Four Steps to a Successful Proof Of Concept for Speech Analytics

John Leedham

As the world slowly begins to re-open in the (hopefully) aftermath of COVID-19, executives and managers will need to focus again on business priorities and growth opportunities. Inevitably vendors will come knocking at your door with new products, services and proposals. Before making the investment, it’s a good idea to undergo a Proof of Concept (POC) process to help you make the best decision.

Essentially, a POC is a sample project that helps you as a potential customer answer key questions:

  • — Does this product or service add value to my business?
  • — Does it save me money?
  • — Does it work as promised?
  • — Do I like the product or service?
  • — Do I like working with the people who provide the product or service?
These high-level questions, along with multiple other factors, can help you determine the answer to the ultimate question: Do I want to purchase the product or service for my business?

To implement a POC that actually accomplishes this goal, however, it’s important to take the following four steps, particularly when evaluating a speech analytics vendor.

Step One: Set Goals and Expectations

Before you get somewhere, you need to clearly know where you are going. We all have conversations in the workplace, at home, and anywhere for that matter, where one person understands X as an outcome of the conversation and the other understands it as Y. The first step in a successful POC is to set goals, define criteria for success, and establish key performance indicators--and make sure everyone involved understands them the same way.

Work with your potential supplier to define and agree upon these goals before starting a POC. Then, by the end of the project, you’ll be able to easily see if and how goals were met and make your final decision.

Step Two: Set Aside Resources

An effective POC will require an investment from you. It’s important to understand and commit to each phase of the project with people and time for a POC to be effective. Work closely with your supplier to clearly define:

- Who is needed?
- What is needed?
- When is it needed?
- Why is it needed?

By aligning your expectations and requirements early in the process, everyone involved understands what is happening, what is required, and why. Imagine going for a haircut without telling the hairdresser what you want before the cutting begins! Define steps and agree to deadlines through the POC project, and you’ll get off on the right foot.

Step Three: Assign One Champion

Unless there’s accountability, it’s hard to get anything accomplished. Be sure you have one key contact who has enough bandwidth to work with one key contact at the supplier organisation. These two people should do the lion's share of organising, updating, and communicating to the entire team--no need for too many chefs.

Step Four: Stay Focused

We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we? We’ve got more important projects. An emergency release has been scheduled. The key stakeholder is on leave. The dog ate my homework. There can always be a reason for delaying or cancelling a POC, but once it’s started make sure it’s important and it has focus.

Before embarking on a POC, be sure your company can keep it as a top priority through completion. A good POC requires the attention of both organisations for the duration of the project to be successful.

If emergencies or other more important projects begin eating away the resources dedicated to the POC, it will simply not work. The initial goal setting and the dedication of a champion are designed to help keep the POC as a key priority through its completion.

Remember that once the POC has started, both businesses have already made significant investments in the process. Stay focused to be sure that time and those resources are used efficiently and effectively.

If you follow these four steps during your POC project, you will get the answer to your ultimate question about the proposed product or service. By the end of this process, you’ll have a much better understanding of the offering itself, how the supplier team works with your company, and whether it will provide your business with the competitive advantage you’re seeking.

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