There are many reasons why a customer will request a POC, but it usually comes down to ensuring that the software will actually be able to deliver the promises made by the vendor's sales reps and marketing materials. In most cases, the terms of the POC are dictated by the vendor while the requirements are defined by the customer.
The primary mistake that I often find when evaluating the results of a POC is that the customer defines their requirements based completely on the issues that they are looking for the software to resolve rather than all the requirements that they need the software to deliver. For example, in a recent POC that I evaluated, the customer was considering the purchase of a DW appliance. They were having challenges with loading their data within their available load window and had a number of queries that were taking more than 30 minutes to return. They asked to set up a POC with a major industry vendor and they were able to cut the total load time by 20 hours and brought the longest running query down to under 3 minutes.
By all accounts, the POC was a major success and the customer purchased the appliance. When they began migrating their existing ETL jobs they found out that the data loads were extremely slow. Instead of insisting that they include a few of their ETL jobs in the POC, they let the vendor steer them into using only the bulk loader. They also discovered that their front-end BI tool issued SQL that wasn't compatible with the database appliance and their data modeling tool wasn't compatible. Those areas weren't considered for the POC. Many reading this blog entry are probably thinking that this couldn't happen in their environment, but unfortunately it happens more than you'd think.
The challenge with POC's is that the vendors' know the strengths and weakness of their software and are savvy with steering the POC in a direction that demonstrates the strengths and avoids the weaknesses. However, we can't blame the vendors since this is simply sales 101. Customers not only need to dictate both the terms and requirements of the POC, but also dedicate the time and resources necessary to ensure a proper evaluation. For example, if you can't provide hardware resources that that are comparable to your existing or planned environment for the POC, then you may not be proving what you set out to achieve. Customers also need to include a broad range of requirements, not just issues that you're looking to solve. You may solve your issues, but introduce many more.
The next time you look to bring in software for a POC, remember that the 'P' stands for Proof that the software will meet all your expectations, not just the issues you're looking to resolve.
Posted October 10, 2010 4:30 PM
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