Prove it or lose it: Why proof of concepts are a must do for many IT projects

 In Professional Services, Solutions

Few of us would buy a car without first taking it for a test drive. But this is exactly what organizations do when they purchase new technology without completing a Proof of Concept (POC).

In the IT realm, a POC tests how potentially disruptive technology interacts or integrates with an existing environment. These experiments can give an organization the confidence to adopt new and emerging technologies, or fair warning for what challenges must be solved first.

While you don’t need a POC to buy some new laptops, you should test any significant implementation you’re planning. Here’s why.

Proof of concept

When you need a POC and when you don’t

At its core, a POC helps an organization minimize risk. But not all risk is created equal. For example, a new piece of software might slow down the network a bit, but adding hundreds of additional devices might overload the system and shut down critical programs. Organizations must understand — and mitigate — any risk a new technology could create.

The first step is understanding your organization’s mission and business needs — what outcome are you hoping to achieve? What are the potential impact and changes? This includes not just learning new technology, but how it may affect adjacent groups.

If your organization wants to replace 100 laptops, any potential impact will be minimal, so a POC probably won’t be necessary. But if, in addition to the new laptops, you want to roll out a new mobile device program for your sales force, that’s a different story. Because the mobile devices will require a wide range of protections, from a mobile device management program to an enterprise app (and don’t forget back-end support to avoid latency), a POC allows you to test the flexibility of the network and how devices can be secured.

Situations like this are where a POC is crucial. While it’s impossible to predict all possible outcomes, a properly scoped POC can help IT eliminate many unforeseen and unwanted issues associated with an IT upgrade.

How to make sure a POC is a true test and not just a demo

To get a true test of a product, a POC should be done in your IT environment and away from the safe, staged environment a manufacturer provides. After all, is a demo anything more than a car salesman taking you out for a drive and not letting you behind the wheel?

Organizations that conduct a POC in an isolated segment of their environment can watch the technology perform with no safety nets; this can also be done in a neutral, third-party location. Because hardware and software are more intertwined than ever, organizations can test both together. If doing so, consider running a sandbox or public cloud either on-premises or in a third-party environment.

A POC also gives IT insight into a vendor’s ability to support their product. Support should always include technical resources and access to subject matter experts, who should assist in any POC.

We recently worked with an organization testing two storage systems; before the POC began, the organization was already leaning toward selecting one very reputable vendor. However, as the POC got underway, the organization soon saw the value of the other vendor because of its quick response time and hands-on support. Ultimately, the company chose the second vendor because while the technology was similar, the support this second firm offered exceeded expectations.

The moral of the story is a POC allows you to get a more thorough understanding of the technology you’re testing. That includes the functionality and benefits, its integration with your existing environment, and the support the vendor provides.

Next time, opt for a real test drive

Remember, a POC is your test drive. It allows IT managers to see past a sales presentation, get their hands on the product, compare different technologies, and gain greater insight into the partners they’re working with.

SHI understands that companies invest in new technology as they grow and react to their competitors. Adopting new technology is essential to continually improving your IT environment, but you have to conduct a thorough experiment to prove it out. Considering that most critical technology purchases cost more than the average car, a POC makes a whole lot of sense.

As you seek the competitive edge of new technology while minimizing potential risks, SHI can help with a POC — contact your SHI account executive for more information.

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  • Safford Black

    We find that with larger organizations, a paid POC tends to have more success than a free “test drive” since customers are usually a little more dedicated to ensuring the POC gets off the ground when they’ve made a financial investment, even if it’s a small one.

    Granted this is a little easier to do with software than it is with hardware.

    How does SHI gauge when a paid POC is a more appropriate course of action than a quick (and free) test drive?

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