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Doing a proper POC

When evaluating your process automation approach, a proof of concept (POC) is often a good step to check if the process automation methodology, the standards of BPMN and DMN, as well as the Camunda technology suit your needs. It is vital for a POC to make up your mind about your goals, to select a suitable process, and to prepare it and carry it out properly.

Understanding POC

With a POC, you create a prototype application within no more than three to five days. The result of a POC is intended to be thrown away after having served its purpose: to try and show that your project will "fly" - including all aspects relevant for your specific situation. Such aspects might be:

  • Does Camunda fit into your own architecture?
  • Does the development approach fit into your own organization's approaches?
  • How can you model a specific business domain problem?
  • Which kind of know how is needed for the business and development teams?
  • Which effort will typically be needed for these kinds of projects?
  • What are the impacts of process applications for operations?

Often, it does make sense to implement such a POC together with Camunda, our partners, or specialized consultants to get quick results and focused feedback with respect to your specific challenges. However, you should always at least co-develop the POC yourself to really understand what is going on. A team size of two to four people has proven to be quite optimal.

Defining and focusing on specific goals

Before planning and carrying out a POC, you should consciously clarify the specific goals you want the POC to achieve. Typical goals might be:

  • To verify the approach or the tool works under specific circumstances.
  • To show a case that convinces internal stakeholders that the approach makes sense.
  • To work through a complete example and get specific questions sorted out.
  • To learn about Camunda and understand how it works.
note

When selecting your goal, keep in mind the needs of all relevant stakeholders.

Do not just "collect" goals here, but try to make up your mind as to what really matters. Often, it is better to make a clear choice. For example, whether to show off a nice user interface at the end of the week or to have time to clarify all questions and to understand Camunda in depth, maybe even only using unit tests.

Defining a scope relevant to your business

Select a useful and suitable process, case, or decision given your goals.

Typically, it should...

  • Be relevant to your core business stakeholders.
  • Make your organization's return on investment on BPM more transparent.
  • Be feasible within the POC time box.

Avoid political mine fields when selecting the process for your POC.

Planning the POC

Involving the right people

It does make sense to implement a POC together with the software vendor and/or specialized consultants to get quick results and focused feedback with respect to your specific challenges. However, you should always at least co-develop the POC to really understand what is going on.

When planning for your team, consider that successful process modeling requires not just knowledge about the business and the targeted technical solution, but experience with BPMN modeling and methodology as well as analytical and moderation skills. We therefore typically bring together business people with IT staff and internal business analysts, train them properly and let them continue to learn on the job by carrying out the POC together with an experienced consultant. A team size of up to a maximum of four people has proven to be quite optimal.

In case you want to access system interfaces during your POC, also determine who will be a technically knowledgeable and available contact person for that system. To integrate into existing user interfaces, you might need help from colleagues within your organization.

Define a moderator to avoid too many detours and keep your POC on track.

Planning the technical environment

Camunda Platform 8

This best practice targets Camunda Platform 8. If you want to run a POC with Camuna Platform 7, visit deciding about your Camunda Platform 7 stack.

Make the necessary technological choices. Typically, POCs run on Camunda Platform 8 SaaS unless your goal is to validate that Camunda Platform 8 runs in your Kubernetes environment in a self-managed fashion. A simple test account is often sufficient, unless your goal is to do load or performance tests, for which you need bigger clusters. Reach out to us in such cases.

To access third party systems during your POC, set up proper test systems for those and verify that they are usable.

Prepare a location in a version control system where you can develop your POC. Having a shared repository with history does make sense also (or especially) in a 2-day POC! Collaboration is simplified if the Camunda consultant can also access that repository. It may be worth just creating a repository with weaker access limitations for the POC.

If your organization cannot easily set up a repository for the POC, or access for externals is impossible, you can create a cloud repository. We typically recommend GitHub; a free account is sufficient. It gives you a Git repository and you can invite all necessary people for the POC. Afterwards, you can delete that repository.

Selecting the time frame

As already mentioned above, we typically plan no more than a focused week for the POC workshop itself. Sometimes it also works well to split up the POC into two weeks of 2-3 days each, which allows everybody to reflect on the POC over the weekend.

  • Plan 1-3 days for modeling the process with Camunda Modeler.
  • Plan 2-3 days for implementing the process solution.

When selecting the exact time frame, consider all the people involved, as well as any technical preparation you need to do up front. You also might want to plan for further steps, like a few more things you implement yourself internally in a second follow up week.

Presenting the results

Before presenting the results of your POC to a wider audience of stakeholders, select a speaker who is comfortable with presenting, prepare a set of focused slides illustrating your progress and the lessons learned, and test your solution and presentation at least once up front.

The speaker might also be your Camunda Consultant - they are used to presenting to a wide audience!

Checklists

Technical

  • Cloud Access: Make sure you have an account for Camunda Platform 8 with an active subscription or trial account.

  • Installations: Make sure your developer systems, as well as any target systems for the POC test and production you wish to use are set up. In particular install:

  • Developer Computers: For maximum productivity, all participating developers should use the computer with which they work every day. Avoid using computers from a training room or shared laptops unless they allow a remote connection to the developer's personal computer. If the developer's computers are neither portable nor remotely accessible consider conducting the POC in the regular office space of the developers. If your company network is restricting access to Maven and Git repositories on the internet, consider using laptops that are not connected to the company network. Similarly, you should not force the external consultants to work on one of your computers. They will be twice as productive on their laptops and not lose time with software setup, configuration, and access restrictions. Obviously, you do not have to connect the consultant's laptop to your company network. Internet access and a shared code repository are enough to collaborate.

  • Files or Version Control System: Make sure we can easily exchange files and code during the POC, preferably via your own version control system (e.g. Git or SVN) or at least via shared folders, USB sticks, or email attachments.

  • Interfaces: Clarify which technical systems' interfaces you want to access during your POC, make any documentation for those available to the whole POC team, and make sure there is a technically knowledgeable contact person for the interface available to the team during the POC. Set up a test system and verify that it is usable. Verify with Camunda that everything is clear to the team, in particular from a technological perspective.

Organizational

Inform all POC team members and other relevant stakeholders about the following:

  • Goals and the selected scope for the POC

  • Start and end times, as well as any additional preparation/meet-up times

  • Names and roles of all involved people

  • For onsite POCs:

    • Exact location/address at which the POC is taking place as well as instructions about how to find together when arriving (for onsite POCs)
    • Projector, white-board, and flip-chart availability
    • Internet availability for team members and external consultants
  • For remote POCs:

    • Exact meeting setup. For example, links to the meeting room, passwords, etc. In case you can't easily host meetings for external participants, your Camunda consultant can setup a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call.
    • Ideally, some chat capability (e.g. a temporary Slack account)

Ideally, prepare a few organizational and/or project info slides to get everybody up to speed on day one of the workshop.