Many companies have realized they need data to understand how they’re performing and make better decisions. Lately, there has been an emphasis on the track and trace visibility side of the supply chain. The perceived newness of visibility has increased interest among companies for either a Proof of Concept (POC) or a software pilot before fully committing to a service provider. Either of these approaches can be an excellent research tool if done correctly, but there are a few things you should know first.

Validate Performance With a POC

A proof of concept differs from a pilot regarding size and scope. As the name suggests, a POC intends to prove a concept and validate the performance of a solution. The POC focuses on a small piece of the overall solution, making it possible to evaluate results and minimize implementation challenges. For example, if a company is evaluating a track and trace software solution, they might want to do a POC with a handful of carriers to understand how the system will perform. A good POC for a visibility solution should answer the following questions:

  • Can the system obtain the tracking data from the carriers?
  • Is the data complete?
  • Does the system alerting provide real-time information?
  • Is the data accurate?

By sticking with a limited scope of carriers, it’s easy to see and understand any issues that may prevent the company from obtaining the value from the system.

Test the System and the Provider with a Pilot

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 tests not only the system but also the company providing the system. A pilot implementation for a track and trace solution should be able to answer these additional questions:

  • How long does it take to get the data turned on?
  • How much work does the customer have to do, compared to the solution provider?
  • What do the users think about the system?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Can it scale?

What to Expect When Using a POC or a Pilot

A proof of concept 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 are offered a free pilot, you’re likely not doing a pilot, but rather, a live demonstration. Your company should think about what they are 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 service provider, proper POC and pilot implementations should be tailored to meet your company’s needs.

Be Selective: A “Free” Pilot Might End up Costing More

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 invested resources into implementing the software and sharing issues with the provider, they may argue the solution was implemented incorrectly. If it is indeed the wrong software for your company, proper installation is only going to cost you additional time and money, without resulting in a beneficial, long-term supply chain solution for your company.

Five Questions to Ask Before Moving Forward With a POC or Pilot

There need to be objective and 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.

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  1. What is the resource requirement for my company?
  2. How quickly can the POC or pilot be up and running?
  3. Can we view measurable outcomes in the system that other customers have used?
  4. What is our definition of success?
  5. What outcomes are required to improve internal initiatives?

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.

Note: DC Velocity originally published this article – Logistics Problem Solving on September 21, 2018.