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Every company needs a technical Proof of Concept

by Ed Walker Business Development Director, Foolproof

A Proof of concept (PoC) is a basic demonstration that showcases an idea in order to illustrate its scalability and profit potential. Even if you think your design, development or idea is going to work as a fully-fledged product or service — there is still a strong case for investing in a Proof of Concept.  

A PoC serves as the ‘North Star’ for design, marketing and sales teams. They’re tools which help you secure investment for wholesale changes, such as new products, services or re-platforming. They help build business cases by sharing a tangible vision for the future. Showing how the experience will look, feel and behave through a core set of customer journeys.

To cement this vision and guide development and implementation we have been working on technical PoCs in tandem with vision PoCs. Technical PoCs survey the existing technological landscape and demonstrate how this vision for your future experience can, or could, be served to your customers.

Technical PoCs can be very useful in securing stakeholder buy-in and investment: in the last 3 years 70% of projects we’ve worked on which included a technical PoC were green-lit for investment, often for multi-million dollar projects.

Our definition 

A technical PoC is a deep dive audit into your systems, applications, processes and governance as well as technical/team constraints and data (storage, quality, flow etc). It identifies gaps in your technical landscape which may prevent your vision for experience, or certain killer features and functionality, from being possible. They help you to shape the right experience.

By way of analogy

If a vision PoC is the architect’s model for your user experience then the technical PoC is the engineer and quantity surveyor working together to assess what you need in order to build this vision. They work collaboratively with the architect, to understand how the house will be built, the materials that will be used to build it and the cost of the materials used to construct it. 

A technical survey defines the space in which you can work towards a solution and assesses and documents the frame in which that solution will sit. It details everything about the landscape that you have today to build a picture of the shape you have to work with to implement change tomorrow.

What they’re not

Technical PoCs are not a ‘one size fits all’ or tools with which to mask organisational woes. They leverage existing technologies, uncover new opportunities and improve your front-end user experience, but what they cannot do is change your culture from day one. Nor are they a mandate to ditch legacy systems and start again in order to deliver against the vision you’ve defined.

They’re also not a silver bullet which rights all of your technological wrongs. This requires more sustained programmes of digital transformation with a steely-eyed focus on your customers. Technical PoCs can spark appetite for that kind of work but fundamentally are not it. They’re a way to ground and validate your vision for customer experience in the context of your technological setup.

Why technical Proof of Concepts strengthen business cases

By carrying out a technical audit of your existing technology stack the future experience you share with stakeholders is both aspirational and technically feasible. In this way, you combine customer needs and organisational desire with what your business is capable of today or could be capable of in the near future.

This helps to set a realistic roadmap showing how and when you can deploy the end-user experience you ultimately want to deliver. No one of these activities will succeed on their own, they’re mutually reinforcing – success or failure here involves a shift in mindset, requiring genuine cross-department collaboration where silos are broken down. PoCs are the catalyst for this change. 

Using APIs and middleware gets you started fast

As well as showing what is possible, a technical audit can also highlight what is not. By building bridging technology, you can still launch something new — be that a capability or service – to market quickly without costly investment and the loss of customer data

APIs are one option here, as they allow you to cleverly sync your existing product or service with the data layers of others to intelligently augment your offering. Some are freely accessible particularly if they’re your own, others require licences. However, by tying up your own data points or those of others in adjacent markets means you can bring all new ideas to market quickly with technical validation to boot. 

Middleware is another, it helps you to abstract data from your legacy systems and re-surfaces them via a modern front-end interface that is better suited to service omnichannel platforms and devices including modern web, IoT and voice. 

Key takeaways

We’ve boiled down three key takeaways to help you make the case for investment in technical PoCs.1. They take a reading of your organisation’s technological maturity

1. They take a reading of your organisation’s technological maturity

Technical PoCs show you what is possible today, or in the near future. This means that the output you deliver will ultimately be closer to what is possible. It also means that you can get to work without millions being pumped into digital transformation initiatives from the get-go. That said, they’re a great way to scale up towards that.

2. They’re a validation tool

Fundamentally, they validate the vision for design which vision PoCs set. This might mean slightly pairing back but this isn’t a cause for concern, it means that you can deliver more effectively in line with that vision. This creates greater alignment between stakeholders right through to the working team from the get-go.

3. They help you plan for the future

By validating your vision for customer experience, they help you to establish a clear plan and roadmap for design and technological change in tandem. Identifying quick wins, medium-term goals and more wholesale technological shifts required to deliver fully on that vision. Meaning you can be realistic about what you want to achieve, how and when. 

So why invest? 

With leaders and disrupters in every industry setting a high bar, the need to change has never been greater. To succeed, you need to be relentlessly focused on delivering against human outcomes and remember that your users only care about the experience they have with your product or service.

This means forming a shared design and technological vision which you can act on is imperative. Technical proof of concepts establish a way for you to actualise your vision and wow your customers without ripping up and starting again or causing a major loss of service.