Published: Jun 16, 2020

four ways to run a successful proof of concept

Series 2 of 6 on NCS Digital Factory

Running successful proof of concepts (POCs) is critical for any organisation that wants to innovate effectively to stay ahead of its competitors. This is especially true in a fast-evolving global marketplace, where speed to market may dictate success or failure.

Conducting a small-scale test on an idea for a new product or process improvement helps an enterprise validate the concept’s technical viability. It can also be a way to make a data-driven decision on whether to commit budget to developing the concept any further – into a more in-depth pilot, for example, that can ultimately pave the way for a fully-fledged roll-out.

But while a successful POC can increase a company’s confidence in an idea and help to lower the risk of any investment, it is still an experiment. And no organisation has unlimited time, resources and budget for experiments that fail to ‘graduate’ – that is, carry through to market launch and scale. So, how can you make sure your idea is the right one to test? Here are four ways to maximise your chances of POC success.

1: Determine the right problem to solve

A key first step is to determine whether the problem you’re proposing to test is important enough to be prioritised over others. Organisations may think they know what consumers really want, or what will sell, but unless the product or process improvement solves a really significant problem for prospective customers, they’re not going to buy it. Validating ideas through customer interviews is a fast and easy way to find out whether a POC is worth pursuing in the first place. Effective customer interviews don’t guarantee a POC’s success, but they can anchor the project, helping to mitigate risk and set business objectives.

2: Involve domain experts early on

Looping in any relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) with customer insights to share will help the POC team ensure they avoid blind spots. Take the example of an innovation team in a bank seeking to run a POC for making mortgage applications a digital process from end to end. In this case, relevant SMEs might be a call centre manager dealing with customer queries about the bank’s mortgage offerings, along with a key member of the credit risk team. These stakeholders may have critical information on how prospective customers are likely to react to new products or services. They may also be able to offer risk evaluation considerations as well as insight into the marketplace and competitors. Having this data on hand early on can also be an effective way to seek more buy-in for your POC.

3: Ensure key team members are empowered to make decisions

POC teams usually draw on ‘Lean Startup’ methodology to help them learn quickly through experimentation and reduce wastage. Here, small multi-disciplinary groups – drawn from product management, design, marketing, operations and software development and more – test and retest a concept, seeking to validate results through constant feedback. Product owners have an especially important role in this process. As the ‘voice of the product’, they need to communicate their vision to the team, setting priorities and pivoting to a new direction when necessary. However, if they lack the authority to make critical and timely decisions, the build-measure-learn cycle will lose momentum. The team may struggle to meet deadlines and run the risk of being caught in rework cycles.

4: Adopt a digital factory approach

If innovation is a strategic priority and an organisation is committed to transformation as a business imperative, they may consider taking a digital factory approach. This accelerates the scale and pace of internal digital transformation across the enterprise.

A digital factory is innovation at scale. It sets up the ability to support multiple POCs with the right resources, processes, culture and platforms to ensure scaling and management of innovations through from ideation to POC, pilot and subsequent development.

With multiple POCs underway at any one time, a digital factory also helps organisations accelerate the kind of culture shifts required to generate new ideas and unleash creative potential. These include agile ways of working, cross-functional collaboration and a willingness to understand new technologies.

As a result, POCs can be generated and tested with speed. And with broader operations already set up to sync with the technological capabilities that effective innovation demands, it’s also much easier to bring successful POCs to scale.

How NCS can help

Reshaping operations to accelerate innovation isn’t easy. It requires a trusted partner with deep expertise in digital transformation and the technologies and processes that ensure success.

NCS has that expertise. From identifying painpoints, developing ideas and preparing a transformation plan, to using customer insights to design scalable POCs and deliver viable products and services, NCS can help you design, size and set up a digital factory approach to innovation.

Want to find out if a digital factory approach is right for your organisation? Get in touch with us.

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