"Proof of Concept is the art of winning a ship-building contract by showing the working model of a paper boat"
It's rare for enterprise software procurement to happen without some sort of Proof of Concept (PoC).
1. Never Lose Sight of the Big Picture - Create a Vision
A great vision for the PoC is the art of combining strategy and design which can represent the vision for the new experience. This can serve as the 'North Star' for your prospect/ customer. This is why process discovery and solution envisioning are foundational elements for a deal cycle leading to a PoC. Process discovery and solution envisioning can help both the buyer and seller, pick a critical use case and scope it in a time bound manner without losing sight of the bigger picture. The role of solutions and sales teams are critical in this phase as they can guide the customer toward a PoC for a use case that aligns to the product's strengths with the quickest time to value. While also, showcasing the benefits and most importantly planting mines for the competition. Easier said than done as this requires a deep understanding of the customer's business processes.
A good use case for a PoC must involve certain aspects of the following:
Improve or create new customer experiences
Enable digital channels for new customer acquisition or retention
Enhance employee / user productivity
Potential to demonstrate reduced process cycle times
Process automation with critical integration / interfaces to key systems
Illustrate how things could work at scale
2. Define Success Criteria, Use Case and Benefits, Align Stakeholders
Once the buyer and seller zero-in on a use case for the PoC that is tied to business outcomes for the business stakeholders to approve, this becomes the success criteria for the PoC. The seller can propose success criteria, however obtaining a sign-off from the buyer is the key. Usually the buyer stakeholders who can sign-off the PoC will be from different departments such as the business unit, procurement, IT and PMO. The seller usually needs pull the various customer stakeholders together to gain alignment and sign-off.
While success criteria is over emphasized, the ability to measure the outcome of the PoC is often ignored. The success criteria must be picked in a manner where the outcome can be measured and established in a quantifiable way.
For instance, below is a PoC objective / success criteria aligned to the overall business objective:
ABC Mortgage corp intends to improve customer engagement and customer acquisition via a new digital channels, cutdown manual hand-offs, streamline mortgage processing and provide instant approvals via customer engagement channels, reduce cycle times by 30%
PoC Success Criteria:
Demonstrate customer onboarding
Demonstrate reduced cycle times by integrating front office and back office applications
PoC Use Case:
Onboard new customers applying for a loan via digital channel ( eg., Mobile app)
Instant loan decisioning by integrating loan application (front office) with loan decisioning system (back office)
How to measure PoC outcome?
The PoC demonstrated mortgage origination via a digital channel improving the customer engagement and enhancing the customer experience by providing real-time visibility of loan application and decisioning.
The PoC demonstrated that the overall cycle time for loan processing for a single application can be reduced from hours to minutes. The system at scale could save 600 hours / month potentially saving $150,000 in annual labor expense
3. Time Box the PoC, Scope Effort
In my personal opinion, a PoC timeline must not extend more than 2 weeks. The teams involved in a PoC must be clearly called out in a PoC plan. A DACI matrix can help delineate the responsibilities between different teams. Its imperative for the seller to time-box the PoC and spell out the hourly effort. As its not the full-time job for the buyer stakeholders to get involved in PoC efforts, the sellers estimates could greatly help the buyers in terms of what to expect and avoid costly surprises. A framework for PoC effort estimation below:
In nutshell, PoCs need to align with the business vision, demonstrate financial impact and possibly lay minefields for competitors. While a technical validation can be accomplished without a PoC, sellers need to be cognizant that a PoC with technical validation is not a sure shot path to a deal. Unless a PoC is tied to a business objective and can clearly demonstrate impact to a companies top or bottom line, it could turn out to be futile.
Prasanna is a solutions selling leader and architect with 17 years of experience. He helps enterprises in process automation, content collaboration, customer experience platforms and application integration. He is currently a Staff Solutions Engineer at Box.
Connect with Prasanna on LinkedIn.