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The power of showing the system being built

change practitioner workday Oct 23, 2022

Tell: Workday is a best-in-class provider of human resource management applications.

Show: Let's walk through a demo of the system today so you can see how easy it is to use the Global Search, apps and org charts to find the things you use most.

The power of showing the system is one of the best techniques to accelerate change adoption. Stakeholders understand words, but they believe their senses -- their eyes and hands as they experience the system.

This is about them being able to see it, touch it, feel it. 

Demos are a powerful tool in stakeholder involvement. During a Workday deployment, this can be done in the Configure & Prototype phase with core stakeholders (ie your HR team if deploying HCM). Then repeated during Testing with extended stakeholders in the organization (leadership, business influencers and/or a change network). 

The benefits of using demos to show the system in progress include:

  • Getting core team members comfortable to talk about key features and changes. This is a way for them to make the change impacts real--for themselves and others.
  • Gathering feedback. Facilitated questions can prompt stakeholders to share their first impressions--positive and negative. 
  • Bringing resistance into the open. Seeing the system brings uncertainty and doubt to the surface. It helps people be able to articulate their concerns. It gives the project team an opportunity to clarify scope or functionality requirements; and confirms which changes will have the deepest impact.

Preparing for a demo

Using demos as a way to engage stakeholders throughout the build and test process comes with some risk. Key tips for helping demos go smoothly:

  • The system's got to be stable. Don't start demos until enough internal feedback has been gathered to confirm key configuration decisions. 
  • Start with the basics. Not everything needs to be ready before showing the basic experience and navigation of the system. This will make some people uncomfortable because it's not "perfect" yet. Set the expectation that the demos will be iterative, which also gives people a chance to see the progress as it's happening in system design.
  • Project team members should lead the demos. This is an exercise for the client to demonstrate, not a sales pitch from the Workday experts. That also demonstrates ownership by those leading the project, whether the overall client project manager or specific workstream leads. Having different individuals lead components of demos also involves more team members. (ie core HCM, Recruiting/Onboarding, Compensation, Performance, and Learning). A consistent format makes it easy for individual leads to "watch one" and then "do one" themselves. 
  • An informal tone. Early on in projects with core users (HR if deploying HCM), the demo tone should be informal and collegial. It should not feel like a formal presentation or Q&A. Later on as demos extend outside of the core user group to leaders and managers, the tone can become more formal.
  • In some cases, 1-1 demos with key leaders can be useful to build their confidence in being able to talk about the benefits of the system
  • Go slow. It takes time for stakeholders to absorb what they're seeing and formulate questions. If the demo is being done live and in a large group, they may also feel uncomfortable interrupting. Make sure presenters pause to allow viewers to catchup. If using a meeting hosting tool, chat functionality is a great way to let people ask their questions as the session is happening without interrupting. A facilitator can then pose questions to the presenter in a controlled format. Asking questions also prompts feedback:
    • What feature are you most excited about?
    • Which option would you use to find a task?
    • What do you want to see more of?

I will never do a project without using demos in my stakeholder engagement playbook. There is no substitute for making the change tangible by showing the system as it's being built.


When you're ready, 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Free tips and stories of real-world change in my weekly newsletter, The Friday Upside. Subscribe now.
  2. Join a cohort of change practitioners to learn on-the-job during a project. Join the waitlist that will support 2023 deployments.
  3. Get hands-on consulting support through my Heartbeat Change Leadership Program. (Only 2 spots left for 2023).

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@alesnesetril?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Ales Nesetril</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/tech-demo?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>   

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