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Home   >Best Practices

Proof of Concept (PoC) Best Practices

January 30, 2024

In sales, the Proof of Concept (PoC) is when a product, service, or solution is demonstrated using a real-world customer context.  It acts as a bridge, moving from theoretical solutions (e.g., website content) to tangible, real-world, customer-specific applications. The PoC enables both the prospect and the sales team to validate underlying assumptions, evaluate the solution’s performance, and anticipate any challenges that might arise during implementation–some may even provide a compelling business case for its adoption. 

All that said, the PoC answers the question: “Does it work?”

PoCs involve the prospect (buyer), who is evaluating the solution, and the sales team (seller), responsible for presenting and adapting the solution to meet the prospect's unique requirements. As such, the proof of concept (PoC) is what many call an external collaboration.  Just like all the business-critical work we do with external stakeholders, PoCs are characterized by frequent communications, planning, and collaboration to document the POC and its results thoroughly.  

While that might make it seem that PoCs are only important to the prospect, that’s not the case. It’s important for both the buyer (prospect) and the seller (sales team).

  • For the buyer or prospect, it's about de-risking the purchase decision by seeing the solution in action. 
  • For the seller or sales team, it's an opportunity to demonstrate commitment, understand the prospect's environment, and make an informed decision on whether the solution is a good fit for both parties. 

The mutual exploration that occurs in a PoC is crucial not just for closing a sale but for establishing a successful, long-term partnership where both parties benefit. 

For the product companies specifically, properly managing the external collaboration has additional benefits far beyond “closed-won.” The content from the PoC provides valuable insights to the product management and engineering team and, with enough context, can shape the product roadmap and engineering decisions. Especially from a product marketing perspective, the content helps build a concrete understanding of the real, pressing struggles of the target segment.  This post-PoC value is a key reason to manage and organize the collaboration content properly.   

With all this on its shoulders, PoCs can be tricky, but they don’t have to be.  We’ve pulled together this list of best practices to make your next PoC a success.

Best Practices for Conducting Effective PoCs

To ensure that the collaborative efforts of your PoC create the most value for all participants, we offer these ten best practices: 

  1. Agree on the External Collaboration Platform: Start by mutually agreeing on how communications will happen; consider an external collaboration platform that supports efficient communication, document sharing, and organization, as this will facilitate smoother coordination and execution of all PoC activities.
  2. Address Legal and Compliance Considerations: Tackle legal and compliance issues, including NDAs, data privacy, and industry regulations.
  3. Define Clear Scope and Objectives:  Jointly establish and document the specific objectives, timelines, and deliverables of the PoC. 
  4. Agree on Scope-Creep Remediation: Understanding what is in-scope and out-of-scope from the outset helps avoid it. Defining the remediation ensures relationship continuity.
  5. Set Realistic and Measurable Success Criteria: Define and agree upon quantifiable and realistic success criteria aligned with the prospect's KPIs.
  6. Plan the PoC with a High-Level Timeline and Key Milestones: Develop a high-level timeline with milestones and dates. The detail should be tied to PoC length/complexity. 
  7. Maintain Regular Communication and Check-ins: Establish a routine for updates and meetings to keep both parties informed and address issues promptly.
  8. Manage and Document Feedback Effectively:  Systematically collect, manage, and document feedback throughout the PoC.
  9. Keep Track of Technical Requirements and Integrations for (Technology PoCs):  Focus on ensuring that technology solutions being tested are compatible with existing systems and meet all technical requirements for successful integration.
  10. Conduct a Final Evaluation Against Success Criteria: Perform a thorough and collaborative evaluation of the PoC against the predefined success criteria.

The Top Proof of Concept (PoC) Best Practices facilicate your success

1. Agree on the External Collaboration Platform

Proof of Concepts are external collaborations between a buyer and a seller during the sales process. There’s quite a bit of communication and documentation that flows between the two parties over the duration of the PoC.  Keeping that flow of content and communication organized and available for all participants keeps the level of trust high, which is vital for the success of a PoC and the sale itself.

The external collaboration platform is pivotal as it facilitates efficient communication (real-time and async), organizes all the document collaborations/requests/versioning, and provides project transparency — it's the central rallying point for all PoC-related activities for both parties. The choice of an external collaboration platform significantly impacts the ease and effectiveness of collaboration between the prospect and the sales team. A suitable platform streamlines the process, ensuring that all stakeholders can easily access information, rapidly understand the PoC context within their window of involvement, communicate, and stay updated on the project's progress. 

It's crucial to choose an external platform that is user-friendly, accessible to all team members, and capable of handling the specific needs of your PoC. Set up the platform and ensure all key stakeholders are familiar with its features. Utilize this platform to manage all aspects of the PoC, from initial planning to final evaluation. Regular use of the platform for communication, document sharing, document collection, and tracking helps maintain transparency and alignment throughout the project.  

Also, if you suspect that your core PoC team will grow to include other stakeholders, SMEs, or leadership (e.g., sales management, procurement, steering committee, etc.), an external collaboration platform–especially those with a summarization or recap feature–is useful for getting those individuals up to speed more quickly. 

Keep in mind that basic tools–email, file sharing, etc–can be used for this purpose.  If you choose to use these more rudimentary tools, it is imperative that you affirmatively assign individuals from the participating organizations to spend time documenting, managing, and administering the process.  

TakeTurns helps ensure success for your critical Proofs of Concepts (PoCs)

2. Address Legal and Compliance Considerations

Navigating legal and compliance considerations is a critical aspect of preparing for a PoC. This process involves addressing any legal agreements, data privacy concerns, and industry-specific regulations that might apply. Proper handling of these considerations is crucial for building a foundation of trust and protecting both parties, especially in scenarios where sensitive data or intellectual property is involved.

  • For the Buyer: Ensuring compliance and legal agreements are in place protects your data and sets clear boundaries for its use.
  • For the Seller: These agreements safeguard your solutions and methodologies, ensuring that intellectual property rights are respected.

The implementation of these agreements should be managed through your external collaboration platform. Use this platform to share, review, and track versions of all legal and compliance-related documents. This ensures that all parties have access to the most current versions of these critical documents and that any changes or updates are transparently recorded. Managing these documents in a central location helps streamline the review process and keeps the documentation organized and accessible.

Key documents include:

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): Essential for protecting sensitive information shared during the PoC.
  • Compliance Checklist: Outlines the specific regulatory and compliance requirements relevant to the PoC.
  • Data Privacy Agreements: Details the measures and practices in place to protect the privacy and security of data used during the PoC.

3. Define Clear Scope and Objectives

The definition of a clear scope and objectives is critical for the success of a PoC. This process, involving both the prospect and the sales team, sets a shared understanding and expectations for the PoC. The significance of this step lies in its ability to prevent scope creep, maintain focus, and ensure that the project adheres to its initial goals. A well-defined scope helps avoid misunderstandings and keeps the project aligned with the agreed-upon objectives.  

  • For the Buyer: Make sure your must-haves are in scope
  • For the Seller: Use the scope to manage risk

For effective implementation, organize kickoff meetings with key stakeholders from both the prospect's side and the sales team. These meetings are vital for discussing and agreeing upon the PoC's goals, timelines, and expected deliverables. Use your external collaboration platform to manage the document collaboration on the scoping document (and its versions). Remember, version management on the scoping documents is important because helps the team record the rationale for scope changes.  

Key documents include:

  • PoC Scope and Objectives Statement: This document outlines the specific goals and deliverables of the PoC, providing a clear roadmap for what is to be achieved.
  • Stakeholder Analysis: Identifies all parties involved in the PoC, their roles, and their expectations, ensuring everyone's needs and contributions are understood.

4. Agree on Scope Creep Remediation

When conducting a PoC, it's essential to proactively address the potential for scope creep — the unplanned expansion of the project's scope. This often occurs due to evolving requirements or unforeseen challenges that arise during the PoC.

  • For the Buyer: Clearly defining what constitutes scope creep helps in maintaining focus on the primary objectives, ensuring that the solution being tested remains relevant to your needs.
  • For the Seller: A mutual understanding of scope creep and its remediation ensures that the project stays on track, avoiding resource drain and project delays.

To effectively manage scope creep, start by collaboratively defining what would constitute scope expansion beyond the agreed terms. Establish clear thresholds and triggers that indicate when the project is veering off course. Then, create a response plan detailing the steps to be taken if scope creep is identified. This plan should include decision-making processes, communication protocols, and how adjustments will be documented and managed. Regular review meetings should be scheduled to assess the project's progress against its defined scope, allowing for timely identification and management of any deviations.

One final comment: the level of detail and rigor required will depend on the PoC.  Complex, lengthy, paid PoCs will typically include this kind of documentation. For shorter PoCs, documenting how to address scope creep might just show up as a section in the aforementioned scoping documents.  The point is that the parties need to be thinking about changes in scope as they plan their PoCs – scale the rigor to your needs. 

Key documents include:

  • Scope Creep Policy Document/Section:  Outlines the definition, thresholds, triggers, and response plan for managing scope creep.
  • Meeting Agendas and Minutes: Records of discussions and decisions related to the project scope and any identified scope creep, captured during regular review meetings.

5. Set Realistic and Measurable Success Criteria

Setting realistic and measurable success criteria is essential in the planning phase of a PoC. These criteria serve as objective benchmarks for evaluating the PoC's success, ensuring that both the prospect and the sales team have quantifiable goals to measure against. This step is crucial for aligning the vendor’s capabilities with the prospect's expectations and facilitates a data-driven assessment of the outcomes.

  • For the Buyer: Ensure the criteria reflect the critical outcomes you need.
  • For the Seller: Use these criteria to highlight your solution's effectiveness/value proposition 

Implementing this effectively involves using your external collaboration platform to collaborate on the success criteria agreement. As with scoping, It's important to manage versions of these documents carefully. As discussions evolve and criteria are refined, maintaining a clear record of each version helps track the rationale for any changes made. This versioning is essential for ensuring transparency and accountability, preventing any disputes or confusion about the agreed-upon success metrics at the conclusion of the PoC. Without well-documented, mutually agreed-upon success criteria, it will be neigh impossible to have a successful PoC. 

Key documents include:

  • PoC Success Criteria Agreement: This document details the metrics and benchmarks agreed upon for evaluating the PoC's success.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Definition: Outlines the specific KPIs that the PoC aims to impact, aligned with the prospect's business goals.

6. Plan the Project with a High-Level Timeline and Key Milestones

Effective planning for a PoC requires a balance between detail and flexibility, especially given the varying durations these projects can have. For shorter PoCs, which may last only a few days to a couple of weeks, developing a high-level timeline with key milestones is usually sufficient and cost-effective. This approach provides a clear framework for what needs to be achieved and when, without the complexity of a detailed project plan that might be overkill for such brief engagements.

  • For the Buyer: A high-level timeline ensures that you can track major progress points without getting bogged down in minutiae.
  • For the Seller: This approach allows you to demonstrate progress and meet key deliverables efficiently, keeping the PoC focused and manageable.

In the case of longer PoCs, potentially extending over several months, consider developing a more detailed timeline. However, it's worth noting that such extensive PoCs often border on pilot project territory. For the initial planning phase, regardless of the PoC's length, use your external collaboration platform to manage the development and versioning of this timeline. This platform provides a central location for tracking changes, ensuring all parties are aligned with the updated schedules and milestones.

Key documents include:

  • High-Level Timeline: Outlines the major phases and milestones of the PoC, providing a roadmap for the project's progression.
  • Milestone Tracker: A simpler document for tracking key achievements and deliverables, ensuring that critical project components are met on time.

7. Maintain Regular Communication and Check-ins

Maintaining communication and check-ins during a PoC is crucial for keeping both parties aligned and informed. This practice ensures that any issues are addressed promptly and progress is continuously monitored. Regular communication fosters a transparent environment where both the prospect and the sales team can share updates, concerns, and feedback effectively. Additionally, keeping a history of what transpired between the parties can be incredibly useful if there are questions about strategic choices or disagreements. 

  • For the Buyer: Frequent communication ensures you are in the loop regarding the PoC’s progress.
  • For the Seller: These regular interactions provide opportunities to demonstrate ongoing commitment to the prospect’s needs and to adjust strategies as necessary.

The amount of structure you wrap around your communications will depend on the complexity of your PoC. For more complex scenarios, such as long-running or paid PoCs/pilots, a formal communication plan might be warranted. In these cases, your external collaboration platform can serve as the central point for sharing status reports, discussing challenges, and documenting any adjustments to the PoC plan. Additionally, ensure you maintain a comprehensive list of participants, their roles, and responsibilities. This list helps in directing communication to the right individuals and keeping everyone informed. Finally, keep in mind that the combined team will engage in both real-time (or synchronous) and out-of-band (or asynchronous) collaboration and communication throughout the entire process. This means that if you choose to use more basic tools (as opposed to an external collaboration platform), your approach will need to take all those realtime/nonrealtime channels into account. 

Key documents:

  • Participant List with Roles: A detailed list of all individuals involved in the PoC, along with their specific roles and responsibilities.

Key documents for more complex PoCs:

  • Communication Plan: A strategy document outlining the frequency, methods, and objectives of ongoing communications.
  • Regular Status Reports: Periodic updates providing insights into the current state of the PoC, including achievements and challenges.
  • Issue Log: A record of any issues or obstacles encountered during the PoC, along with their resolutions or status updates.

8. Manage and Document Feedback Effectively

Effective management and documentation of feedback are vital during a PoC. This process allows for capturing insights, concerns, and recommendations from the prospect, which are essential for refining and improving the solution.

  • For the Buyer: Providing structured feedback ensures your viewpoints and needs are adequately considered and addressed.
  • For the Seller: Feedback from the prospect is invaluable for making iterative improvements and aligning the solution with the prospect's expectations.

Use your external collaboration platform to collect, manage, and document this feedback. By organizing feedback sessions and documenting the outcomes on the platform, both parties can track how the solution evolves based on the prospect's input.

Key documents include:

  • Feedback and Iteration Log: Records all feedback received and the corresponding changes or actions taken.
  • Change Request Forms: Document specific requests or suggestions for changes from the prospect

9. Keep Track of Technical Requirements and Integrations for (Technology PoCs)

For PoCs involving technology solutions that will require integration with an organization's existing systems, the PoC is an opportunity to evaluate fit along the technology dimension. After all, a solution that meets the business requirements but cannot integrate with the organization’s technological ecosystem or tech team may be a poor choice. 

  • For the Buyer: It’s essential to assess how the new solution integrates with your current infrastructure. This evaluation ensures that the solution aligns not only with your immediate functional needs but also integrates smoothly with your existing technology landscape.
  • For the Seller: Understanding the technical environment in which your solution will operate is key. This knowledge enables you to demonstrate how your solution fits into the prospect's existing systems, highlighting its practical applicability and value.

Your external collaboration platform should be used to facilitate collaboration and actively track technical requirements and integration details. This platform should become the repository for all relevant information, including specifics about the existing systems, necessary integration points, and technical constraints that might influence the solution’s deployment.

Key documents include:

  • Technical Requirements Documentation: Specifications and requirements for the PoC
  • Technical participants lists:  The technologists that will be involved in the PoC, along with their specific roles and responsibilities.
  • Integration Requirements and Plans: Detail about how the solution will integrate into the existing infrastructure, covering aspects like APIs, data exchange formats, and compatibility considerations.
  • Technical Fit Analysis: An assessment of the solution's compatibility with the broader technical ecosystem, identifying potential integration challenges or necessary adjustments.

10. Conduct a Final Joint Evaluation Against Success Criteria

Conducting a thorough and collaborative evaluation of the PoC against the predefined success criteria is essential to determine its success and guide future decisions objectively.

  • For the Buyer: This evaluation ensures that the solution meets your specific needs and delivers the expected outcomes.
  • For the Seller: The final evaluation offers a chance to demonstrate the solution's effectiveness and to discuss potential next steps.

The entire process of authoring, review, and revision should be managed through your external collaboration platform. This will keep all the content and commentary together as the team scores the PoC against requirements. 

Key documents include:

  • PoC Evaluation Report: Summarizes the outcomes of the PoC against the success criteria.

Other Best Practices to Consider

While the top ten best practices outlined are what we think are crucial for the success of a PoC, there are additional considerations that can further enhance the process and outcome. These include:

  • Engagement Beyond the Core Team (stakeholders, SMEs, Leadership, etc): Get a jump start on change management by engaging with stakeholders, SMEs, or leadership who may not be directly involved in the PoC but whose input can provide valuable insights or whose work might be impacted by the solution.  Using an external collaboration tool with a ‘recapping’ or ‘summarization’ feature can help bring these individuals up to speed quickly. 
  • Preparing for Scale: Consider the scalability of the solution from the outset. How will the solution be rolled out if the PoC is successful? What are the long-term implications and requirements? For buyers, don’t forget that scaling the solution also includes change management planning to ensure a smooth rollout. 
  • Effective Risk Management: Identify potential risks early in the process and develop strategies to mitigate them. This includes both technical risks and business risks.
  • Training and Knowledge Transfer: Ensure that there is a plan for training and knowledge transfer post-PoC. This is crucial for a smooth transition and effective use of the solution.
  • Post-PoC Support and Relationship Building: Plan for ongoing support after the PoC and strategies for nurturing the relationship with the prospect, regardless of the PoC's immediate outcome.
  • After-Action reviews (Retrospectives): Consider reviewing the PoC performance to capture lessons learned and establish remediation plans to improve performance long term.


The success of a Proof of Concept (PoC) in enterprise sales hinges not only on the technical prowess of the solution but also on the efficacy of the process behind it. A well-executed PoC can pave the way for a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between the buyer and seller. To this end, the practices outlined in this guide are designed to ensure a smooth, transparent, and effective PoC process.

A key takeaway from these best practices is the paramount importance of using a robust external collaboration platform. Such a platform is instrumental in keeping the PoC organized, streamlined, and focused. It serves as a central hub for communication, document sharing, version control, and project tracking, thereby reducing confusion and enhancing efficiency. The right platform ensures that all stakeholders have easy access to necessary information, which is crucial for maintaining alignment and momentum throughout the PoC.

Equally important is the aspect of record keeping and administration. Many PoCs falter due to inadequate documentation and poor management of project details. Effective record-keeping ensures that all decisions, changes, feedback, and discussions are systematically documented and accessible. This not only helps in maintaining transparency but also aids in post-PoC reviews and learning. Good documentation practices are the backbone of any successful PoC, as they prevent misunderstandings and provide a clear trail of the project’s evolution.

In conclusion, while the technical aspects of a PoC are undoubtedly important, the organizational and administrative elements are what truly enable a PoC to deliver its full value. By adhering to the best practices outlined and leveraging a powerful external collaboration tool, both buyers and sellers can significantly enhance the chances of a successful PoC, setting the stage for a strong and productive partnership.

This guide is intended to provide a roadmap for conducting effective PoCs, ensuring they are not just a technical demonstration but a comprehensive and collaborative journey toward achieving mutual goals.


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