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To POC or not to POC? – That is the question.

Blog: BPM-Xchange team blog

It is a truism that as capabilities expand so do expectations, the demand is always for superior and higher quality goods.  This is only right as customers pay good money and should expect qualified products and services in return. The same can be said for virtual goods. In the software industry we sell virtual goods via software licensing, which is the right to use copyrighted materials based on intellectual property delivering value to the customer.

But each transaction coin has two sides – the customer and the vendor side of a deal. The question is which deliverables can a prospect (a “to-be” customer who has not paid for or committed to anything) expect for free – or in sales language be accounted for as “pre-sales” efforts?
Let us consider the following graph of Value-delivered to the customer in relationship to supplier-Efforts needed to provide this value.

Graph of scopes plotted over effort and value

Graph of scopes plotted over effort and value

Classically there are several possible steps after the initial approach of the two parties to an engagement: demo, proof of concept (POC) and pilot, require varying amounts of efforts for customer and vendor.

A demo is a demonstration, a showcase if you will, based on existing tools, data and configurations. In many cases it does not exactly fit the customer needs and/or requirements. But it demonstrates the concepts, the methodology and software realization.
Let us use as an example a customer who needs a software tool that translates the Spanish language directly to French. The vendor is a specialist in translations and sells software licenses as their standard product. The vendor has English to French and English to Spanish COTS (commercial off the shelf). But nobody until now has asked for a French to Spanish translator.  On the spur-of-the-moment the existing translations can be shown in a demonstration, but the direct French to Spanish translation will not be immediately available as it requires some customizing efforts; some configuration to instruct the translator tool.  After this initial and general demonstration the customer can either trust the vendor that he is able to deliver the correctly configured Spanish to French translator tool, or not.
In the scenario of high customer confidence the product is ordered and after confirmation of the product delivery and proofing the translation functionality for practical use, the vendor bill will be paid. The tool comes with a maintenance service that fixes all bugs, if any are found.

A POC proof-of-concept is an evaluation of a customer specific setup and environment as a proof of evidence. The scope is adjusted to be in alignment with customer demands and needs, but still limited to specific requirements with the highest priorities being the decision makers.
Back to the example; based on customer specifics (e.g. translate Spanish to French, but only for terms of “haute cuisine“), the customer can verify the ability of the vendor to deliver the solution for a limited scope. At this point a decision can be made and the workflow of delivery, proving and paying the bill is still the same. At the end the POC gives the customer more information (and therefore value) ahead of a sealed deal and gives the customer an exit strategy.

A pilot describes a scope of a transition between the initial solution delivery and a real rollout project. Compared to the limited scope of the POC, the pilot includes training, consulting and hand-over of experience and knowledge. Depending on the project size a pilot may make the most sense for evaluating the tool and the “surrounding” methodology, it allows tailoring of procedures and functionality and a smoother start into the real project.
Understandably, the delimiters between demo, POC and pilot are floating and not strictly marked out. It is a negotiation and understanding between how much should be delivered for free as vendor presales effort and where a customer agrees they are getting value from pre-sales deliverables and are willing to pay for them. In our example of a POC the customer can already use the translation in the scope of an haute cuisine restaurant to create nice reading French written menu cards and to evaluate if potential diners prefer the English or the French written menu cards.
Likewise BPM-X is a translation tool to convert and transform model data and diagram graphics between a large set of tools for EA, BPA, BPMS as well as many other domains.  Supporting e.g. 50 tools equals 2500 required translation configurations to provide all possible combinations of translation directions (i.e. 50 sq.).  The truth is there are many more than 50, each has various versions and we must be ready to work with each.  Just as the example company is able to provide English to French and English to Spanish COTS as well as most any languages asked of them after adding some configuration software, so too with BPM-X.  We maintain COTS for dozens of the most commonly used frameworks and standards.
BPM-X is the acknowledged and trusted supplier of translation and integration scenarios having the skills to adapt to customer specific demand. Some want menu cards in French others want Swahili.  The flexibility of BPM-X universal model and master data exchange and meta-model transformation software means we carry out highly sophisticated conversions between a variety of tools and methodologies which can import all popular standards and vendor formats.
As we generally work with larger global companies or organizations we have found that the most mutually satisfying path to deliver a solution is: starting with a predefined demo, then a more customer specific POC and an optional pilot for knowledge transfer.  In these ways the teams can feel good about each step.  As shown in our graph figure the relationship between delivered customer value and delivery effort is a key part of each party feeling good.  When some think of software they only think of sliding the shiny CD in and taking it for a drive.  If only life were so simple.  A drive worth taking is one worth spending some efforts. We prefer to enable success which takes some planning, resource and coordination beforehand between vendor and customer.  To POC or Not to POC ?…is between the customer and client.  There can be many variables.  At BPM-X we work with clients who understand that for every value delivered there is an effort expended and this has made for many mutually beneficial outcomes.

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