Legal Business

Demoing a Project Management Tool: Part 1

Yesterday I introduced a series of articles in which I'll address two questions:

  1. How would I demo project management tools to an audience of accidental project managers?
  2. Can you "demo" great project management itself?

This article begins a short series responding to the first question.

Let me start by defining the audience.

A Key to Effective Demos: Know Your Audience

(By the way, all of these keys will play into the answer to the second question as well.)

I can't tell you how often I've seen demoers blow the demo by not following this simple rule. It's partly understandable in the chaos of a trade show floor or when you do an onstage demo to a broad audience, but it's unforgivable when you've been invited to demo to a customer team.

Since this is a "demo of the mind," I get to make up the audience. I'm going to keep it simple. There are two potential customers. These attorneys - one partner, one senior associate - have been leading legal projects for some time, but only recently have they begun thinking of them as projects in addition to cases, matters, or files. They've read - okay, skimmed - my book Legal Project Management, they've taken my four-hour overview class which has at least given them some insight and a couple of practical things they can do, they're trying to get the firm to begin an in-depth training program for Legal Project Management, and they're trying to be mindful of project management as they move forward with their cases - which is why we're demoing our tools today. They're classical accidental project managers.

The next step is to identify their primary business problem.

A Key to Effective Demos: Identify the Business Problem

This is the same as the first step in effective project management - identify the client's business problem. It's a bit different in this case because I need to find the largest item that meets these two criteria:

  1. It is a real problem shared by most of the buyers in the audience - in this case, both of them.
  2. It is a problem my solution can address.

So let's say I identify three problems: 1) Their client is unimpressed with their work. 2) They're dropping balls on the project - losing track of information, doing rework, etc. 3) Their client wants a one-page status report.

I can't directly solve problem #1. If I help them manage their projects better, it's likely both their delivery and their client communication will improve, which will help them with #1, but that's too tenuous a connect for a good demo. Problem #3 may be annoying, but it's not major - and it's downstream, meaning that if I can solve their larger project management problem, they're likely to find it much easier to attach problem #3.

Problem #2 seems a likely candidate. Software by itself cannot make them successful project managers; however, good software can help.

I'm almost ready to begin the demo.

What's missing?

If I were to demonstrate a carpet cleaner, what would I need? I'd need the "stuff," the carpet cleaner, some carpet, and possibly some dirt to spill upon said carpet. Showing a picture of a carpet cleaner isn't demoing it, even if I make carpet-cleaner noises with my mouth.

A Key to Effective Demos: Maximize the Value of Your Setup

Obviously, I need a carpet to clean - or rather a computer running the software. If I can hook it up to a big screen, so much the better. I need the software, of course. And I need a demo project... not just junk, but a real (simple) project.

That project is critical to my demo.

I would ideally have, say, half a dozen projects ready to go. I'd read the attendees as best I could before selecting one. I'd have a simple litigation project/case, and a simple deal; those are fairly obvious. I might have a patent prosecution or a labor/employment issue if I felt comfortable with those. But I'd also have a couple of others: buying a car, managing a baseball team, planning a party.

Why the last few? My experience is that some attorneys are able to generalize, to accept that they're seeing a sketch without needing to dig into the details. But a surprising number struggle with sketches; they've been trained to look for elusive facts, hidden issues, and the like. In addition, some resist anything that could smack in some way of saying "your job is simple," needing to complicate issues for various reasons I need not delve into here. If I get that sense, I'm going to go to a "non-threatening" scenario, something that has nothing to do with lawyering.

Ideally, I want the demo to map as closely to the observer's world as possible. However, there's more cognitive dissonance with an "almost-right" example than with something that's clearly "for demonstration purposes only."

Okay, I'm all set up. Let the demo begin.

And begin it will in the next article.

Read more about Legal Project Management on the Lexician Blog.