The Global Entrepreneurship Index defines the USA as the most attractive country for businessmen. With 83.6 score, it outpaces Switzerland (80.4), Canada (79.2), and the UK (77.8). Is it a success? Definitely, yes. The American ecosystem is healthy and attractive. However, according to the US Small Business Administration, only half of all launched businesses survive five years. And only one-third of them make it to the tenth year. Is it a success? Not at all. Because of poor POC.
Working with customers from different industries, we realized that many entrepreneurs from the USA and other countries don’t clearly see their goals. They barely understand the success meaning. That’s why their firms often struggle to grow. To help clients, our analysts always run initial consultations, show tests, reveal market insights, etc. Often, we start proof of concept projects to evaluate the business/software ideas or find the best technologies.
Today, we’re going to share our experience in the field of POC. Let’s figure out the importance of this stage and talk about the success criteria for each project.
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Success as the Most Vital Element
Before we proceed to guidelines related to POC, it’s required to understand success in general.
Cambridge Dictionary defines success as the achieving of the wanted results. Merriam-Webster mentions a similar definition: the desired outcome. Thus, the first key point is to know what you actually want/need. For businessmen, success may be expressed in revenue, reputation growth or increased number of customers.
Basically, it’s enough to follow four simple steps to identify the success criteria:
- Identify your stakeholders. These are people and groups that participate in projects, feel the outcome or can influence the results. You should know everything about users, including their values, e.g. less time spent on tasks for employees or higher convenience for users. Also, remember about key stakeholders to solve conflicts of interest.
- Define business goals. Here, answer the question: «Why does the company run a given project, develop a specific app or enter a market?». Define financial, political, social, and other goals. Be as detailed and as clear as possible. «Grow the budget» is a bad goal. «Reach $20 million annual turnaround by Q4 2020» is a good goal.
- Name main problems. Now, find the best critiques and brainstorm with them. Focus on five key areas: cost, quality, schedule, scope, and staff. You should imagine significant but real problems, limits, and restrictions that may slow down or interrupt your progress. Competitors, regulators, disasters, you name it.
- Find the criteria. Connect the goals and exact criteria that help tracking the progress. They should be real, clear, verifiable, and quantified. You can use existing KPIs or introduce own points. Examples are: «the total project costs don’t exceed the limit» or «the average deployment time is less than predicted».
For software development, success criteria and POC come together. Running a detailed project helps to identify both the expected results and performance indicators. As well, our BI team can help with stakeholders’ analysis, goals, and limits.
Proof of Concept and Its Stages
Proof of concept is a testing phase for ideas, thoughts, methods, and strategies. Projects often focus on feasibility testing and/or technology analysis. The first part helps to see if the proposed idea works at all while the second one allows finding relevant tools.
Also, proof of concept consists of two major elements:
- Concept. Includes the most basic software prototypes or early MVP versions. They show how the planned app will work, which features it will offer.
- Proof. Based on the defined success criteria and results. We’ve mentioned this part earlier – you should know what you’re trying to get always.
It may look pretty simple but don’t get too relaxed. Bad POC may result in disastrous consequences because the entire development would follow the wrong way. It means a waste of precious resources. To run a successful proof of concept project, you should remember a few points.
First and foremost, consider POC as a real project. It’s as essential as other development stages because you start creating a real product. Find the required funds, gather a professional team, and run a project with relevant results.
The second thing is to find a balance. Don’t overload the project with test scenarios but also don’t simplify it too much. It’s important to check core features/ideas while secondary points can be tested later, at the MVP stage, for instance.
Finally, you should come with detailed and measurable metrics. They will help to compare results with baselines, run A/B tests, and analyze the project effectively. KPIs are related to the success criteria, usually.
Want to read more about proof of concept ideas and suggestions? Check out our guide!
Steps that Guarantee Successful POC Launch
Even the ideas with superb potential may fail. When the company doesn’t have a clear vision of the development way, doesn’t know how to support ideas, and doesn’t care about success criteria, failures are inevitable. As you should remember by know, bad POC is even worse than no POC at all. That’s why you should know how to run good POC projects. Here are five crucial steps that help in this task.
1. Set Goals and Requirements
In the previous sections, we talked about success and its importance. Thus, the first step should focus on success, undoubtedly. During this stage, you should decide what exactly you want to test and how you will measure the results. For instance, ask yourself these questions:
- What processes and/or tools you test?
- How current processes and/or tools work?
- What are the good sides of actual solutions?
- What are the bad sides of actual solutions?
- Which problems do you want to solve with new ideas?
- Who will use the new solution or solutions?
- What metrics/KPIs you will use?
There are more possible questions to ask and answer. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to define success criteria for key stakeholders. Reach new revenue heights, attract more customers, expand to distant markets – any direction is possible if it meets your strategy.
2. Plan Your Project
The second step relies on planning totally. Focus on one core question or problem to get the most relevant results. Let’s say, if you’re going to build an ERP system, try to define its optimization capabilities for the whole company. If you want to create a messenger, think about how it will attract clients, and so on.
A good POC project proves the viability of ideas/tools for three key aspects:
- Data. Consider security, convenience, and features that match your expectations.
- Functions. Remember that the software should solve the problems you defined earlier.
- UI/UX. Prioritize users, build apps and other solutions keeping their needs in mind.
It’s better to have a plan before your eyes all the time. Design a roadmap and stick to it to run POC projects according to the schedule. Always make sure that your staff realizes why and how you use the proof of concept methodology.
3. Build a Team
Without professionals, your project is doomed. Do your best to find skilled developers, analysts, and managers who know how POC ideas work. Your champions will drive the process just like with traditional development so they should realize that testing and analytical phases are as important as real creation.
For the best POC, don’t forget to connect IT managers, dev leads, decision makers, and other stakeholders. Build a team with perfect communication, collaborative spirit, and clear vision. Specify the start and end dates, provide workers with the list of success criteria and measurement guidelines, help them to work together.
4. Dedicate Enough Resources
Together with team creation, consider resource gathering. Your stakeholders should have a special environment to run tests. Feel free to use an environment similar to your company systems so the tested product/idea will be placed in close to real-world conditions. Also, don’t forget about time/finance expenses on solution deployment and maintenance.
5. Evaluate Results
Consider the proof of concept as a test drive. Let people work, check the results, and compare them to existing features or performance rates. For example, a tested CRM solution may help to respond to the customers’ calls one second quicker. It also may be greatly slower but with way better interface. Monitor all points to get a detailed final picture. And analyze reports – they’re valuable.
The Ultimate POC Success Criteria Checklist
Finally, we’ve prepared a simple but comprehensive list of the most popular ways to identify that your POC is good, completed, and beneficial. Of course, the list isn’t exhaustive. You may add more company-specific points or ones related to the tested software.
Still, this list is a nice start. So, your POC is successful when:
- Goals and requirements are accepted by participants.
- Human and other resources are identified and gathered.
- Suggestions for prototype/MVP stages are delivered.
- Business and technical features are prioritized.
- The general POC approach is set.
Do you need more detailed info?
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Launch Projects with Us!
In conclusion, we want to briefly cover one vital point. Today, markets are full of prepackaged products with fixed sets of features and a lack of uniqueness. They feature best practices for each industry and can be deployed quickly but they often fail to meet the customers’ business goals. Why? Just because of poor customization level.
Instead, we offer to consider custom solutions. It’s a viable alternative if your company runs unique processes, feel the need in deep functionality, requires regular modifications, etc. As well, if you need a pretty small product with simple functions, custom apps are wonderful, too. They always deliver exactly what you need, without overpayments.Yep, we design custom products. And we know how to run a good POC with reliable results. Hence, if you have an idea, you can contact us and we will test its viability. If you have just the expected results, also feel free to reach us – we will find the best tools to build the required solution. Our proof of concept projects are cheap but undeniably effective.