We at Business Console decided not to offer PoCs any more.
Let me explain why first and then what’s instead.
What is PoC
PoC is a project where a supplier (BPMS vendor, partner or consulting company) demonstrates its capabilities using customer’s business process as an example.
The fundamental reason is that BPM concept is new for most customers. Although there are three BPM conference per year in Moscow since 2005, the number of companies that have implemented BPM is still low. BPM is attractive yet risky for prospective customers.
The PoC’s purpose is to minimize the customer’s risk by providing a working prototype (implemented in BPMS) of a BPM system in a short timeframe and for a fixed price or free of charge. The prototype may be evaluated from different perspectives: business analyst, developer, process participant. Besides the customer gets an idea of provider’s competence and capabilities.
In theory, this allows the PoC customer to decide whether to go on with the proposed solution or not. If yes then licenses purchase and production system development follows.
Seems logical, right? Yet there are some pitfalls:
1) Free pilot projects is bad practice: what’s get for no cost is valued exactly that. Unfortunately there were several cases in our practice where fair projects ended up in the trash can. The customer just didn’t make up a decision, neither positive nor negative.
Large vendors have a reason for doing PoCs: the price of their products is such that even if one of several PoCs will bring the order then it’s worth the cost. But for those who, like us, offer consulting mostly and a resonably-priced BPMS as an addition, this is unacceptable.
2) Hence we started to charge for PoCs. Charge a fixed price because (let me remind you) the fundamental goal was to reduce the risk for the customer. The plot was to make the customer more commited and more interested in project’s progress and result.
Unfortunately it did not work well either. Whatever we did to explain a customer that the purpose of the PoC was not to develop a producton system but to provide him all necessary information for the decision - he never fully understood. He formally agreed but used to request more and more features which a) where absolutely non-essential and b) he didn’t mention at the beginning of the project. Inertia of considering BPM as an automation project turned out to be too strong.
We encountered a trivial greed, too: if the price is fixed then let’s get the maximum number of features. Nobody seems to care that the decision is postponed and the system which could already benefit to the customer was not implemented. We failed to explain the simple fact: time is more important at PoC than functionality!
Besides we as suppliers have had another driver for PoCs - the hands-on experience of solving real business problems with BPM. But now it’s over: after years of field work we are fully confident; basically we don’t care what the next business process would be. We know beforehand that we’ll meet the same process patterns, the same integration tasks and the same organizational and cultural challenges of process management implementation.
A customer learns a lot from a PoC but we learn almost nothing. Hence a logical change in our tactics:
Training Instead of PoC
We lanched bpmntraining.ru in September 2010. At that time nobody could say whether anyone would ever sign up for the BPMN training. Now it’s evident that it was a good idea: the BPMN adoption is growing and so do the demand for the training.
We started with public trainings and now we give two corporate trainings per month in addition. More and more companies adopt BPMN as an internal business process modeling standard. The geography is expanding too; the recent addition was Tbilisi, Georgia.
We picked the right format for the training:
1) At the first day students learn the elements of the notation, do excersices and write tests. At the end of the first day students choose processes from their own business practice to work on.
2) These processes become the homework. Students publish intermediate results at bpmnforum.ru and discuss them with each other and with the trainer.
3) On the second day in the classroom we continue working on the selected processes. This is a key element of the training; the brainstorming sessions alternate with drawing BPMN diagrams in BizAgi Modeler. At the end of the day students become confident in BPMN modeling and process analysis, they get familiar with basic BPMN orchestration and collaboration patterns and are well-prepared to meet the BPMN challenges at their workplaces.
4) On the third day of training students get a complete understanding of what an executable business process is, how a modern BPM Suite works and how it can benefit to them. Right in the classroom they create from scratch a business process diagram plus other artifacts necessary to execute and analyze a business process within BizAgi BPM Suite.
So what the students of BPMN training finally get? It’s a complete understanding of how BPMN and BPMS can be applied to process-related challenges facing their organization, what benefits the organization will get from BPM and what are the associated costs.
Now tell me please: isn’t it the same result that a PoC should give?!
In fact it’s even more: the organization gets an idea of how to use BPM in both cases yet in case of PoC the resulting prototype is created by the supplier while in case of training the customer’s employees did it with their own hands. The latter result is much more valuable indeed.
Training is also far better from the relationships between customer and supplier viewpoint. No more conflicts because a supplier rejects yet another feature request or because a customer postpones a decision. The training agreed - conducted - paid off, that’s it!
After that the customer can leverage on the wave of enthusiasm from the training to initiate a project that will result in a production system managing customer’s business processes. Or if he isn’t ready yet for some reason then he can take a time-out; he knows where where to go and he knows our capabilities.