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Streamlining proofs of concept with a self-service demo and PoC cloud, part 1

Posted by Hans Ashlock March 20, 2015
Streamlining proofs of concept with a self-service demo and PoC cloud, part 1

For technology manufacturers, independent software vendors and even service providers and technology manufacturers, demonstrations and proofs of concept are a critical step in the sales process.  Demonstrations illustrate relevance, while PoCs establish that a given technology, product or service fully satisfies the buyer's particular requirements.

"When capturing a new sale, time is often of the essence," explained a piece of Citrix documentation about utilizing the cloud for PoCs. "Software providers have a finite amount of time to capture customer mindshare, and the competition is trying to beat them to it. Spinning up a customized working demonstration in minutes - versus days or hours - could mean the difference to winning the [purchase order]."

That's the ideal. In the real world, however, PoCs often run into significant challenges and obstacles that result in delayed and sometimes missed sales opportunities:

  • Since demonstrations are about showing relevance, they need to representative  of the customer's environment to speak to the use case.  This creates the challenge of significant prep time for sales engineers to create the right illustrative scenario.
  • Evaluators hold PoCs to a higher standard, as they are trying to certify the solution's technical capability to meet their list of requirements. Accordingly, there's little margin for error.   So engineers are challenged with even more preparation work to construct the environment inclusive of testing tools, etc. that will accomplish the PoC goals.
  • Beyond those challenges, there are real obstacles to delivering timely demo's and PoCs, especially when the infrastructure environment for the product, application or service is complex:
    • First off, if the PoC requires shipping equipment to customer sites, then the process goes down a path littered with potholes.  Huge, costly supplies of products must be maintained in a depot to meet demand.  Equipment wastes most of its time depreciating in the depot, in transit, waiting at the customers' receiving docks, waiting for customers or sales engineers' schedules to align with maintenance windows for installation.  Perhaps 10 percent of equipment is lost, broken or held hostage to customer issues that have nothing to do with sales processes.  In addition, PoCs are easily interrupted due to scheduling problems.  As a result, effective utilization rates for PoC equipment is dismally low.
    • If demo's and PoCs are delivered from a central lab, in most cases the processes for setup are highly manual, which again squanders tons of productive time.

Using a demo cloud to deliver cloud-based, self-service demonstrations and proofs of concept
Demonstration and PoC clouds can address these shortcomings and make life easier for both sales teams and prospective customers. An efficient demo and PoC cloud can, for instance, eliminate the steep capital costs and logistical pitfalls of traditional field-based PoCs and improve the operational efficiency, remote usability, agility and responsiveness of central lab-based PoCs.  Such an infrastructure-as-a-service cloud solution can deliver commonly used demo and PoC environments to teams in the field. The result is shorter sales cycles and increased opportunity pipeline.

A streamlined user experience is imperative when working with a demo cloud. A solution like QualiSystems CloudShell offers the essential features for demo/PoC cloud automation, including:

  • An accessible self-service portal that offers a predefined catalog of demonstration and PoC environments, along with options for power user customization and a reservation system to avoid scheduling conflicts.
  • Dynamic environment provisioning with support a broad range of user inputs, plus automated de-provisioning to return resources to a predictable baseline state.
  • Ability to handle complex demo scenarios, such as ones that go beyond software-only considerations and require the design and publication of complex topologies involving hardware products.
  • Automation reusability, with limited scope objects and a visual orchestration authoring tool.
  • Reporting and accounting so that teams can keep tabs on key performance indicators such as maximizing resource utilization.

Ultimately, a demo/PoC cloud should accelerate the sales process and eliminate the common causes of delay. With deep integration of workflow automation and resource management, a solution like CloudShell also produces significant CAPEX and OPEX savings through increased efficiency and productivity. In a future post, we will look in greater depth at how some other specific demo cloud features lead to easier field tests and PocS.

The takeaway: As tech and telecom sales organizations look to speed up and shorten their sales cycles, they will need to overcome the logistical and productivity blocks to meeting customer demands for demonstrations and PoCs. Using IaaS to offer access to common environments, they can overcome the hurdles that beset PoC testing and prove that products and services can operate across complex, customer-relevant infrastructure environments.

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