In a world constantly evolving, you’re literally submerged with new opportunities, technologies and initiatives, all of them appealing and strongly advocated by those pushing them forward. Using a Proof of Concept or Pilot to evaluate a given solution feasibility is certainly a good idea. But what does it take to really trust the results obtained? Read on as we outline how a PoC can and should be handled.
When faced with a disruptive opportunity or a relevant existing case on a non-related industry, you certainly need to ask yourself if the underlying initiative or technology is adequate to your own reality. Entering an operational transformation without knowing if you can replicate results and successes in your own landscape is a dangerous resolution, bordering irresponsible. At the very least, committing an organization to change must be accompanied by a clear outline of the do’s and don’ts and a concise change management plan. Without trying something out and evaluating the results and consequences in your specific case, precludes you from establishing such vital pieces of transformational strategy. Another critical aspect is the bottom-line. To clearly assess the impact in your bottom-line, you must measure the return against the investment, considering the actual ability of your organization to leverage the opportunity and not the ‘average’ or ‘standard’ results someone else obtained.
Enter the Proof of Concept or Pilot, as a viable strategy to evaluate if a given opportunity is feasible in an organization from the two critical evaluation standpoints: Organizational and Financial. A PoC is normally defined as the parallel implementation of a subset of previously agreed scenarios that are a part of a larger initiative, to asses the feasibility of applying the complete solution on the entire organization. By running the PoC for a limited time and on a limited scope, you can obtain enough information to derive the organizational feasibility and financial impact of the global initiative.
In theory, this looks pretty simple. Select a handful of scenarios, put them to work, measure the result, take the decision. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. A badly conducted PoC may just be a complete waste of resources (and not just money) that either throw you in a death spiral trying to implement a completely unfeasible initiative in your organization or prevent you from adopting a brilliant solution that would have increased your results. So, what must you do when considering a PoC to really get something out of it?
- Commit to it like it was the real thing. If you go into a disruptive opportunity without bringing in the appropriate resources, knowledge and sponsorship, then you’re just throwing money out the window. Remember that a PoC is something you do not know, something you don’t really understand and that you’re going to test to evaluate adequacy and impact in your organization. Throwing in a bunch of trainees that lack the expertise, organizational awareness and process capability undermines the initiative and prevents the adequate assessment of the results. Set aside the time and resources required to do a good job and sell it to the sponsors based on the potential impact you anticipate for the opportunity;
- Use a disproportionate amount of clarity and discretion when creating the pilot roadmap, especially when it comes to selecting the scenarios that you’ll include in the PoC. Remember that the more scenarios you include, the harder and more expensive it becomes. Then again, if you oversimplify it, you may not capture the real impact on the organization. So, finding the appropriate balance between complexity and reality is the key to defining a sound PoC and getting a real tool to measure impact and benefit;
- Define metrics, not just any metrics, tangible, measurable, meaningful metrics. This is a difficult one, but vital. So important that, if you come to the conclusion that you can’t come up with trustworthy, measurable, significant metrics for the initiative, it’s best not to do it at all. A good metric is a metric that has an objective way of being measured, for which you already have trustworthy data and that represents a meaningful aspect of your processes or organization. When you got all the metrics in place, define the target for each metric that indicates the initiative brings in adequate value or positive impact in the organization. Make sure these targets are understood and accepted by all involved, especially the sponsors. Not much point in doing a really nice PoC to get it shutdown by the brass because it didn’t meet the minimums.
There you have it, the three vital pieces that make a successful PoC: commitment, balance and metrics. Getting them in place is the recipe for evaluating the overwhelming amount of opportunities that cross your email these days. And, more often than not, the key to unlocking your organization sustainability in this everchanging world.