Proofs of Concept (POCs) and Pilots are 2 separate approaches for reducing risk when implementing a new system (technology or process) in an organization. Though critical to the implementation of successful systems, not all projects include them by default.
Whether you're implementing a new system or making changes to an existing one, POCs and Pilots can help in managing expectations by revealing what the final solution will look like and unveiling opportunities for improvement before full implementation.
Some use the term “Model Office” or “Prototypes” to describe POCs. They provide users with an environment that can be used to refine the design and implementation of a new solution before its actual implementation. POCs can be done with as many different software vendors as required during technology and supplier selection.
POCs involve extensive research and may be used to test system functionality before moving to the pilot phase. POC environments are purpose-built and may involve getting users away from their normal working environments. Though often perceived as an extra step to skip, POCs provide a strong opportunity for incorporating user feedback in design by creating a risk-free environment for tests.
Pilots involve a trial of the solution in the normal working environment. The scope of the pilot may be limited by the number of users that can access the system, the processes affected by the solution or some other desired constraint, depending on the domain.
The pilot phase signifies the rollout of a new solution and typically begins with a subset of users using real infrastructure, sitting at their desks and doing their work normally with the new solution. Pilots require careful planning and may disrupt normal work.
Rolling out without a pilot is often considered risky, since problems may come up during this phase, which may otherwise, not be detected until go-live.
So, what are some of the benefits that PoCs and Pilots can bring to projects?
Technical Evaluation - They provide a platform for assessing the feasibility of implementing a solution in the real environment. Here are some highlights relating to this:
- Compatibility with IT infrastructure and other applications can be assessed
- Any performance and network considerations may be highlighted.
Functionality evaluation - They allow the business assess if the functionality built into the solution is sufficient. They provide answers to questions such as:
- Does the system really do all that is specified and required?
- Are there any usability considerations that need to be addressed?
Finalize configuration - Configuration and design can be concluded in a low risk environment. They can help ensure that:
- All aspects of the working environment are defined
- A configuration is established and frozen for rollout
Training development - They provide an opportunity to get stakeholders up to speed on developments and serve as a platform for:
- Developing and assessing training materials and methods
- Training the trainers, Help Desk staff, Developers, etc.
Business Analysts should be aware of the importance of POCs and Pilots in order to build them in when necessary, especially with respect to clarifying requirements. This can lead to increased chances of success and reduced project risk.
Picture Attribution: “Evidence Concept Background” by hyena reality/Freedigitalphotos.net