Would you jump out of a plane with a POC?

Why do some customers put a proof of concept into production?

In part, I suspect it has to do with wanting to spend as little as possible and still end up with something that earns them revenue.

But I think it is mostly because customers fail to grasp what proof of concept really means. It could also be that a vendor, desperate to get some work, rushes into a POC without fully explaining the limitations.

There is a simple analogy you can use to understand or explain the difference between a proof of concept, a pilot and a production-ready system. Let’s imagine your customer wants  a parachute system capable of being steered and performing acrobatics.

A proof of concept would be that you can build a parachute at all. An example of a parachute POC would be the Action Man Red Devil figure from the 1970s. I had one when I was a boy and if dropped from a second story window, it worked beautifully, in that it deployed every time and got the 30cm action figure to the ground safely. But you wouldn’t strap an Action Man parachute to your back and jump out of an aeroplane, would you? Yet customers actually think they can deploy a POC into their production environment!

The next step might be a pilot solution. A pilot would have the key features of the target solution, but by no means all. In our parachute example, having proved that we can build a functioning toy parachute, we would then build a human-sized equivalent. In this case, a basic WWII-type parachute that deploys and gets the parachutist to the ground safely would suffice as a pilot. It would not do all the fancy things that our ideal parachute would to, but it would work. Still, you wouldn’t enter a parachuting competition with a pilot parachute when all your competitors have full-blown acrobatic kit, would you? And yet, customers do put pilot systems into production and then wonder why they cannot compete!

The next evolution would be the production-ready solution. Now we are talking about the full kit, full functionality, full agility. With this system in place, you are ready to take on the competition and win.

Action Man proves the concept

Action Man proves the concept

It works at full size too

It works at full size too

Ready for production!

Ready for production!


  • Vendors, don’t be so desperate to win business that you dive into a proof of concept without explaining the implications.
  • Customers, don’t delude yourselves into thinking that you can put a POC or a pilot into production and still compete.

Kind regards,

Declan Chellar

6 comments to Would you jump out of a plane with a POC?

  • Frank

    Hey Declan,

    this is an entertaining and useful site – and despite not being (apparently) monetised I imagine it having a large readership.

    However, might I suggest changing your logo – it really does look like a pie chart for proscrastination.


  • Visitor

    A “pie chart for procrastination”????!

    Nope, don’t see it. Actually, though I have read and understood the logos behind the logo, I always see it as the beginning of a Charlie Brown cartoon, never quite finished because Declan is eternally rushing off to clients.

    So Charlie Brown remains sans eyes and wistful expression…

  • Visitor

    Back to the topic – would an example of POC be a computer program with bugs still needing to be ironed out?

    • Not exactly.
      A proof of concept is nothing more than what the name suggests. It is a way for a service provider to demonstrate to the customer (the customer being a company, not a person on the street) that they are capable of overcoming certain problems. You might put a proof of concept in place to demonstrate a new technology to a customer or to show that an known technology can overcome a new problem. The limitations of a POC are that it does not provide anything close to full business functionality and it is usually built on technical architecture that cannot cope in the real world. That is why it is so foolish to put a POC into production.

  • visitor

    I think I get that! Thank you.

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