It is essential to think about the scaled-up deployment of POCs at an early stage

by Fabrice Asvazadourian - Group Consulting CEO Sopra Steria Next​ and Executive Committee member at Sopra Steria
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Published in Décideurs Magazine on January 9, 2024.

As part of their digital transformation, companies are increasingly producing POCs (Proofs of Concept). But to what end? Fabrice Asvazadourian, member of Sopra Steria's Executive Committee and CEO of the Sopra Steria Next consulting unit, explains how to break the “curse of the POC”. 

When it comes to digital transformation, what challenges are large companies facing today? 

Today, decision-makers are fully aware that the companies they lead must transform more, and faster, to cope with multiple disruptions. To create real acceleration in their transformation, they must address both business and tech aspects, with new technologies - AI, Cloud and Blockchain - evolving very quickly and creating new business opportunities. 

The first challenge for large companies is to consider their existing systems and identify applications that are destined to be hybridised, modernised, or even abandoned. Our “enterprise architect” consultants, who design information systems, help our major clients build bridges between  “legacy”, the company's existing information systems, and the  “new”, those to be deployed. With this approach, they unravel the complexity associated with the sedimentation of successive technological layers. 

“We need to identify applications that are destined to be hybridised, modernised, or even abandoned.” 

One of the things that sets you apart is that you talk about “business & tech” consultants. What do you mean by this?  

More and more companies understand the benefits of combining business and technology in their strategic thinking. The two must communicate with each other. Technology creates disruptions. It's up to the business side to seize business opportunities. In addition, only a solid business reasoning can justify an investment in new technological solutions. Too often, we still see technological solutions deployed without finding the business value they are supposed to bring. 

With over 2,000 industry-specialized business consultants and 1,000 tech consultants, Sopra Steria Next teams support our clients on major digital transformation projects. This dual approach often leads us to facilitate communication between all project stakeholders. This positioning, which from the very beginning was based on a balance between business and technology, is the strength of our company. Our consultants, business and IT specialists, are all trained in new technologies. Conversely, our tech consultants are trained in the key business challenges and processes of our main sectors. 

What do you refer to as the "curse of the POC" (Proof of Concept)? 

The most advanced companies are aware that they can no longer be satisfied with simply running more and more POCs, i.e. running more and more experiments to demonstrate the benefits of a project, before rolling it out across the whole company. Instead, they ask us how to break free from "POC-mania" and the frustration it generates among executives. They must find the right balance to unleash team creativity and simultaneously ensure that POCs demonstrating business value can scale smoothly. In this way, the investment will pay off. 

It's essential to think ahead about scaling up POCs. From the outset of the project, our consultants ensure to identify and anticipate the requirements for scaling up, whether they are technical, ethical, sovereignty-related, or related to the acculturation and onboarding of employees. This must be a key dimension to validate a POC. 

What is your recommendation for overcoming this situation? 

When it comes to POCs, executives would benefit first and foremost from creating a positive culture of failure. The most important thing is to know when to stop or redirect as early as possible. A majority of companies spend so much energy validating the launch of a new POC that they hesitate to admit failure right away. It is the role of the executive to help their teams accept, as soon as necessary, the suspension of the POC. 

"Leaders would benefit from creating a positive culture of failure." 

For the minority of POCs that are validated, the industrialisation phase is particularly delicate. Too often, companies devote less time and energy to handing over the baton to the project "run" teams. However, this is a key success factor for the deployment of POCs, which more managers would benefit from seizing. For leaders of large groups, nothing exists until effective deployment and usage by clients or employees are secured. 

How do you see the commitment of the senior executives to digital transformation evolving?

Leaders are used to thinking on horizons of 3 to 5 years. It is now essential to combine the long term with a shorter timeframe. When it comes to their digital transformation, our customers often ask us the question: "What do I need to have secured within 12 months to gain or maintain my competitive edge?" At the end of twelve months, or even eighteen, it is necessary to assess what has actually been achieved and recalibrate the roadmap. 

"It is now essential to combine the long and short timeframes." 

This also has an impact on the consultant's job. Consultants no longer confine themselves to imagining the future. They must participate in it, define the implications, outline the operational trajectory, with a clear idea of how the existing should evolve to best align with new IT and technological infrastructures. All while ensuring that their customer remains obsessed with the speed of deployment at scale. 

We recommend to our customer to complement their budgetary vision by projecting, for the coming year, the major milestones to be achieved in their priorities (ESG, tech, etc.). On the one hand, this is more meaningful for the company's transformation than budgetary vision. On the other hand, it makes it easier to manage the deployment of resources associated with each milestone. 

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