What Is a Proof of Concept? Use Cases, Steps, and Examples
Proof of concept, or POC, is a fundamental part of starting any project. But what is POC, exactly? And how do you go about approaching this product development step? In this blog post, we'll answer those questions and provide some useful use cases and examples.
The software development process comprises many essential moving parts that can hardly be overlooked or underestimated. One is an end-to-end feasibility and viability study of an early-stage idea that is not mature enough for technology enablement and consecutive implementation.
For example, suppose you are in the mood for traveling. In that case, you research potential sightseeing destinations, assess the availability of free time, and check the most affordable spots on Airbnb or Booking before buying plane tickets and scheduling some time off your work. The next traveling endeavor is exciting, but without putting your plans and ideas to the test, you may not end up with the vacation you expect to go through.
Like any idea, a new software development idea needs to be validated and prepared to respond to real-life problems and challenges. There are multiple ways for entrepreneurs to confirm that a raw idea is applicable to practice. In one of the previous articles, we contrasted POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP, but today we will talk about the approach that allows you to test a raw idea without commitments.
We talk about Proof of Concept (POC), a common practice for those planning to launch a new product or add new features to an existing one. Let’s define and explain this term and consider the topic of POC in software development in detail.
What Does Proof of Concept Mean?
A Proof of Concept is a feasibility study of a novice idea in the earliest stages of the project. It eventually leads to obtaining confirmation of the idea’s credibility and readiness for the target market.
The proof of concept definition also implies that the project:
needs to solve real-world problems;
can be implemented with present-day technologies;
and overcome potential roadblocks.
Suppose you want to find evidence that the new idea can pass the test of time, meet appropriate industry standards, and interest stakeholders and investors. In that case, POC should follow the ideation stage of your project. After all, it provides valuable feedback, directs you in the right way, and lets you assess the idea from different and, in most cases, unexpected angles.
In other words, a POC is a way to mitigate risks before getting things done and putting to question initial expectations. However, not every project requires a proof of concept because some are based on generic or already proven ideas.
Let's find out who the target users and adopters of a POC are and which projects can get the most value out of it.
When Do You Use a Proof of Concept?
The main question you need to ask before jumping to conclusions about adding a POC step to a project lifecycle is whether the use case is brand new and unique.
When the answer is no, then every envisioned functionality has already been tested and proven that it can be implemented. The verdict: there is no need to perform POC actions. When the answer is yes, you don’t have access to previous projects and compare the outcomes of the precedent work. The verdict: you need to test the new idea from scratch.
What do you get from undergoing this process?
Creating an efficient and actionable proof of concept in software development is about:
procuring the project’s initial requirements;
identifying its objectives;
and establishing the right flow of actions to make it a success.
As a result, you can leverage detailed documentation that outlines the process brick-by-brick, from core functionality to consecutive deployment and development.
Not sure how to approach POC?
Upsilon's team can share profound expertise on proof of concept and product development.
As you see, not skipping the proof of concept stage can bring multiple advantages. But where do you begin with POC and how do you organize the process? Let’s go over the common proof of concept steps in this short checklist to help you get started.
Start with a Clearly Defined Business Idea
At this step, you need to transition from operating on guesswork and assumptions to sourcing clear and straightforward business ideas. Otherwise, you won’t be able to articulate the value of the future solution to stakeholders.
Start by identifying the end-user's pain points and suggest how the envisioned software will help address them. Another crucial goal of the proof of concept in software development is to ensure that it is possible to implement the idea using current technology. Therefore, you need to provide a plan for consecutive iterations of the solution and define its long-term value.
Set Your Performance Goals
To set the new idea in motion, you need to assess which parts of the process work correctly and which ones need refinement. For that, it is necessary to track their progress and measure the efficiency of each undertaking when going through a POC stage.
As a result, you will be able to prove the validity of your offer on target markets and ensure that the idea is feasible in the long run. Startups rely heavily on tracking startup KPIs and metrics, so it makes sense to shortlist a pool of relevant criteria to measure your success.
Estimate Duration & Effort
To prove the feasibility of your business idea, it is important not to forget to count the time and effort necessary for its implementation. Initial estimations can do you a favor once you’ve interested the stakeholders, as you can hit them with carefully planned deadlines and person-hour totals.
As it is likely to be a pilot project with no preceding evaluations of that kind, a proof of concept stage needs to consider all the factors affecting time and effort estimates and suggest ways to overcome potential challenges and risks.
Define the Scope of Your POC
At this step, you need to identify the resources and explain how you will use them during your POC. You should also ideate the deliverables and end results of these activities to ensure consistency of your work.
Pick the Right Resources
Create a shortlist and finalize the skills required to complete the flow of POC tasks with precision and quality in mind. Identify knowledge gaps and fill them with the right expertise of internal or third-party specialists.
What Happens After Proof of Concept in Software Development?
The proper proof of concept meaning is to collect all the necessary information and form a foundation for the future product development. It is worth keeping in mind that it should contribute to the fulfillment of the company’s or stakeholders’ goals. So, once you’ve arrived at a feasible startup idea, it is time to check if it is workable. Here’s what you need to proceed with.
Solution Prototyping and Testing
After prioritizing features, it’s time to put the documented scenario into action. Throughout the process, you are going to create an imitation of the user interface and the steps that will take place there. You can demonstrate the basic features, design, and workflows by developing mockups, wireframes, or sketches.
Next, it is necessary to gain real-world feedback by engaging a small group of designated end-users. The MVP testing process will point at drawbacks and inefficiencies that could have been overlooked at the initial stage. The final aim is to ensure the envisioned solution aligns with end-user and stakeholder expectations.
Insightful feedback from all interested parties will fully equip you with the means and tools to create the most basic version of the future solution. We mean creating an MVP of the software, which serves as the base for a full-fledged market-ready software solution. Nonetheless, it has to be free of bugs and glitches, thus the QA testing process is crucial.
At this stage, you will also collect and analyze user feedback to create a genuinely polished interface, add relevant features, and lay the groundwork for optimal performance.
The proof of concept approach in software development lets you eliminate risks and errors in the later stages of the SDLC. Once you’ve gone through an ungrateful business of fine-tuning and adjusting your solution, there comes a moment when you start going through repeated success. That is the most optimal period for entering the next stage.
When creating an entirely new software product from scratch, stakeholders are likely to expect it to be scaled over time. Luckily, with a proof of concept approach, this road has a minimum number of blocks and hindrances as it removes unnecessary or not viable features from the very outset.
Airbnb is the most reputed service for finding and booking properties for travelers. They came up with an idea to streamline the collaboration of hosters and co-hosters to make the management process more efficient and straightforward.
The company initiated a POC in Tokyo to lay the foundation for the new feature of co-hosting. As Cameron Wu, an Experience Designer, mentions: “It would be several months before we could design and implement the components of our service, so in order to test the concept, we launched a service prototype in Tokyo.” The goal was to create a simulation of the new feature, which is still in the early stages of development.
It took a substantial amount of time before the first Amazon Go shop went to market. Initially, the company needed to test the idea and provide evidence that it would be in demand among ordinary consumers. For that, Amazon had to prove the viability of its new product by testing it on employees internally. After a couple of rounds of trying different technologies, Amazon came up with the perfect combination of tools, which was included in the Amazon Go facilities.
With only 10% of startups making it through their first year after launch, ensuring that the raw idea can survive in the long run is necessary. One of the most credible ways to achieve that objective is to document every step and detail of the proof of concept.
Many successful examples of proof of concept pinpoint that it is a great way to showcase an idea to end-users and stakeholders and confirm its feasibility. Think of it as the first step in realizing a pilot project or adding new features to your current offering. Without it, it is hard to imagine consecutive development phases and further deployment. If you want to get the most out of proof of concept in software development, don’t hesitate to contact us.