Want to Bring Analytics to Your Department? Start With a Proof-of-Concept (POC)

People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who usually do — Steve Jobs

Proofs of concepts are essential for innovation and progress.  

Why’s that, you ask?

Let’s take moment to examine that statement through the lens of a story I bet you’ve heard before…

Once Upon a Proof of Concept…

In the 1970s, two young men, each named Steve, had an idea, a concept really — one they thought would change the world.

“Prove it,” someone said. And so, they did.  

With a few off-the-shelf parts, the two Steve’s slapped together a simple version of their concept: a personal computer that would be accessible and useful to individuals for a wide variety of purposes.  

As we all know, the Apple I proved their idea had merit, and in fact, it did go on to change the world.  

That simple proof of concept with its compelling user experience disrupted established markets and changed the way we view and interact with technology to this very day. Now, individuals everywhere use PCs for a wide range of tasks, from programming and gaming to word processing — even data analytics.  

Apple’s success is a testament to innovation, and the two Steve’s are a shining example of how tenacity to bring a vision to life can influence future innovation and progress.‍

Data & Analytics (D&A)

Speaking of data analytics… Most of us are keenly aware of the tremendous enabler of innovation and progress that data & analytics has become for organizations of every type and within every industry imaginable.  

If you’ve been wanting to bring an analytics solution for data-driven decision-making into your business department but aren’t sure how, take a note from the two Steve’s.

Start with a proof of concept.

What Is a POC Analytics Dashboard?

First, a fully functional analytics dashboard is intended to solve a business problem, answer a question, and generally help dashboard users discover insights within the organization’s data.  

A proof-of-concept analytics dashboard is a simple, limited-scope version of that, but without connections to data pipelines (see more below). Though technically an experimental phase, the POC should be considered the first step in the implementation of a fully functional, scalable dashboard — not intended as a “throwaway” demonstration.  

What Features Do POC Dashboards Typically Include?

A POC analytics dashboard typically includes key metrics, subsets of available data, and a few basic visualizations (charts, graphs, and other visual elements) to help explain the value of the proposed solution and its potential impact on the organization.  

The POC dashboard may also include simulation models and other interactive features for experimenting with how a business solution might work within different scenarios.

Use Cases for POC Analytics Dashboards

“The world is full of opportunities. For me, the best way to identify the right opportunity is to get the proof of concept.” — Ori Mendi, serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Kueez.

A proof of concept sets out to prove that a particular solution will work as anticipated.  

Though commonly thought of as a last step in the sales process, POCs offer additional value to organizations and should be considered important in their own right.  

For example, proofs of concepts for analytics dashboards can be used as:

A Source of Insight

As we’ve stated, the POC provides a visual representation of how — and if — the new analytics solution will work in practice.  

While a successful POC can be as exciting as walking leadership into a dark room and flipping on a light switch, an “unsuccessful” POC can also be a welcome source of insight — a safe time to encounter pitfalls and explore alternative paths forward.

The complexities involved with data & analytics almost always leave wrinkles to iron out: technical problems, issues with data, fine-tuning of models — to name a few.  

During or after implementation of a fully functional solution, these wrinkles can become roadblocks that stall projects or cause them to fail — with dire consequences to budgets, opportunity costs, and reputations.  

The fact is, it only takes one project failure to deflate popular support for future initiatives and set back the organization’s momentum toward becoming data-driven.  

The POC stage is meant to be an opportunity to carefully evaluate any and all wrinkles and iron them out early on.  

A Validation of Business Ideas

The two Steve’s showed us how powerful this value proposition can be.  

Business leaders are often brave innovators, but initiating a brand-new concept — even a tactic that’s been successful in a different industry or with a different market segment — can still feel risky.  

With the right inputs, the POC will make clear whether the business idea is valid and give business and data leaders an opportunity to make any necessary tweaks to the model, data sources, or other elements.  

A Method of Evaluating Potential ROI

A POC dashboard can provide a visual representation of potential return on investment (ROI) from the new solution. It can help everyone — business leaders, executives, and investors — understand just how much of a financial impact the solution could make over time.

This visible proof can be a powerful contributor to business cases. For example, it’s often just what executives and investors need to see before agreeing to invest in a project.    

A Way to Jumpstart Change Management Efforts

Showcasing the proof of concept can give stakeholders an eye-popping look at their impending ability to make more informed decisions. It also gives them an opportunity to provide their feedback on dashboard usability for the data team to consider.  

And as stakeholders evangelize the benefits of changes to come, they’ll be building support and buy-in necessary for digital transformations to come.

Make the Most of Your Proof-of-Concept Analytics Dashboard

Getting the most bang for your buck on a POC analytics dashboard means demonstrating, as accurately as possible, the value your proposed solution will bring to the organization.  

Here are a few tips to help you succeed in getting the most value from your investment in a proof of concept:

1. Set your data team up for success.
  • Evaluate the data team’s expertise ahead of time to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience (technical skills, experience with data visualization and analysis, and familiarity with relevant software tools and platforms) to build a successful POC. 
  • Communicate requirements clearly so the data team understands exactly what business stakeholders are looking for and can develop a POC that meets the department’s needs.  
  • Set realistic expectations for business stakeholders by taking into account available resources and the complexity of the project.  
  • Ensure data teams have adequate resources, including access to high-quality data, software, and other tools. 
  • Collaborate effectively with your data team by providing feedback and input throughout the proof-of-concept development process.

2. Align business objectives for your POC with the organization’s business goals.

The business question your data team is modeling for in the POC dashboard must have a clear purpose and align with the organization’s overarching business goals.  

Business stakeholders should agree on the business question and on which KPIs to measure in order to validate your business idea with certainty.   

3. Build a POC that will scale.

Make sure your POC will be able to scale into a fully functional dashboard once models have been validated.  

It should be able to accommodate larger amounts of data and otherwise meet the future needs of your organization.  

If the dashboard won’t scale, it may not be worth the investment.

4. Use real, relevant, and clean data.

In some cases, using mock data can make sense, but most of the time you’ll want to use real data.  

Doing so will help data teams build a more effective and accurate representation of the full-scale dashboard. This is important for proving that your future, fully functional dashboard will meet stakeholder needs, help validate business assumptions, and effectively inform decision-making.

Above all else, make sure the data used in your POC is relevant, of high quality, and large enough to draw statistically significant conclusions.  

Ready to Prove Your Concept With Data & Analytics?

Of course, the Steve’s weren’t the first business leaders to disrupt established markets with an innovative idea brought to life with a proof of concept — nor will they be the last.  

Progress, growth, competitive advantage, and sometimes even an organization’s survival depend on forward-thinking leaders willing to challenge the status quo and bring revolutionary ideas to life.  

Advances in technology have transformed datasets into new lands of opportunity ripe with potential for discovering insights, answers, and new trends. This means it’s become more important than ever to bring in the power of data & analytics and expand informed decision-making.  

And if you’ve taken that note from the two Steve’s, you’ll know exactly how to do it — by starting with a proof of concept.

Data & Analytics With Wimmer Solutions

Wimmer Solutions has been a trusted partner in digital transformation to companies across industries for over 20 years.  

To learn more about Wimmer Solutions and our services related to data & analytics, visit our website.

To inquire about partnering with Wimmer Solutions to build a POC for your data & analytics capabilities, contact us today for a free consultation.