IT can play a major part in improving business processes. Traditionally this involves large, long-term, and capital-intensive implementations that often fail to yield the intended results. But with a proof of value (PoV), you can show that an intervention is technically feasible and that it delivers value. A PoV lets you think big and start small, so that the next steps are both secure and effective. It’s the perfect way to address the concerns of risk-takers as well as security-seekers.
The IT industry often works with proofs of concept (PoC). A PoC is used to identify any potential technical risks in advance. “A proof of value (PoV) is used to prove the business value in advance,” says Managing Director Jeroen Borst. “By definition, the PoV is linked to the organization’s business value.”
In IT, according to his colleague Tom den Hartog, the PoC often relates to the bottom line: efficiency and technological improvements. “By contrast, the PoV also focuses on effectiveness and top-line added value for the business.” What’s more, the PoV is always fueled by a need—or the necessity—for change.
Companies are continuously being forced to think strategically about their current models, products, services, and processes. It’s very difficult to deal with all of those in one fell swoop. “Through a PoV, you can reach the quick wins that fit within that larger strategic recalibration,” explains Managing Director Arthur van Schendel. “The value and insights created help to accelerate further improvements.”
New target group
Because of its focus on real business challenges, Schuberg Philis is increasingly being invited to speak with other stakeholders in addition to the CIO: commerce, operations, and finance, for example. Jeroen says: “We’re getting to know new target groups. The CIOs we traditionally work for are usually open to technologically driven experiments. However, sometimes we happen upon possibilities for creating business value. And at other times we’ll use our knowledge of the customer and their industry to make targeted suggestions that also benefit other positions at the company.”
In other words: business and IT are not mutually exclusive. “In both fields, companies benefit from connectivity and data exchange,” says Arthur. “An example is linking capital assets in the process chain. This creates new insights throughout the production and value chain that can lead to things like process improvements and other business and delivery models.”
While the primary focus of the PoV is business performance, there are often cost benefits for the CIO or COO. “The PoV also limits future investment risks, which is something every executive likes,” says Jeroen.
In our partnerships with customers, this approach makes our contribution much more meaningful.
As he considers Schuberg Philis’s interest in PoVs, Tom den Hartog observes that impact was always seen as more important than effort. “What really matters is the results. Providing proof of value is a perfect fit for the way we think and operate—more so than a PoC, which only shows that something works on a technical level. Based on our technological competencies, we can operate a bank, insurance company, or factory. That’s a much better fit with our focus on impact than a strictly technical approach.”
The availability of modern technologies has a great effect on the possibilities, of course. But you have to look beyond the tools. Jeroen Borst: “Let’s say that a company wants to do something with IoT or machine learning. You still have to take the data and then process, translate, and analyze it. Make it relevant on a human scale. This involves a chain of technologies that transcends functional silos. In a PoV, we can connect all of them as we tackle a specific challenge.”
“In our partnerships with customers, this approach makes our contribution much more meaningful, instead of simply supplying technical capabilities,” says Arthur van Schendel. “It evolves the relationship, making our work more and more relevant from our customers’ perspective.”
Customers want scalability, but how is that embedded in the PoV? Tom explains: “PoVs have scalability built-in. Non-functionals, security, quality, and continuity are incorporated in the test setup, so that you never get stuck and can scale up relatively easily. We have a lot of experience with mission-critical environments. In a PoV, we incorporate that know-how as we work with real production data. That means the results are immediately tangible.”
Starting small limits the cost of failures and provides quick insights into the added value. But according to Arthur, it always deepens your understanding. After all, you are by definition sailing in uncharted waters, which means that lessons will be learned. “We can use our experience in dealing with mission-critical operations and opening up data to make progress quickly. As soon as a solution works, the CIO can start using it in the scale-up phase.”
Even companies that use a lot of legacy IT can start a PoV. Arthur clarifies: “What matters is that we don’t start with IT, but with the business challenge. Even a small-scale start will inevitably interact with the legacy systems. The great thing is that this automatically gives you a list of priorities for the IT that needs to be transformed. In this way, a PoV does more than make the operations more effective: it also increases the IT’s efficiency.” And this, in turn, will bring business and IT closer together.
“Quite often the legacy factor isn’t really found in the systems, but more in the mental blocks inside people’s heads,” Tom explains. “A PoV may show that there’s still a lot you can do with old systems. What’s more, the technology and our capabilities are evolving so quickly that we are capable of solving almost any challenge in the short term at ever lower costs. So legacy IT isn’t a limitation for a PoV—quite the contrary.”
All companies that embrace working with PoVs have the conviction and the willingness to do things differently. “They dare to think big, but start small. Which says something about their level of involvement. The people who stand up to the challenge are those who are curious and willing to try something new,” says Jeroen, referring to companies like HEINEKEN, PostNL, Enexis, Geldmaat, and Argenta, where Schuberg Philis created new value after a PoV. Tom adds: “We are very proud that these customers have asked us to do this for them.”
Tom den Hartog
Arthur van Schendel