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Business prototyping, the vehicle to bring people into action

90% of project failure comes from execution, not from a wrong strategy.

Long term, mid-term corporate strategy is quite straightforward and business / operational strategies by Line of Business (LoB) are formulated pretty well as more information (e.g. market intelligence, industry-wide collaboration) and resources (e.g. high education, external consultants) are available over time.

Biggest issue customers are facing, from my experiences, lies in the reality-free planning and self-defeating people’s behavior – not to collaborate with other organization. Reality-free planning doesn’t mean that it comes up without fact data, but without considering the willingness to execute it by the other org members across the company. This is unfortunately human nature and what the org structure gifted. Structure defines roles and teams, like a castle, where you belong to and protects you from other teams, so the team members can live in a comfort zone, trading off loyalty with coziness.

I’d like to introduce Business Prototyping and how it works to address these issues, based on my experiences in the Value Prototyping / Center of Excellence, SAP.

1.    What is Business Prototyping?

Business Prototyping is to test out a business strategy, solution, or even just idea with a key focus group; as a proof of concept, not as a pilot. In consequence, you can check the reality of your plan, collect very precise & helpful feedbacks, and design better solution before committing to the real world. Different from typical consulting approach, you will design business & IT solutions based on key stakeholders’ intuition and knowledge, and then prove it by experience. This works better especially when organization faces political conflicts and high uncertainty for the future.

 One of the typical examples is a trial of a new snack on the street. But, in SAP world, it includes business consulting, application (IT solution) prototyping with customer data, stakeholder evaluations by accessing the live system – look & feel.   

2.  What class of problems do we address?

My mental model of problem (problem cube) is as below.  Most of planning teams and typical consulting companies – including management, business, and IT consulting – focus on “Design”.  Design here means strategy, business architecture or process, and IT solutions, etc.  The vital execution issues such as political conflicts, belief in the recipe of previous success, and uncertain future, arguable fact data & assumptions for decision are often intact. These are all the invisible jobs for project teams and managers, which often determine the success of projects.


My point here is that we have to address all three aspects together in a transparent way, not one by one, and then we can hammer down execution issues – even politics! And I believe this is the key to enable organization to move on to the next step.


3.  What is the strategy to solve it?  — Become an expert influencer!

 We can develop the strategies to address the three problem dimensions. How to do this? We need to create a change environment where key peoples are on the same page for every problem dimension. How to create change environment? We have to influence people with conflicting interests and voices to accept and willing to execute the proposed changes. We need to influence right people in the right organization. Therefore, I formulate strategies by 6 main source of influence. See the below matrix.

And if I jump on the result, the best vehicle to implement it is ‘Business Prototyping”. This is a lean & cost-effective way of driving changes and innovation.


In order to make people influenced, two questions should be answered. 1st, is it worth doing? – Motivation, 2nd, can I do this? – Ability. The way to satisfy these can be done by three different layers; individual level, social level, and structural level.

If I explain several key spots, 1st, we need to attack right-brain, not only left brain of stakeholders.


Right brain owns visual, holistic thought, intuition, and emotional capability. Human beings are more likely to agree and engage themselves when right-brain says “YES”!

If I bring up one more relevant topic here, the way each people define their problem is not same because it’s based on individual understanding. According to Brain Science, objective knowledge is impossible.  Which also means that everyone has different understanding of problem,  driven by PERCEIVED AS-IS and personal DESIRED OUTCOME (expectation). Back to the BRAIN topic, you should appeal to the right-brain because solving individual perceived problem is vital for buy-in.  


The way to appeal to the right brain, together with left-brain is 3P approach. “Solve Problem with people by visualizing it. (Picture)” This needs to be factored in business prototyping.


2nd, Brainwash stakeholders! The best way of brainwashing is ‘Education’. Brainwash might be a strong term but education is that effective. At the same time, it also requires lots of time & effort, which makes education difficult. Then we should be agile to choose a right education method. According to studies, providing frequent feedbacks in a short time interval maximizes learning. In addition, ‘hand-on learning’ or ‘learning by doing’ makes learning curve exponential. The key word here is ‘Iteration.’ Business prototype should incorporate iterative approach. I will talk about it later in the next blog regarding how to use iteration in the business prototyping,


3rd, but the most important is to get ‘RIGHT PEOPLE’ on the bus! Right people mean opinion leaders. Opinion leaders are different from innovators. They are a part of their group, not a mutant or unique DNA, and are very knowledgeable of their day-to-day work, help colleagues, and get respected by their colleagues. According to a study, 18% of employees are opinion leaders. You have to get their buy-in then they will work for you when they come back to their team. This is, it’s my belief, the most significant success factor and viable solution for changes. It’ll certainly kill many of politics! How to get their buy in? Business prototyping should target at the opinion leader group across the company; anyhow you cannot target at all the people in your org.  



4.  How to implement these influence strategies? Any pragmatic way to do it?

Value prototyping / Center of Excellence, SAP (VP/CoE, SAP) invested in developing a methodology together with a University of Montréal professor (retired), Johan Destrooper in 2005. The methodology has been tested out and proved with real customers, on tons of escalated projects around the World, covering all SAP solution areas.

Since VP/CoE took over, it has grown very fast with many add-ons by industry, by nature of business, and now incorporates all the soup-to-nut topics from strategy to execution. This is called ‘Envision Methodology’

In the next blog, I will talk about how to implement these strategies with the envision methodology of VP/CoE SAP, also together with real world cases.

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  • This is a great writeup!  I arrived at this same conclusion after reading through a number of successful engineering case studies.  I then compared that to my prior experience and realized that on many of the very successful projects I was on that prototyping or Proof of Concept reviews were critical to a good end result.

    I’ve offered my own take on this subject some time ago:

    ERP, SAP, or IT Project Management and Prototyping for Success

    After the first section on project management there is a significant portion of the writeup dedicated to to prototyping and proof of concepts.

  • This is an excellent summary of the approach and thinking behing the SAP Value Prototyping methodology. We have used the methodology described by Hosin in many customer and internal projects with a very high success rate.
  • Good visuals – also the perceived vs actual makes me think of Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and SERVQUAL.  Has anyone seen an SAP model employing these approaches?  It would make a great addition to the context of the blog info. 
    • Hi Anthony,
      I love the concept. Frankly, I am not well aware of QFD. Do you have any good material (summary version, but more than Wikipedia) and “Quality Mattrix” that fits in SAP environment? Once I see the value to my projects, I am sure I will test it out in the upcoming customer projects. Thank you.
  • See the article (June 4) in the link below.,289142,sid182_gci1513986,00.html

    My opinion as a good solution for this is ‘business prototyping’.

    “Button the 1st one right.”  Change management should start early, even in the early stage of planning. The best way, I believe, is business prototyping. This initiative will effectively create environment to bring business and IT (opinion leaders) into agreement, together with high transparency. Key stakeholders don’t need to commit, but can bring any speculation & opinions into this ideal lab environment, but they already begin to be educated for changes. One of the major outcome is a prototype system. People have another chance for look & feel. It’ll open up new angles and they are already part of the changes. When they are back to their team, they (opinion leaders) will work for the change. Which is a viable solution I believe.  

  • Thanks for sharing Hosin – I enjoyed reading the writeup.

    I would love to read some case studies on the effectiveness of the Value Prototyping methodology compared to conventional approaches.