examples of Demo/Eval Programs What started off as a simple 'try before you buy' program by Diba, a set-top software manufacturer for the set-top Internet access boxes, has now become a stepping stone for building deals with the top three Internet Service Providers in the US. Similarly the IBM PSSC Center had allowed scientists, to test and benchmark their high-performing applications over mixed hardware and software environments, before they purchase these expensive solutions. Here, the strategy adopted was to offer the products to potential customers for evaluation before they purchase it. Even Cisco, one of the largest IT hardware producers offered a 'trial offer buy' for some of their products through TechData, a couple of years ago. Cisco still offers such programs. Another classes evaluation program is the one offered by Intel Corporation. Intel offers registered customers with debug and validation tools for certain platforms, on a 30 day trial. In both these cases, the companies offered to choose only their existing customers or partners for their trial run. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 6
  7. 7. The evaluation program created by Motorola was a unique case, where, mobile application developers were allowed to test application compatibility and performance on Motorola handsets. This has helped Motorola identify high speed, compatible and user friendly applications that can be used with their models. Or, some of them simply offered to get a feedback on their new product line - like how EVGA did. They choose a selected few from their registered members to try out their new systems for a two week period. 2.2 Other Major Industries that use Demo/ Eval Programs Assistive technology products for people with certain hearing/vision or learning needs are also offered as Demo kits. Even educational kits and programs are sent as samples to test drive classroom products in schools and colleges. Products like calculators, equipments like overhead projectors, lab equipment etc., are offered this way to different user segments. 3. Challenges with Demo/Eval Programs There are, however, many OEMs that have not adopted Poorly executed Demo/Eval programs Demo/Eval programs. In many cases this is largely because there can showcase your product in a are certain inherent pitfalls in Demo/Eval programs that need to negative shade while a well executed be addressed with industry specific parameters . Sectors like Demo/Eval program can showcase your products in a positive light. medical, test and measurement, computing, audio-visual assets, data management, etc. are still lagging behind in the Demo/Eval programs because they lack certain logistics infrastructure capabilities and product tracking capabilities. Demo/Eval programs can offer large selling advantage to manufacturer's by providing them a first mover advantage over less visionary marketers. However, in order to effectively utilize Demo/Eval programs, there are several prerequisites. Most important among these is the effective management of the program. Thus, the need for a reliable operation to manage this program is paramount. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 7
  8. 8. Figure 3 below shows how users responded to the demo of an SCM software (taken from a study conducted on the automotive industry).A large number of people have collectively stated that major software and hardware customizations are required for the SCM software. 5% Demo/Eval program management is 12% not part of the core skill set of most Software Customizations 29% operations of the organizations. Required Hardware Alterations Required Both Required None 7% No response 47% Figure 2 Demo/Eval programs however have certain in-built deficiencies that need to be tackled to fully utilize them as an effective market penetrating strategy. 3.1 Asset Loss a) Asset Loss & Product Availability Issues Pitfalls of Demo/Eval program Asset loss is touted as the biggest drawback for OEMs. This is a - Asset Loss common problem even when the software or hardware is shipped to the chosen group of registered users. This is because most - Poor Asset Utilization OEMs transfer the return shipment responsibility to the test user. - Sales Person's mobility/data loss Additionally, some customers may forget or otherwise neglect to return Demo units because it is a hassle. - No Data Management Platform When the new product line is manufactured in limited volumes, - Lack of operational infrastructure the cost of the asset loss can be significant, reducing the incentive for the OEM to adopt this very worthwhile sales - Insufficient Testing/Evaluation in simulated Environment channel. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 8
  9. 9. b) Measuring Asset Utilization Most companies, due to sufficient asset management measurement tools/mechanism, under utilize their assets leading to poor financial results that may threaten the existence of the business. Well managed asset utilization avoids additional capital expenditures and still maintain current or better levels of production and quality. c) Salesperson mobility While Eval programs are aimed at procuring valuable feedback from probable clients, most organizations have failed to address the problem of salesperson availability/mobility for sudden problems or issues that crop up with product usage. There is no well-managed infrastructure that could possibly manage these programs and attend to service issues during the trial period. What happens in such scenarios is that most test users abandon their programs half-way, thereby causing an investment loss and time-loss for the OEMs. Salesperson mobility is a significant issue because many Demo/Eval program are actually managed as 'trunk stock' programs. The problem with this approach is that when a salesperson leaves an organization, they may not return this Demo 'trunk stock' (further increasing asset loss) or simply neglect to pass on details as to which customers have Demo units. This makes it very difficult for the replacement salesperson to follow up on. Intel offers a wide range of tools for its Demo/Eval programs. Every tool is accompanied with a detailed user guide, ensuring that there are no hiccups during the testing/evaluation phase. d) Insufficient Testing/Evaluation in simulated environment A common problem with hardware and software trial buys is the lack of testing simulation in customer environment. The demo programs, software updates or testing solutions need to be customized to individual needs of the user or user organizations The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 9
  10. 10. to ensure they are successfully tested or evaluated to avoid poor out-of-box quality of the product that could be embarrassing and also to save Field Sales Engineers time who would demo the product. When EVGA offered their motherboards for trial usages, many users faced problems with installation and other usage procedures. Although the product quality was very high it went unnoticed by the customers because it was “masked” by installation issues. Many customers made note of this in their in their online response to the manufacturer. e) Lack of Operational Infrastructure Underlying almost all the above pitfalls is the overarching truth that most organizations are simply not set up to manage Demo/Eval programs. They lack tracking tools, processes, flexible technical resources, ability to distinguish between Demo/Eval and Brand New Units and more….. The result is that all the above pitfalls: asset management, loss of customer data, poor out-of-box performance may actually serve as operational negatives to what might be a positive product experience, if the operational aspects of Demo/Eval deployment had been handled properly. 4. Finding a Solution Logistics and Asset Management organizations have responded with solutions, but typically these solutions fall short and do not offer a transparent asset management platform as a starting point. This is where organizations owe it to themselves to find solid providers with the tools, processes and proven experience to manage Demo/Eval programs. Some of the key aspects that OEMs need to look for in a Demo/Eval Solution Provider include prior Demo/Eval Program Management experience, logistics experience, technical resources (capable to testing and refurbishing assets), a well- developed software platform (software is indispensible in managing eval programs), “light” manufacturing expertise, Engineering Data controls (BOMs). This boils down to selecting a provider with the appropriate 'Experience and Infrastructure'. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 10
  11. 11. 4.1 Finding a “Packaged” Demo/Eval Program Management Solution Since an Eval program or a Demo program relies on factors such as product excellence, device demonstration, customer intimacy and short-term effectiveness, as well as high asset utilization, it is important to select a provider with the expertise and infrastructure required to support all these needs. For example, the ability to move goods alone is not enough, nor is technical expertise. The ideal provider will combine multiple disciplines and provide solid infrastructure and experience: - Process discipline and control - Software skills - Technical skill - Logistics expertise This infrastructure consists of: - Program Management software infrastructure (Preferably web-based) - Test labs with trained technicians - Call center support - Solid Business Processes Reporting The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 11
  12. 12. Benefits of a “Packaged” Solution A packaged solution that an ideal provider provides combines many benefits: a) Prevention of Asset Loss b) Leveraging Logistics Skills c) Customized Programs to Suit Client Needs Allows business to focus on core competency/ reduces assets loss/ d) Speed and increases rapid time to market significantly. e) Cost (Absolute and variable) f) Capacity g) Data Management h) Performance 5. Conclusion Demo/Eval programs can be much more beneficial by Choose a sophisticated vendor to partnering with a qualified provider. The experience and manage your Demo/Eval program efficiency in managing the supply chain process will ensure that and experience the value it can bring to your organization. these programs lay a strong foundation in building the much needed market segment for your product. The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 12 9
  13. 13. About Extron Extron has been a pioneer in providing supply chain and retail chain solutions for many of its clients across the globe. Being an Extron client gives the unique advantage of efficiently managing the complete supply chain process of the complex Demo/Eval programs offered by your organization. Extron's state-of-the-art Demo/Eval capabilities are aimed at providing the best service to safeguard your valued assets and investments, eventually. Extron has developed a multi-million dollar infrastructure to manage Demo/Eval programs for technology companies (medical, test and measurement, computing, audio-visual assets, data management, etc). For more details on Extron's Demo/Eval programs, click Or email us at sales@extronlogstics.com This whitepaper has been written by Extron: http://www.extronlogistics.com/ The Case for Outsourced Demo/Eval Program Management 13