According to Bloomberg.com, “confidence among Americans fell by the most on record and single-family housing starts hit a 26- year low, posing an increasing threat to consumer spending that accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy. The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment fell to 57.5 this month from 70.3 in September. The measure averaged 85.6 last year. Construction of single-family homes dropped 12 percent last month, the Commerce Department said in Washington.” It’s high-time we turn this ship around. Words like “confidence”, “sentiment”, “trust” and “fear” are at the heart of this problem. Business people (you!) play an absolutely essential and vital role in restoring trust and confidence. What does all this have to do with a Proof of Concept?
Proof Restores Trust & Confidence
It’s the innovators and those who seek to disrupt the dynamic that lead the rest of us out of the dark. Consumer confidence is a function of trust and trust is a function of your product-quality, price, brand and your market. In your zeal to disrupt and innovate OR in your more conservative endeavor to make your current operating environment more stable and predictable (also a good idea when the market is tight), make sure you employ a Proof of Concept (PoC). Now is not the time for costly mistakes that erode trust.
What About Smaller Companies, Non-Profits and Government Agencies?
I can hear some of you now: “Who does this need for PoC apply to? Do small businesses, non-profits and government agencies need to take these measures as well? Isn’t this just for technology companies and manufacturers?” – The answer is that the need for PoC or some semblance of it applies to all of us in every instance of business process re-engineering (BPR.)
There are a number of approaches to testing and proving your concept: simulation, pilot testing, prototyping, and/or developing a business case. Whatever your chosen approach, proving and substantiating your concepts in business process re-engineering and workflow re-design can save you a lot of money and time. It may also save your job. It will certainly prevent fiasco with customers.
Proof of Concept…kinda self-explanatory
What problem are you addressing and how is your re-engineered process or re-designed, improved workflow going to solve that problem? A PoC will include results or actual measures of efficacy. You need to provide your leadership team (or yourself) with sufficient data to support your claim that this concept will have the desired impact. A Proof of Concept addresses:
- a clear definition of the problem you are solving
- specific attributes of the solution you are recommending
- measures of efficacy, outcome and performance and how you will measure them
- resource requirements
- technology requirements
- the full range of project mgmt and implementation variables (critical path, timeline, milestones, tasks, interdependencies, etc.)
- logic model (or use-case scenario) that supports your assertion that “it works” and satisfies your business requirements
In essence, a proof of concept is a prototype of sorts. It allows you to roll out your proposed solution on a very limited basis and test, validate and verify your approach and results. It establishes the feasibility and viability of what you’re proposing. In manufacturing circles and among engineers, a PoC actually precedes a prototype and establishes that a prototype is a worthy next step in the R&D and product development process.
In services sectors, a PoC may include allowing your prospective customer to try a service and prove the concept to themselves. This is actually a ripe time to take this approach in your marketing and sales.
The Benefits of a PoC?
It ought to be clear by now that by developing an approach to Proof of Concept and an environment within your company that recognizes the importance of rapid testing of innovations, you can begin to shape your products and services in new, more efficient and more customer-specific ways. You do all of this and you avoid the dreaded Unintended Consequences of making changes without considering all of the implications. This goes back to pre- and post-process metrics. What happens up and down stream from a process will become apparent to you when you begin testing in a disciplined fashion.