Project Management Institute

Weighing the Options

Project Managers Can Tip the Scales When it Comes to Proof-of-Concept Initiatives

By Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

In today's digital-first world, companies can't afford to make mistakes when they pursue major technology improvements. But with so many requirements and stakeholders, these improvements are not an easy endeavor. Sales meetings, technical capability demonstrations, and discussions about technical architecture, enterprise planning and pricing discussions all can drastically change the company's original desired concept. On top of it all, these decisions must satisfy the organization's needs for years to come and can drastically impact future business decisions.

With so much at stake, organizations need to test their options before committing to a particular solution. And it falls on project managers to guide stakeholders and participating vendors through pilot projects that validate final decisions. Beyond helping define how the technology will solve a business problem, here are three ways project managers can help lead organizations through a successful proof-of-concept (PoC) trial.

SCRUTINIZE VENDORS

PoCs typically need only two or three vendors. Yet the industry is flooded with vendors of varying expertise—and they're often startups that rely on venture capital for funding. Project managers can lead a briefing that requires vendors to prove their financial health and business stability. This meeting reveals their funding sources, support system and resources. Your organization is making a huge investment, so having that financial snapshot can ensure the solution provider won't go out of business anytime soon.

BUILD A VISION FOR SUCCESS

The many siloed stakeholders will have competing interests. Project managers can work with all stakeholders and vendors to build a consensus on defined success and how it will be measured during the PoC. But having everyone on the same page doesn't mean cramming everyone in the same room. PoC meetings with all stakeholders present can become a disaster, because each stakeholder treats their own requirements as the most important. I prefer to meet with each stakeholder separately then create a centralized document or chart showing the success criteria for the whole organization. I have seen PoCs fail or stagnate because stakeholders got territorial. Divide and conquer is the key.

RIGHT-SIZE DEPLOYMENT

With a limit to scope and implementation, PoC timelines will be much shorter. Keeping all stakeholders on track in an accelerated environment calls for project managers to stay on top of all tasks and seek constant updates from the start. That means helping each vendor to plan for all requirements, making sure key stakeholders have all the information necessary to approve the design, and establishing a chaos-free environment for testing, review and final selection.

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At the end of the day, project managers must facilitate a collaborative PoC. This is what defines project leadership—not simply marking tasks off a project plan, but shepherding stakeholders with competing PoC objectives toward a shared experience that yields long-term benefits. PM

img Marat Oyvetsky, PMP, is senior manager at Rackspace, San Diego, California, USA.
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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