More often, organizations notice that their old IT-systems are an obstruction for innovation. To meet changing customer wishes, it is important that they can adapt and innovate at a rapid speed. Anyone who wants to work with the best available new technology, faces a difficult challenge. How do you test which technology is valuable?

In the area of IT, organizations are often faced with a dilemma: while systems based on old technology make for long development lead times, the transition to new(er) technologies requires an investment. That is why an organization should first identify the biggest bottlenecks in the current IT landscape. More than once, these bottlenecks will not only be IT related, but involve of the business(processes) as well.

A Proof of Concept (PoC) can, in a few weeks, demonstrate how modern technology eliminates organizations’ bottlenecks while usually requiring less labor. It is a chance for the entire organization – including both business and IT – to experience what it’s like to work with new technology before making a final decision. As a result, the new technology will be more logical and enjoyable to work with for the user afterwards. Upon approval, the old technology can be decommissioned in small steps.

What is a Proof of Concept?

Organizations can use a PoC to shorten a time-consuming selection process with months-long lead times. By experimenting with new technology in a short period of time, concrete results are instantly visible. Moreover, this allows the entire organization to familiarize itself with the associated new way of working, which increases internal support.

Three aspects are crucial to determine whether new technology fits the organizations needs:

  1. Functionality: What will the new technology ultimately be used for? Do the functionalities match the business and customer’s wishes?
  2. IT architecture: Does the new technology fit the existing IT landscape? Does it provide enough options, such as security and scalability?
  3. Operability: Can a developer work smoothly with the new technology? Does it enforce the digital transformation, and does it improve the collaboration between business and IT? Does the organization become more flexible, and does it facilitate an Agile working or DevOps method?

Based on these three aspects, the organization draws up a list of epics. An epic outlines the main functionalities an organization wishes to include in the PoC. Usually, these are formulated based on current bottlenecks, which may include issues with certain calculation rules or a system that can’t properly handle the current amount of data. A PoC helps proving the new technology can fulfill the business and IT requirements.

The first MVP’s in a few weeks

When providing organizations with guidance on PoCs, it’s best to implement the PoC development process in the most realistic possible way. This gives the organization the clearest idea of the usage of technology.

A full-time dedicated team is structured as follows:

  • A Scrum master who facilitates the PoC team
  • Experienced developers for product’ development, who will also serve as trainers to unexperienced developers
  • A few enthusiastic developers (from the organization) for product’ development, who can contribute knowledge gained within the organization

Optional:

  • A product owner for product qualification, who can also write and test user stories

If the organization is fairly unfamiliar with the technology in question, a suitable bootcamp will be organized first. This will ensure every developer has sufficient basic knowledge to help develop the product from the beginning. Once the team is complete and ready, it’s time to start the PoC.

During a planning session, we determine which user stories will be tackled first, working according to the Agile method – in sprints. At the end of this period, the partial product (or MVP; Minimal Viable Product) will be shown to a larger audience. All stakeholders are invited. Often, these demos are more extensive than the normal sprint demos. They contain a clear introduction, and the use of the technology is discussed – by sharing developers’ experiences, among other things. A good demo creates understanding within the organization. The business gets a full picture of the platform’s potential and can aim more accurately for tangible results. This will ultimately lead to more freedom in its product innovation.

After each sprint, it’s time for a retrospective. This is the moment to evaluate the collaboration and technology. By being open and honest with each other, you can make the PoC even more effective. In addition to the bootcamp and demos, a deep dive is also advised. Through one or two sessions on the possibilities, developers, IT architects, and other interested people fully understand the new technology. Each question is asked and/or every concern is voiced (e.g. regarding interfaces, testing, security and integration).

PoC results

After the last demo, we enter the decision-making stage. The decision to introduce new technology has proven to be difficult, but it is now supported by the various layers of the organization and tangible results of the PoC. Ultimately, the coordination and commitment of important stakeholders and departments will determine the total lead time of this decision-making process.

In experience, developers do not wait for a decision to be made. During the time they have worked with new technology, they have made significant progress. As a result, they have often developed an enormous drive to proceed – which makes a PoC so sought after. In addition, the added value for the end customer is readily apparent, which motivates employees and ensures they do not want to stop. In other words, it is built for success!

Florentine Roerink

Author Florentine Roerink

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