What Is A Proof Of Concept (POC) & Where Does It Fit Into Software Development?

Julian Wallis
13 min read
Proof of Concept

A well-executed proof of concept helps you explore new technologies & approaches before committing to a more extensive plan in software development. Learn how!

What’s A Proof Of Concept? 🧐

A Proof of Concept (POC) is a small-scale resource used to test a more extensive project’s feasibility. POCs are commonly used in software development to determine whether a particular technology or approach is viable.

POCs can be used at various stages of the software development process. For example, a POC may be created during the early stages of development to test a new technology or approach. Alternatively, a POC may be formed near the end of development to test whether a particular feature is feasible.

POCs are typically budgeted and scoped such that they can be completed within a relatively short time frame. This allows developers to quickly assess the viability of a particular approach without investing too much time and resources into the project.

In addition, a proof of concept isn’t intended to be complete or perfect; instead, it’s meant to provide proof of principle that can be used to determine whether further development is warranted.

Benefits Of Having A POC 🌟

A well-executed proof of concept provides many benefits, and sometimes, it decides whether a product or service is feasible in the market. Companies that don’t use POC in their software development cycle often end up regretting later.

Planning proof of concept

There are many benefits of having a proof of concept in software development. Right off the bat, it offers flexibility, scalability, and accessibility for project owners, project managers, and developers. In addition, by creating a prototype or sample implementation, developers can test their ideas early on to see if they are feasible. This can save a lot of time and resources later on in the development process.

A POC can also help identify potential problems with a new idea or approach. By testing it out on a small scale, developers can work out any kinks before implementing the solution on a larger scale. This helps avoid costly mistakes down the road. It also lets you determine if a project is financially viable and future-proof.

Eventually, a POC can be used to generate interest and buy-in from stakeholders. By showing them a working prototype, developers can get feedback and input from those who will be affected by the new software. This can help ensure that the final product meets their needs and expectations.

When done right, a proof of concept can be an invaluable tool in software development that benefits everyone involved. It can help you plan your resources and collaborate with other team members. POCs are also highly customisable and cost-effective, not to mention that you can test multiple ideas simultaneously. 

Are POC And MVP The Same Thing? 🤔

POCs and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) are often used interchangeably, but some critical differences exist.

A POC demonstrates that a specific idea or technology is possible. It is typically a small-scale project that is not meant to be fully functional. Instead, a POC is usually created to test a hypothesis or explore a new idea.

On the other hand, an MVP is a product with just enough features to be usable by early adopters. It is usually released as soon as it is ready to get feedback from real users. An MVP is meant to be fully functional and often released as a beta version.

So, what’s the fundamental difference between a proof of concept and a minimum viable product? To summarise:

  • A POC is an experiment, while an MVP is a fully-fledged product.
  • A POC is usually small-scale, while an MVP is to be used by real users.
  • A POC is created to test a hypothesis, while an MVP is to get user feedback.

How About POC & Prototype? 💭

A proof of concept is typically used to determine whether a particular technology or approach is feasible. On the other hand, a prototype is used to test a specific implementation of an idea.

Proof of concepts vs Prototypes

POCs are often conducted using off-the-shelf components, while prototypes are usually custom-built. As a result, POCs tend to be smaller in scope than prototypes.

Furthermore, a POC is generally developed by a single individual or a small team, while prototypes may involve a larger development team. As a result, a POC is typically created quickly and with minimal resources, while prototypes may take longer to develop and require more resources.

Once the proof of concept is successful, a prototype may be developed. The prototype will build on the successes of the POC and address any remaining issues.

At the end of the day, a proof of concept is about determining feasibility, while a prototype is about testing an implementation. A POC is typically smaller in scope and quicker to develop than prototypes. Both are significantly important in the software development process.

Things To Consider When Using A POC 📋

When you’re working on a software development project, there may come a time when you need to use a proof of concept. These can be quite helpful in the development process, but there are some things you need to keep in mind.

Here are four things to consider when using a POC.

1. Make sure your POC is relevant to your project 💼

There’s no point in using a proof of concept if it’s irrelevant to your project. If you’re unsure whether a POC is relevant, ask yourself if it will help you achieve your project goals. If the answer is no, then it’s probably not worth using.

2. Keep your POC as simple as possible 😊

The whole point of a POC is to prove that something is possible. There’s no need to make it more complicated than it needs to be. Keep your POC as simple as possible to easily show that it works.

3. Don’t forget about the technical details 🧰

When working on a proof of concept, it’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and forget the technical details. But the technical details are important! So make sure you understand how your POC will work before you start using it.

4. Be prepared to iterate on your POC 🛵

A POC is never perfect the first time around. You’ll likely need to make changes to the POC several times before you have a final version you’re happy with. Be prepared to make changes and improvements as you go.

Following these considerations will help you get the most out of your POC and use it effectively in your software development project. Here’s an example of IBM’s clear yet technical POC.

Steps For Implementing A POC 👣

A proof of concept can take many different forms, but they all aim to demonstrate a concept’s viability. For example, a proof of concept might be used to test a new database architecture or implement a new feature using a new programming language.

POCs are typically time-limited and focused on specific goals. This allows developers to experiment without incurring too much risk or expense. Once the POC is complete, the team can assess the results and decide whether to proceed with the proposed solution.

POCs can be an effective way to evaluate new ideas and technologies. By keeping the scope small and focused, a proof of concept can help teams decide whether to pursue a particular solution.

Implement your POC

Knowing where to start when you’re tasked with developing a POC can be difficult. This section will walk you through the steps for implementing a successful POC to get your project off the ground.

1. Define the scope of your POC 🔍

The first step is determining what you want to accomplish with your POC. What problem are you trying to solve? How will you know if your POC is successful? Answering these questions will help you narrow down the scope of your POC and make it more manageable.

2. Choose the right technology 👨‍💻

Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to select the right technology for your POC. This can be a daunting task, but there are a few things to consider. The tech stack you choose (back end, front end, and databases) largely depends on your product or service, whether it’s a SaaS-based solution, an eCommerce website/app, or a static website.

3. Build your POC 🧱

Now it’s time to start building your proof of concept. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you’ll need to work hard to make your POC a success. But if you’ve followed the steps, you should be in good shape.

This is also the place where you document your findings, take feedback from stakeholders, and see your solutions turn into a rudimentary product. With this, you should have a document or an outline that will act as your proof of concept for developing your product or service.

4. Test your POC 🧪

After you’ve built your POC, it’s time to put it to the test. This is where you’ll find out if your POC is successful and whether or not it’s ready for production. The end goal of this process is to make sure that your users find the product intuitive, easy and helpful. You will want them comfortable with how it operates so they can get their job done quickly without any bugs or issues cropping up along the way!

5. Evaluate your POC 🤔

Once you’ve tested your proof of concept, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your results. Think about the following: What went well? What didn’t go well? What would you do differently next time? Answering these questions will help you improve your POC process and make better decisions in the future.

Following these steps will help you implement a successful POC. But remember, every project is different, so tailor your approach to your specific needs. With a bit of planning and hard work, you can make your POC a success.

Is A POC Absolutely Necessary In Software Development? 🗒️

Many people in the software development world believe that proof of concept is an absolutely essential part of the process. And while there’s no denying that a POC can be incredibly useful in some situations, it’s important to remember that it’s not always necessary — and in some cases, it can even do more harm than good.

In the software development world, creating a POC often means creating a small application or piece of code to see if a particular idea is feasible. There are many reasons why someone might want to create a POC. Perhaps they’re not sure if a specific technology will work well for their needs, or maybe they want to test out a new development methodology. In some cases, a POC can even be used as a marketing tool, demonstrating the potential of a new product or service to potential investors or customers.

Rejected ideas

However, there are also some good reasons why you might not want to create a proof of concept. For one thing, creating a prototype can be time-consuming and expensive — and if the concept doesn’t pan out, all that effort will have been wasted. Additionally, a POC can sometimes give false positives — it might appear to be successful when in reality, it’s not actually viable. This can lead to people making decisions based on incorrect information, which can be disastrous.

So, should you create a POC? Ultimately, that decision depends on your specific situation and needs. If you’re unsure if a particular idea will work or if you want to test out a new technology or development methodology, then a POC can be a great way to go. However, if you’re confident in your ability to develop the project without one, or if you’re worried about wasting time and money on a prototype that might not actually pan out, it might be best to skip the POC stage altogether.

Steps After Creating a POC 🐾

After you’ve created a POC, it’s time to take the following steps:

1. Show your POC to stakeholders 🕴️

The first step is to show your POC to the decision-makers in your project. This could be the project sponsor, the product owner, or other key stakeholders. They need to see what you’ve built and decide whether to proceed with the project.

2. Get feedback on your POC ↔️

Once you’ve shown your proof of concept to stakeholders, getting feedback is essential. This feedback will help you improve the POC and make stakeholders more likely to approve the project. To create a good design, you must understand your users and their needs. The best way of doing this is by interviewing people who have used the product before or surveying them so that they can share what works well with us while identifying any issues there may be in order for professional designers to come up with solutions!

3. Improve your POC based on feedback 👨‍💻

Based on the feedback you receive, make improvements to your POC. This could involve adding new features, fixing bugs, or making other changes. Once you’ve made these improvements, show the updated POC to stakeholders and get their approval to move forward with the project.

4. Start development on the actual product 🏗️

Once you have approval from stakeholders, it’s time to start development on the actual product. This will involve building out the features and functionality of the product, as well as testing and deploying it.

5. Launch the product 🚀

After implementing your plan, it’s finally time to launch the product. This is where all your hard work pays off — users will finally be able to use your software for its intended purpose. Congratulations!

Final Words 📚

To reiterate the main idea, a proof of concept is a scaled-down version of your proposed solution that you use to test its feasibility. POCs are usually quicker and cheaper to produce than a complete prototype, which is why they’re often used in the early stages of product development.

Drawing figure for proof of concept

You can use a proof of concept to test anything from a new business idea to a new piece of technology. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you must be clear about what you’re trying to achieve with your POC. Second, you need to make sure you have the resources in place to create and implement it. And third, you need to have a plan for how you will measure your POC’s success.

Once you’ve considered these things, you can start developing your POC. Remember, the goal of a POC is not to create a perfect solution; it’s simply to test whether or not your proposed solution is feasible. So don’t get too bogged down in the details; just focus on getting something up and running that you can test and learn from.

Need more support with creating a proof of concept for your business? Feel free to reach out to us for a discussion. 

Published On

September 22, 2022