Executive summary: Powerpoint ends up like Floyd Patterson in 1959 -- on the ground*.
Full story: Arnie Guha, head of Phase 5's UX group, commented to me recently about the role of prototyping in a project he had just completed.
Arnie: We had been working with this client on opportunity identification research, and at the conclusion it was pretty clear roughly what kind of concept needed to be developed. The interesting thing was that there were three separate groups within the company that had these long Powerpoints proposing similar product development.
It wasn't exactly internecine warfare, but clearly the company only needed one group to be developing this new opportunity.
Fortunately our client -- she's not a Powerpoint person, she's a doer, a kind of kindred spirit for Phase 5. She leads an enormously profitable sector of the company and one that is under immense pressure to innovate. When she sees an opportunity she wants to make it happen. Today.
So one day we were talking after a meeting and she says, "Arnie, can we just build it? Build a prototype and then do further research against it?" I told her "absolutely" and that's what we did.
We did a first round of development with internal experts and practitioners all in the same room with our client and her team and my UX team. We literally designed as we discussed, and I think we blew them away with how quickly we progressed.
Of course that was just the starting point. We later did more market-facing research using that prototype. But the important thing for our client in this case is that the mere existence of this prototype, that could be shared and touched and experienced within the company, helped her overcome the corporate inertia that had been holding back development of a hugely important concept. If what we had come back with was another hundred-page Powerpoint deck, they'd probably still be in steering committee meetings, rather than launching a product.
Update: Our own Michael Dolenko has written a related case study on conceptual prototyping in banking available for download.
*Don't expect Powerpoint to make a comeback against Prototyping like Patterson did against Johansson, though. Here's a nice write-up on the series of fights.