The Proof of Concept is a means of exploring, discovering, and validating the seed of an idea, confirming — or disproving — that your solution has merit in the real world. It’s an important piece of the puzzle when you’re kicking off any complex project, technological or otherwise. After all, you don’t want to go too far with an idea, devoting time, effort, and resources to the project, only to realize the product or service isn’t viable in a volatile market.
What Is a Proof of Concept?
A Proof of Concept is essentially a methodology for testing out your idea at the very beginning of the process. You want to be able to prove that your proposal can withstand challenges to persist and become successful. It takes place before development even begins so you can ensure the product is feasible and has true potential to meet users’ needs, or even compare two different approaches to solve a problem and make an informed decision to select the one that fits your needs best.
The idea is to show stakeholders or potential stakeholders that your product can not only survive but thrive. This will encourage them to participate, whether that means offering financial support, agreeing to take on the project, or otherwise investing in it.
It’s also important to discuss what a POC is not. It is NOT a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP). It is not programmed, designed, or in any way created. Instead, it is typically a proposal — a presentation, business plan, or demonstration, for example. Still, stakeholders should be able to envision what the actual product might be.
Why Should You Create a POC?
Creating a Proof of Concept offers numerous benefits to an organization. Just some of these advantages include:
- Having evidence that your idea is feasible
- Identifying your target demographic
- Allowing you to consider improvements that might be necessary
- Providing you with a roadmap for implementation of your idea
- Evaluating the prospective ROI of your product
- Testing out your concept on potential users
- Offering documentation to secure funding and resource
- Instilling confidence in stakeholders
- Assessing technical promise
- Understanding the limitations of your projects
- Taking stock of market demands
- Budgeting accurately and realistically
How to Create a POC
Now you know that you need a Proof of Concept — but how do you actually create one? While a POC will look different depending on your project and needs, these are the general steps to follow.
Look at the market's needs.
As you begin to conceptualize your idea, you will need to assess the market demand. What products already exist in this space? Where are there gaps? These gaps are your target area. You want to solve a problem. Remember — your product should be providing a solution; this is how it will be viable and serve an actual need. Otherwise, why would anybody want to invest money, resources, and time into developing it further?
Hone a solution.
Once you have identified a problem and pain point, it’s time to work on your solution for it. Start brainstorming ideas for meeting the market demand and satisfying the needs of your target consumer base. Hopefully, you will come up with multiple potential ways to solve existing issues. That way, you will have a choice when it comes to developing an idea further and forming it into a genuine concept.
Then, hone your idea. Consider what will have merit in the real world and what could be viable.
By gathering feedback from prospective users, you will have a critical tool necessary for developing a solution people actually want. Crowdsource your ideas, looking for reactions and thoughts on, for example, features to add and components to tweak. You should continue to go back to this audience — they will prove foundational in helping you realize your objectives.
Think about the specifics of your project. Go beyond what it will be and consider:
- Team members
It’s important for stakeholders to understand what they’re up against, should they end up backing your project.
Build a roadmap.
Part of establishing a proof of concept involves mapping out the path to achieving your vision. Using the information and feedback you’ve gathered, consider the steps involved in reaching your goals. Be as specific as possible, outlining precisely how you expect to create and build upon your product.
Begin to implement your idea.
The implementation itself has several different variations and phases. You will most likely want to create a prototype of your idea — a mockup or a wireframe, for instance. It should give stakeholders and users further insight into your idea, including the user experience (UX). This will allow you to gather more information about how people respond to your concept and whether it has legs in the real world.
Again, you’ll want to gather more feedback. The idea is to learn as much as you can about the impact of your concept. You will most likely want to create several versions of your prototype, continuing to adjust it as you gain more insight.
An MVP is different from a prototype. It is a functional version of your product with the fewest number of features possible. Once you build it, you will be able to test out your product on a wider audience and polish it.
Validate Your Idea
A Proof of Concept is a critical step in validating your idea. You won’t be able to obtain the support and backing you need without providing concrete evidence that your concept can succeed in the real world. Moreover, undertaking this initial step in a complex development process will allow you to better understand your own project and what market exists for your product.
Never treat proof of concept as a cursory step or sidestep it. It is absolutely vital — and it could mean the difference between success and failure.