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Demo, Trial, POC, POV, Pilot, Project – what the difference?

echnology Intervention in Retail Industry

From time to time we will encounter some prospect and customer use the word interchangeable, which in reality it is not, so we help to write in detail to address all potential parties interest on the subject matter.

We are writing this in relation to Enterprise IT solutions/systems in context. Different industries and sectors may have different context, it is out of this scope of the post.

Demo – a demonstration, or demo, for short, is a brief overview of the product’s features and capabilities followed by a live presentation of the product going through various tasks that provide the customer with a practical understanding of how the product works. It sometimes is done just after a product or solution presentation. With the extensive availability of pre-record video, it sometimes just refers to the product demo video clip or sometimes access to product demo edition. That typically had feature limits and use for getting the lead. A demo typically is the first time the customer has seen the product in action (Remember, video product demo clips also cover this).  Demos usually take no more than 1-2 hours and can be customized to focus on features important to the customer.  Demos may also be recorded so that they can be viewed at the convenience of the customer but this does not provide an opportunity for questions or customization of the presentation (it is due to pre-record and scripting in nature and prepared in advance).

Trial – A trial, sometimes called a live trial or evaluation, is an opportunity for the customer to implement the product (with or without assistance) in their own environment.  The objective is to give the customer the ability to have hands-on experience with the product and to validate the features and capabilities pitched by the manufacturer in the demo.  Trials typically have a duration of 14-30 days and in the case of hardware may involve an agreement to return the evaluation equipment or to purchase at the end of the trial (it depends on the product, do not be surprised certain product only had 3 days trial only).

Proof of Concept  (PoC) or modern more use Proof of Value (PoV) – this is a more formalized version of the trial and involves a more targeted and guided implementation of the product in the customer’s environment.  The goal is to provide a high level of understanding of how the product may function for a specific use case and give the vendor an opportunity to more closely align the product’s capabilities with the customer’s needs.  As it is a more formal engagement, the customer and vendor should agree on the specific objectives and outcomes expected as well as the responsibilities of each party (i.e. the customer should devote resources such as staff and infrastructure and the vendor may provide some technical support and training, as it is unavoidable to make sure the POC/POV a success).  A POC/POV can vary in length, depending on the objectives agreed to at the outset but great care should be taken by the customer and the vendor to conclude the POC/POV as agreed.  Usually will involve signing off and executing POC/POV plans. Be note that nothing is free, POC/POV is usually referred to as “technical evaluation with commitment”  with expectations for the sales in pre-agreed business value upon the POC/POV being demonstrated. If Customer is not really making the commitment just after the POC/POV, should not be considered to enter into POC/POV, you should ask for a demo or special trial (self service).

Pilot – As the POC builds on the trial, likewise the pilot provides more focus and structure.  A pilot usually, but not always, is preceded by some level of commitment by the customer and vendor through the purchase of a limited amount of the product suitable for testing against samples of the proposed solution set.  The understanding is that the customer has made a decision to purchase the product pending the successful outcome of the pilot.  Unlike the previous stages (demo, trial and POC/POV) the pilot is typically not a competitive engagement.  The pilot can also be used to measure the real benefits of implementing the product (versus those proposed by the vendor or perceived by the customer).  Data collected during the pilot can be used in developing and executing the implementation project. It typically uses Pilot prior for very large-scale rolling of the project, to collect success cases or get internal commitment from various stakeholders to support the large-scale deployment of the project. It is also widely used for multiple years contract commitment, with year 1 rolling out how many, year 2 rolling out how many, year 3 rolling out how many etc.

Project – Typically done after a purchase has been made, the project is often a collaboration of the customer and  vendor involved to fully implement the product in the customer’s environment.  Projects have some of the same characteristics and methodologies employed in the POC/POV and pilot engagements – desired outcome, agreement on responsibilities, defined start and end dates.  However, the project adds one more key element; SUCCESSFUL handover of the project to an operational team.  Unlike the previous engagements, the project costs incurred by the vendor are typically paid by the customer as part of the overall solution purchase.

We hope by providing the various explanations of those terms, you may better understand now what it means for the Demo, Trial, POC/POV, Pilot, Project, since it involves various scales of resources and commitment on both ends. If you need assistance, feel free to contact E-SPIN.

First published 2019-Jun-3. Last checked and reviewed 2021-Jan-2