POCs and Pilots: What Do You Need to Know Before Implementing a Software Solution?
Many companies have realized that they need data to understand how they’re performing and to know what to do next. Lately, the data has been focused on the Track & Trace side of the supply chain. The perceived newness of Track & Trace has increased interest among companies for either a Proof of Concept (POC) or a Pilot implementation before fully committing to a service provider. Either of these approaches can be a great research tool if done properly—but there are a few things you should know first.
Use a POC to Validate the Performance of a Solution
A POC is different than a Pilot with respect to size and scope. As the name suggests, a POC is intended to prove a concept and validate the performance of a solution. The POC should be focused on a very small piece of the overall solution, making it possible to evaluate the results without getting too far into the weeds of implementation. For example, if a company is evaluating a Track & Trace solution, then they might want to do a POC with a handful of carriers to understand how the system will perform. A good POC for Track & Trace should answer the following questions:
- Can the system obtain the Track & Trace data from the carriers?
- Will the data be complete?
- Does the alerting of the system provide real-time information?
- Is the data accurate?
By sticking with a limited scope of carriers, it’s very easy to see and understand any issues that may prevent the company from obtaining the value from the system.
Use a Pilot to Test the System and the Provider
A Pilot, on the other hand, is a dress rehearsal with your supply chain data. The scope is bigger than a POC but, still smaller than a full-scale implementation. A Pilot is used to test not only the system, but also the company providing the system. A Pilot implementation for Track and Trace software should be able to answer these additional questions:
- How long does it take to get the data turned on?
- How much work did the customer have to do compared with the solution provider?
- What do the users think about the system?
- Is it easy to use?
- Can it scale?
What to Expect When Using Either a POC or a Pilot
A POC should require a shorter timeframe and cost less than a Pilot implementation due to its limited scope. Likewise, given the increased depth provided by a Pilot, you should expect to pay roughly the same as a full implementation—you should also expect a Pilot to be more polished for the end user than a POC. If you’re being offered a free Pilot, then you’re not doing a Pilot—I’d say it’s closer to a live demonstration. A company should be thinking about what are they trying to answer—is it a question of the solution working (POC), or the solution provider being able to deliver a working solution (Pilot)? Either way, if you expect to be happy with your eventual service provider, you should expect POC and Pilot implementations to be tailored to meet your company’s needs.
That “Free” Pilot Might End up Costing More. Be Selective.
Free sounds great. But typically, a free Pilot requires you—the end user—to implement the solution yourself. You may invest a lot of time and resources implementing new, unfamiliar software that ultimately isn’t the right fit. After you have spent the time implementing the software and sharing your issues with the provider, they may argue that their software does work but was implemented wrong. If it is indeed the wrong software for your company, a proper installation is only going to cost you additional time and money, without resulting in a usable long-term supply chain solution for your company.
Ask These Four Questions Before Moving Forward with a POC or Pilot
There needs to be objective measurable outcomes to determine if the POC or Pilot was successful. Asking these questions will help you select the proper trial runs for potential solutions for your company.
- What is the resource requirement from my company’s side?
- How quickly can the POC or Pilot be up and running?
- What have previous customers used as their measurable outcomes; and can they be viewed in the system?
- What is our definition of success?
Knowing the answer to these questions before you dive in will help you streamline the software selection process and help you get the most out of your POC or Pilot implementation.