Proof of Concept in Project Management

A Proof of Concept (POC) project begins when an organization starts a new or existing program. Usually, at the beginning of a large-scale effort, a POC should be a Testbed Project. A Testbed Project takes a smaller portion of the overall effort and contains it to see if it works with the company objectives.

Take, for example, a new financial system with multiple software components for each business area is in consideration. The company might create a small POC team with representative members from HR, Finance, IT, the solutions provider, and an executive sponsor. This team will be a separate entity dedicated to testing the software to see if it’s a good fit for the company.

A Proof of Concept project can also be created if a current project shows issues, is struggling to align with the corporate goals and vision, or is lagging in approach. Again, creating a small team of the appropriate players will expose the most complex areas in the project for testing.

Read more: Project Proposal Template & Examples

Why Implement a POC Project

Why should you implement a Proof of Concept project? A POC effort can work in any business or industry. Teams in finance, HR, sales, and marketing can all successfully use a Proof of Concept approach.

Many organizations make the mistake of trying to take on overly large programs that affect multiple departments of a company at once. Chunking a large program into smaller POC efforts — with an overall plan to complete — will save money, time, and aggravation.

Answer these questions first before beginning any strategic corporate initiative:

  • Does the project align with our company’s core business?
  • Is the program new on the market?
  • What division is asking for the system?
  • If there is an external vendor, what is their area of expertise?

How to Establish a Valuable POC Team

Determine the team structure. The POC Team should be relatively small. A good rule of thumb is 10 to 12 people. Determine who should be involved, and what, when, where, and how these people will be best utilized.

Limit participation to key stakeholders. Ensure that only the responsible business areas commit resources to the effort. While other regions of the company may want to be involved, the success of a POC depends on keeping the core team focused on the effort. Why? The focus of the POC is to determine whether the project should be adopted by other areas of an organization.

Always have a an executive sponsor. Why include an executive sponsor? Extensive efforts need someone to be a spokesperson that can communicate and help clear the way for the POC team. The organization’s leadership, especially in mission-critical rollouts, should be seen, heard, and supported by the team.

Keep the team independent. The POC team needs to focus its efforts on only the POC Project. If they are on other projects or have competing responsibilities, the POC will not be successful. Remember, a Proof of Concept Project is an encapsulated effort; a POC should not be or become a long-term exercise. The purpose is to determine if the project is viable for the organization.

How to Use the Results of a Proof of Concept Project

Understanding the importance and need for a POC Project will help an organization know if a more laborious or troubled project will work at scale. Creating a solid POC Team is vital for success, especially when it comes to the executive sponsor. The hardest part of a POC effort is ensuring the project meets the corporate goals.

If the POC team determines that the tested program isn’t a fit, consider a new approach or classify the effort as a sunk cost. Too many organizations start significant efforts and don’t realize it may be a bad idea. A POC project can help determine this success or failure early on, ultimately saving time and money. A Proof of Concept effort is an excellent tool for anyone responsible for corporate initiatives.

Read next: Establishing Meeting Cadence for Remote Project Teams

Kent Barnett

Kent Barnett is a technologist, entrepreneur, author, and storyteller. He founded a strategic project management company later acquired by a multinational corporation. Barnett's accomplishments have made him a sought-after partner for companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 50.