With so much at stake – in terms of time, resources, cost, and the quality of your software product – taking the time to properly plan software development and the end product before the actual launch is more important than ever. A Proof of Concept, or PoC, is a great place to start. But what is a POC, and why should you create one?
So, what is a Proof of Concept? Before we begin understanding what a PoC is, let’s be clear that it is not the same thing as a prototype.
PoC vs. Prototype
Think of a PoC as a type of a small test prior to the project to test the idea, which shows that a product concept is both functional and can be developed.
Creating prototypes helps the development team visualize how a product will function. It’s a working model of the end product. It shows the design, navigation, layout, etc. To clearly state the difference, a PoC shows that a product can be made, while a prototype shows how it’s made. A PoC shares knowledge with the team, allows them to investigate emerging technologies, and of course, shows the stakeholders that the concept works.
Once the PoC convinces everyone that the project is viable, a prototype is developed as a selling point for the client. So while they’re different, a PoC and a prototype are not mutually exclusive.
So then what is a Proof of Concept?
An effective PoC proves that the proposed software product is viable and will be successful, and it helps a project manager identify gaps in processes that might interfere with success. A PoC also elicits feedback from everyone involved in the project. It can help to find the weaknesses of the product and to understand if and how your idea is relevant.
The proof of concept is so important because it’s a test project to evaluate before work begins on an actual project. A PoC verifies that the theoretical concepts applied to a project will have real-world applications. A proof of concept in software development explains how the project should work based on a detailed description of requirements and specifications. The PoC, ideally, is a complete satisfaction of those functions that need to be realized. PoCs do not produce deliverables but check the feasibility of software being considered for development.
Use cases for proof of concept development
- When there is a need to check the value of software product idea
- To ensure that the chosen method of software development is efficient
- To determine whether the proposed software product idea matches the needs of the intended users
- To find out the limitations of the software for a specific problem and demonstrate its functionality
Making a Proof of Concept
The process of creating a PoC in software development has some essential steps, which can be modified depending on the type of software or PoC being created.
1. Plan the effort
When you’re building a software proof of concept, remember that while it is an important project, it is not the final project. So plan the invested time, effort, and resources accordingly. A typical software PoC should not take more than two weeks to complete and a team of two-three developers to work on it. There are also several third-party tools available today that can be used to create a proof of concept in a matter of a few days.
2. Scope of the project
Even if the proof of concept proves to be viable, that proof is worthless if the scope is not correct or is missing the end objective. So it’s important to keep the scope of the software PoC focused on resolving the specific problem(s). Keeping too wide a scope will become counter-productive.
3. Pick Your Resources
Make sure you pick a team with the right skills to make a proof of concept because you will be checking the long-term viability of an idea, of a vision. So you need a project manager with the perfect mix of business and technical experience, as well as developers who can quickly translate an idea into a more tangible product.
4. Select the right metrics
To have accurate feasibility measurements, you need a clear set of project metrics that will collect the project’s most pertinent information and determine its success or failure. The best way to go about doing this is to interview the client using targeted questions that lead the project to the intended objective.
5. Gather feedback from intended users
Once you have a ready document with a description of the software and the functions it should perform, the next step is to get feedback from users, or if you’re so lucky, the actual customers. The proof of concept is not a product demo, but you need an environment similar to the one you expect to have at full implementation.
This doesn’t mean it needs to be a full-scale environment, but it should function in the same way. Offer users your product as a solution to a specific problem and explain how it’s meant to work. Be open to the feedback and suggestions you receive, as these will go a long way in helping you improve the final software product. Be prepared that some of your guesswork will be broken.
6. Course correction
Now your proof of concept for software development is ready to be finalized. You’ve received user/ customer feedback, and have a better picture of how users will interact with your project. It is necessary to understand that this is a preliminary evaluation of the software proof of concept and that some of the suggestions received will be insightful. In contrast, others may not have actual value. Thus, based on the information received, it is necessary to consider what can be changed to make the project more convenient. If the feedback you received was largely and strongly negative, then it might be a good idea to stop the proof of concept development process. Or at least pause it until you can come up with a new, improved version.
A proof of concept in software development has always been a topic of much debate in almost every software development company. The person or team who thought of a product idea is convinced of its eventual success, while other stakeholders are wary of investing in a new concept that may or may not work. But the truth is that the more experienced a software professional or software development company is, the more likely they will be interested in the proof of concept. Once the initial pilot is ready, it should be able to confirm the success of the new software product to lay the way for an official rollout. A software development proof of concept helps prove a concept not only for the development team but also for customers.
Also, keep in mind that getting a proof of concept in software development requires great expertise in both software development and your industry, so it takes a really good software team to make it happen.
If your project has that sort of room for doubt, you need to find a software development company that has the proper resources, experienced developers, and strong handle of a market to go with it.