A new kind of product demonstration?

By James West

I’m not an expert on presentations, but I can tell you two factors that make or break a product demonstration. The first is: does the presenter have an engaging and charismatic style? The second is: does the topic being discussed hold any content of interest? Much is made of point one – the ability of the skilled orator to hold the attention of the crowd is a celebrated trait – and would-be presenters therefore focus on improving their skill in this respect. Of course, if point two is weak, a quality delivery can help rescue the moment, but if the content is not of interest, no level of effort will make a difference.

All about the content

It is this dynamic that means most product demos fail because the presenter focuses on the delivery, not the message. This approach leads to the dull structure of most presentations; a long introduction followed by just a few minutes of time allocated to looking at the features of a product which mark it as different from rival packages. Helpdesk software suffers in the same way, some slides telling you about the vendor, then after some meandering we see the front-end screens, we learn how to log a call and finally we see something interesting at the end. By this point it is too late and we have moved on, if not physically, then mentally.

As a journalist in this industry for many years now, I have seen my fair share of product demos, but recently I witnessed a presentation of Sostenuto 3.0, Sunrise’s latest service desk software version, and saw something I’d never seen before, namely a product that not only surprised me, but exceeded what I expected it to do.

The key word here is flexibility. Sostenuto is described as being a flexible system, with Sunrise claiming you can adapt it to your business. Now, to be honest, even though I write for Sunrise, my journalistic cynicism means that I took this claim with a pinch of salt. Every business-to-business software maker states that their software is adaptable, and it is. As long as you pay consultants to recode it for you. And don’t mind waiting a few months.

Sostenuto 3.0

With this in mind, I watched the Sostenuto presentation, and watched with interest as Sunrise’s Neil Penny started talking about creating a new service, such as adding details of a customer insurance plan. It started off simply enough with a few clicks, which led to some straight forward dialogue boxes appearing prompting you to enter information, such as the name of the service etc. Then Neil began delving deeper, showing the way in which you create the workflow associated with this new service. Here we go, I thought, this is where the flexibility will start to break down, Neil will press the button to create the service and then you will have to forward the code to the developers. But I was wrong. The create button was pressed and the new service appeared.

Stop. right. there.

“Eh, hold up, but that’s just a test service isn’t it, not a live, finished service? Neil clicked back to the main support page and across the top was a new icon for an insurance plan, ordered nicely next to the buttons for accessing pre-built, ITIL-focused functions that you’d expect, such as incident, change, problem, release etc.

Proof is in the pudding

I was, as you can probably tell, very impressed. Here is a product that actually deserves to be associated with the word ‘flexible. If you’re talking to other software vendors, I urge you to see real proof of flexibility. Ask, how quickly can you create a new service, does it require any additional coding or can the changes be made using the interface of the product you are customising (this latter point is important, the new services are created directly through Sostenuto, rather than through a second piece of software, helping to speed up the process of creating and editing services even further.)

With its ability to birth new and remould existing services easily (from where I was sat, if you can use a PC and fill in fields, you can create a service), Sostenuto 3 really does offer support managers the chance to create the function they have always wanted. (As well as providing the core ITIL functions as standard I should add).

By the way, if you have taken the wrong meaning from my words, Neil Penny is a great presenter. It just helps that he’s got a great product to show off, rather than relying on fantastical claims to make his words seem more interesting. In this case, actions speak loader than words.