How is a customer demonstration like Thanksgiving dinner?


Jennifer Whaley, one of our energy analytic utility experts, and I were talking about customer demos recently and discussing the work that goes into a proof-of-concept done with customer data.  If you've never been directly involved in preparing for a customer demo, you probably don't realize how much time and effort that goes into this type of project.

I'll explain the Thanksgiving connection at the end. Until then, you might think of this as a how-to guide for working with a vendor on developing a demo:

  1. Set a limited project scope with the customer and agree on data sources that can be used to solve the customer problem. Defining success for the project is critical, so that everyone knows what success will look like.
  2. Data has to be gathered by the customer. Even before that step, though, a none disclosure agreement needs to be in place between SAS and the customer, which means legal departments from both organizations need to be involved.
  3. Believe it or not, step one is the "easy part." When we receive the customer data, typically it is in a CSV file or spreadsheet, or sometimes in a database format.  This in itself can be challenging, especially in the "big data" world we live in now. Very rarely is data received in a nice, neat SAS data set that is ready to analyze. (And remember, moving big data from one place to another can take a lot of time.)
  4. This data has be understood, and it helps to have a customer subject matter expert available to help discuss and understand the data.
  5. The data needs to be imported, cleaned, transformed, etc ... all of that 80 percent data prep work takes place before the customer issues can be solved.  (IMPORTANT: your scope must be limited use cases before even starting such a project because success criteria should be agreed upon because without it no one will know what success looks like.)
  6. Now we analyze the data using "magic" to find great insights (hopefully) and prepare reports to deliver the results at an official presentation.
  7. If all goes well, the presentation shows amazing results and there may be a live demonstration to showcase the process and ease of use.  Done well, the actual live demonstration part that shows results may involve 15 minutes or so, not counting time for the questions and answers.

How is this like thanksgiving dinner?   Well, just like thanksgiving, everyone who eats the dinner does not necessarily see all the hard work organizing the time, place, people and preparing all the food. But done well, the "eating" part is all done in 15 minutes or so.  Everyone loves it and then goes off to watch football (except those who clean up).

That's how a custom demonstration is like thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's almost always worth it.  Is anyone else hungry now?

I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving.


About Author

David Pope

Technical Leader, Senior Manager US Energy

David leads the pre-sales technical team for SAS US Energy which solves business problems in the Oil & Gas and Utilities industries using advanced analytics. He is a lifetime learner who enjoys sharing information and helping others to grow their careers. He earned a BS in Industry Engineering and a Computer Programming Certificate from North Carolina State University. Furthermore, he has over 29 years of business experience working with SAS across R&D, IT, Sales and Marketing in the Americas and Europe. He is an expert in working with data and producing insights through the use of analytics. David has presented at SAS Global Forum, the 2012 SAS Government Leadership Summit, IBM’s Information on Demand(IOD), EMC World, CTO Summit Conferences, is the author of the book: "Big Data Analytics with SAS", and he currently holds 14 patents for SAS in several countries: US, CA, Norway, UK, China, Mexico, and Hong Kong.

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