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Your guide to understanding Proof of concept
March 29, 2023

What is a proof of concept?

A Proof of Concept or POC is evidence obtained from a pilot project which is executed to demonstrate that a product idea, business plan, business idea, or project plan is feasible. 

This could apply to a very large number of things, such as drug development.

As an example, clinical trials are used to gather proof of concept for a final product. 

The aim is always the same, to show that something is achievable.

POC is central in product development and in many industries such as :

  • Project Management
  • Business Development
  • Manufacturing
  • IT
  • Software Development

Differences between a POC and a prototype 

One word is very similar to the idea of a proof of concept. 

Some people think of it as a prototype, but that isn't the case. 

There are differences and each serves a specific purpose.

The main difference is in the idea behind building one of them. 

You build a proof of concept to show an idea's viability. 

On the other hand, a prototype shows you the way of your future builds, it is simply the first step for what is to come next.

A proof of concept doesn't need further testing, it exists on its own to display an original idea or concept, while a prototype reflects the early stage of a proposed product, it might even be distributed to potential users.

Differences between a POC and an MVP 

If a POC determines the feasibility of your projects, a Minimum Viable Product or MVP is an improved version of your product prototype and is directly part of your product development process. 

Having only the basic features of your final product so that users have an idea of what you are developing and what it does.

Keep in mind, in your product development process, the POC comes first, followed by the prototype, then the MVP, with each being a more thought-out version of the initial ideas, software, or technologies.

Sketch of a car

The car, and more generally the transport industry often implement these methods, first with a POC to determine if their technologies and ideas actually function, and in later stages if they can be brought to market.

4 steps and processes of the Proof of Concept

As with any project, you will achieve a successful proof only if you actually plan out your steps and know where you are going.

1.What do you want to achieve when doing a POC

You first have to define where you want to go. 

To consider your mission a success, what do you need to achieve?

This could be successfully demonstrating a concept or passing a certain test. 

Make sure your solution behaves as intended. 

Once you fix these conditions, they will define your direction.

2.What it's going to take

Make sure you know what time it's going to take, what amount of money you're willing to spend, and the various resources involved.

3.Make sure you know the scope of your proof of concept

The scope will directly determine what will be done and measured. 

Defining it thoroughly is the key to getting accurate results. 

Even if you achieve a viable proof of concept, it might be worthless if your scope is wrong.

4.Pick the right team

As in any project, the people building the solution are directly going to impact the final result. 

Try and pick a diverse group that is both competent and knows where they are going.

How to use the results of a Proof of concept Process

Understanding the importance and need for a POC Project is fundamental. 

It will help an organization know if a more laborious or troubled project will work at scale. Creating a solid POC Team is vital for success. 

If you don't succeed, don't worry though, it's part of the idea behind a POC. 

The hardest part of a POC effort is ensuring the project meets the corporate goals, this means reaching what you initially set out to reach.

If the POC team determines that the tested program isn’t a fit, consider a new approach or classify the effort as a sunk cost, this isn't a real failure, you tried it out, great! 

The point is to give you space to try things out without losing too many resources. 

Too many organizations start significant efforts and don’t realize it may be a bad idea, this leads to huge losses that can undermine the whole structure. 

A POC project can help determine this success or failure early on, ultimately saving time and money. 

A Proof of Concept effort is an excellent tool for anyone responsible for corporate initiatives.

The specific process of software development

In this sector, the POC process is slightly different.

In other industries, building a proof of concept means building a one-time item that shows an idea is feasible. 

In the software product development process, you can reuse bits and pieces of your POC to create your next iterations.

This helps reduce the overall cost of your design process and increases the production process.

image of a piece of code in html

Software benefits from the immensely useful tool: copy/paste. 

When building a software development POC, developers should have in mind that they are already building out the foundation for their project.

Business Development

One very underestimated element of building a POC is that you are able to show that your idea works. 

This might seem basic but it is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to persuasion.

As your POC reflects the early stages of your project, investors alike can give you early feedback on your product, this will help you secure funds for your working model and your other resources.

Your proof of concept will help you secure potential investors as you try and find common ground with them on their expectations and where you're going.

Investors love to see your idea in its earliest stages as it gives them a way to first realize that what you're talking about is possible but most importantly it gives them a way to influence you on your path, at the very beginning.

The development process

As your first iteration and the early version of your final product, your POC will directly tell you if your idea is worth pursuing.

If you skip this step, you might find yourself a month later, having already invested a lot of resources only to realize that what you developed isn't worth pursuing.

Sadly, this happens a lot more than we think and is one of the most frequent sources of failure among startups.

In simple terms, your POC will show you if your concept works, if there is a market demand and if you can actually bring it to market.

The point is to explore all the possibilities you have at hand and try them out without investing too much time and effort in the process. 

If you finally find something that seems promising, it's your job to make it into a final product.

What are the next steps?

Remember how we started the article? 

Once you're happy with your proof of concept and you think you can make it into something bigger. 

Iterate your idea, find your target audience, and keep developing until you reach your final project!

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