Why is Proof of Concept an Integral Part of any Software Project? [PoC Guidebook]

Any innovative idea for a future project should pass through a proof of concept. In today’s reality, it’s crazy to expect your idea to blow up based on guesses and high hopes. Before allocating resources for a new project you have to make sure that it will pay off, draw target users’ attention, and generate profit in the long term. This is true for any scope of activities, and software development is not an exception.

Why is Proof of Concept an Integral Part of any Software Project

Based on the CHAOS report in 2020 only 35% of a total 50,000 IT projects are considered to be successful. Underestimating a proof of concept and thorough idea research are some of the reasons for project challenges. In this article, OpenGeeksLab will discuss a proof of concept in software development, figure out when you need to utilize it, and review all steps to check your idea’s viability. Let’s roll.

What is a Proof of Concept?

A Proof of Concept allows you to test the feasibility of a business idea in the shortest terms and with minimum expenses.

A Proof of Concept (POC) is a realization of certain methods, ideas, or technologies in order to prove their practical viability. In other words, by carrying out a PoC in software development, you can make sure that your project meets all business requirements.

PoC in software development explains products’ functionalities, basically describes design elements, all features, and the roadmap to achieving required objectives. This kind of presentation helps startups raise trust from their investors and already established companies to simplify software project development.

With a Proof of Concept product owners, project managers, and engineering teams get a more holistic overview of your idea. It becomes easier to line up the software development process when you see that the desired results are achievable and understand how exactly the software should work.

Besides, C-suite alongside other decision-makers gets a more granular picture of the future software. Thus, they can start exploring market opportunities for the project early on or work on positioning strategies alongside marketing campaigns while developers roll out an MVP version.

PoC’s main purpose is to make sure that the idea works. Fast and smooth. All secondary aspects can be discussed during the following planning stages. PoC is a green light for developers with UI/UX designers. Right after your team knows that the idea is feasible and objectives are achievable, they can get to the development of an MVP. That’s why your project’s time-to-market is correlated with a proof of concept process’ speed.

The Major Benefits of POC for Software Development

PoCs are a crucial part of any software project because they help to mitigate potential risks and shed light on the potential of the future project.

Any software development process should be based on a Proof of Concept as it brings numerous advantages to projects. From mitigating failure risks to testing the scalability potential, PoC handles it all. So, we’ve gathered all benefits of this process that will help you understand its value.

1. Risk Reduction

By far, the strongest advantage of a Proof of Concept. Before starting the development process, your team should assess possible pitfalls that might appear.

It hurts to realize halfway through the project that your current tech stack doesn’t suit for implementation of planned features and functionalities. Unfortunately, it’s very common for a lot of applications. Eventually, it forces engineers to introduce architecture changes in a hurry as well as apply duct tape programming.

However, if you build a Proof of Concept, your team can choose a 100% reliable tech foundation, pinpoint tricky spots, and find ways to avoid them.

2. Identification of Scaling Opportunities

Foreseeing scaling strategy is as important as launching a flawless product. In the long run, you need to understand how to expand your product both from a technical and business development perspective. Software architecture together with hardware systems should evolve to comply with an ever-growing userbase.

Testing your idea for scalability beforehand ensures your long-term success. PoC in software development helps to engineer systems in a way to be flexible and scalable for future expansion. Thus, you won’t have to migrate your running project to a completely new architecture, saving yourself a ton of time and money.

3. Proof for Investors

Backing up your idea with surefire proof of its viability is a crucial step during a seed round. You can’t expect investors to shower you with money by bringing a bare idea to the table. Today, startups are considered to be a gold mine, but in reality, no one pays for pure concepts.

A Proof of Concept combined with a well-thought business plan and an innovative idea is what can raise you an initial capital. Even if you don’t have enough resources to build an MVP, proving that your idea is achievable and valuable will be enough to found a successful VC-backed startup.

4. Gathering Initial Feedback

Apart from choosing a proper technological stack and designing architecture, entrepreneurs build a Proof of Concept to test projects in real conditions and gather preliminary feedback from their target audience.

By letting users test software concepts, app owners can accomplish two goals at once.

Firstly, they can understand whether their idea is relevant to the market. It happens when entrepreneurs are so confident in demand for their product that they overlook the market testing. After the release, it may appear that the market is filled with alternatives, and it’s hard to gather an audience around your software. With proof of concept in software development, businesses can test ideas on real users with minimal time and financial investments.

Secondly, initial reviews will shed light on the future development vector of brands’ products. By listening to potential users’ needs and expectations, companies can learn their apps’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s much easier to bring value when you’re armed with advice directly from your end-users.

5. Gathering Audience Early On

Sharing your concept before starting the actual development increases brand loyalty and gathers prospects around your future product. Demonstrating an innovative idea that “just works” inspires potential customers and makes them look forward to the release. For example, entrepreneurs often use platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to showcase their idea and generate presales before releasing their products. Still, you should find proper positioning angles for your product to raise concern around it.

This list may go on. PoCs’ benefits are undeniable because there are many unique ways to use them. Depending on your project specificities and targeted niches, you can use it to attract an audience, generate initial capital, or just create fault-tolerant and scalable software.

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POC vs MVP vs Prototype: Explaining the Difference

PoCs prove that the implementation of the idea is real and can’t be mistaken for an MVP or a prototype of the project.

A Proof of Concept in software development is often confused with prototypes and MVPs. Even though these terms have something in common, they’re not the same. In this section, we’ll reveal the differences between these notions.

POC vs Prototype

In plain language, PoC in software development shows that your product can be built. Prototypes, in their turn, are an actual implementation of products with very basic design drafts.

Developers use prototypes as a foundation for actual software development. The thing is, engineers need a visual representation of the product they’re going to build. Depending on the amount of effort invested in prototypes they may have different forms. Usually, it’s a blank app with visual interactive elements, such as buttons, carousel sliders, various visual effects, and so on.

However, prototypes don’t contain any features. It’s only a communication method between design and development departments. Think of it as an empty gift-wrapped box. It may have an attractive appearance, but it still needs to be filled with something before it makes any sense.

Designers use tools like InVision or AdobeXD to create prototypes for their future projects. However, prototypes vary depending on projects’ complexity and available resources. For example, a paper sketch is also a form of prototyping. If you’re building simple software with two or three features and a single screen, there’s no reason to bother with complicated prototyping. Find designers, give them a pencil, and fast-forward to the development phase.

POC vs MVP

Now, let’s consider the differences between POC and MVP.

MVP is a fully-functional version of your solution that has a minimal feature set required to meet your users’ needs. Usually, MVPs don’t have a fancy design or complicated functionalities. Their main purpose is to minimize time-to-market and deliver products to your audience as fast as possible.

Just like a Proof of Concept, MVP allows your team to gather user feedback, correct mistakes, and decide what features should be built up next. However, with PoC, customers can assess only the app’s concept. They don’t have a feasible version of the software and can’t give proper feedback on what they like and what they don’t. With an MVP, they can feel the product’s features and understand what shape it will take later on.

MVP is like a starter pack of your product. For example, when you’re building a house, you don’t start with interior decorations. You need to lay the foundation, put up walls, roof, and other vital parts. That’s what MVP is all about. Later on, when you have a stable software architecture, a certain development vector, and an established audience, you can think of fancy features along with a catchy design.

As of today, MVP solutions are quite common among software startups and large enterprises testing out new opportunities. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, and many other modern digital giants started their paths as MVP to test the idea’s relevance.

So, the main difference here is that a Proof of Concept in software development only defines that your idea is real, while MVP demonstrates a functioning product with minimal investments.

It’s important to divide these three concepts as each of them is an integral part of the healthy software development lifecycle. By neglecting PoC, prototyping, or MVP you’re complicating engineers’ work and putting the project at failure risks.

When Does Your Project Need a Proof of Concept?

A Proof of Concept can be helpful when you need to test new ideas for bottlenecks and eliminate possible software development risks.

Even though PoC in software development is important, it’s not always obligatory to conduct one for your product. The need for it depends on your idea and the technologies you’re planning to use for its implementation.

Let’s imagine that you’re planning to create a food delivery app like GrubHub or DoorDash. If you’re not going to add some innovative features like drone delivery, the app’s overall concept is very clear. You don’t really need to build a Proof of Concept because engagement models and the overall app structure have been already tested by other companies. Basically, you can just copy a similar app, adapt it for your audience, and launch it right away.

However, when it comes to less explored niches like augmented reality or IoT, you’ll definitely want to have strong proof that your business model will work out. Innovations are always accompanied by certain risks, and you need to minimize failure possibilities.

As an example, a recent study by Microsoft revealed that around 30% of IoT projects failed to pass a Proof of Concept. With hardware spendings on such projects, we can only imagine the losses companies bear when they refuse to build a Proof of Concept.

Besides, unconventional technologies also bring some uncertainty to final outcomes of the development process. Security threats, unexpected bugs and vulnerabilities, performance issues, and other drawbacks should be considered during a Proof of Concept.

Even if you’re choosing between several common tech stacks, PoC in software engineering will help you find the right one in terms of performance and reliability.

The Key Phases for a Proof of Concept

To execute a flawless PoC you need to check all possible use cases, create a roadmap, and carry out a technical demo of the idea.

Now, you know when you need to build a Proof of Concept for your application. However, the main question remains. What are the steps to proving your idea’s feasibility? In this section, we’ll go through all steps required to design Proof of Concept.

1. Generating an Idea

Everything starts with an idea. First of all, you should come up with an innovative idea that is worth testing. It may be a groundbreaking project concept or the tech stack that is not commonly used for your scope of work. If you’re utilizing an unconventional approach for your solution, a Proof of Concept will help you minimize potential risks.

Mind that not every innovative idea might be in demand with users. A Proof of Concept design process may help you find users interested in your app, but you should be realistic with an idea. Technological breakthroughs aren’t always enough to release a viral product. You should always stay on top of novel trends in your industry, understand possible business challenges, and detect growth opportunities for your creation.

2. Breaking the Idea Into Modules

After settling down with the global idea of an application, it’s time to break it into smaller software modules. It will help you or your dedicated analysts identify PoC’s purpose and locate challenging and tricky software components.

3. Identifying Use Cases

Your next step is to create use cases for future tests of your idea. While compiling usage scenarios, keep in mind your target audience and understand their pain points. Understanding how prospects will use an app helps know whether the concept fits your users, what features should be added or removed, and how the chosen tech stack works with planned functionalities.

Besides, PoC in software engineering should take into account available resources, time, operational capacities, assess development and maintenance costs, and other factors. Even though your idea might be viable, upcoming maintenance expenses may exceed forecasted profits.

4. Building a Prototype

Once developers understand all requirements, possible user behavior patterns, and resources, they can start building the prototype of your product. The prototyping phase end results depend on your software type and available resources. As we mentioned earlier, it can be a paper sketch, interactive representation, or something else.

The biggest mistake at this point is to focus on the prototype quality too much. You don’t need a perfect mockup of your future app. Instead, you should pass it for further testing by your target group as fast as possible. This ensures minimal losses during the proof of concept design process and gives an ability to change the idea of your app if users don’t receive it well.

5. Gathering Feedback

We have come to the main purpose of PoC in software engineering. During this stage, business analysts should collect and document all feedback from the target group. Insights such as user experience, testers’ reactions, their suggestions on improvements, and other valuable information will be useful for further assessment.

By analyzing gathered feedback, you can verify your concept’s feasibility. If users are satisfied with the prototype, engineers can still find numerous ideas for further software upgrades as well as adjust development processes.

However, in case you get strictly negative feedback, you definitely should step back and think of changes for your concept. Sometimes, ideas just don’t work out. It’s not a big deal, there are so many opportunities around. The only thing you have to do is explore them.

6. Presenting POC Results

Finally, with a tested concept and target audiences’ approval, you can present the idea to stakeholders, C-suite, or other decision-makers. Draw up a detailed and insightful presentation that highlights all problems solved by your solution, explains every feature, and shows architecture details and technologies used for their implementation.

Based on a Proof of Concept, decision-makers can set development process OKRs, determine deadlines, and allocate resources.

If you design proof of concept according to these steps, it’ll be much easier to gain acceptance from investors or upper management and move on to the actual development.

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The Proof of Concept Time and Cost Estimate

To ensure that your idea is viable and well-tested you need to correctly allocate the resources for a Proof of Concept.

It’s important to understand that even though PoC’s main advantages are its speed and cost-effectiveness, it still takes time and postpones your release date.

On average, a proof of concept in software development takes one month. Two milestones that take the most time are requirements research and prototyping. Depending on the software complexity, scale, and the desired prototype form, it may take 2-3 weeks to build a prototype of your future project. In their turn, business analysts will spend around a week or more to figure out project requirements, create the feature list, pinpoint complex features, and create minimal specifications.

Other steps like gathering and documenting user feedback are less time-consuming and may be performed within several days. However, you should allocate time for further analysis of the gathered results and possible corrections of your business model or software architecture.

This time estimate is only relevant for software development companies that already have a team of specialists that can effectively distribute tasks and have well-established communication. All scope of work will be distributed between these team members:

  • Business analystsapproximately 20 hours
  • Solutions architect / Senior software engineerapproximately 80 hours
  • UI/UX designersapproximately 60 hours

If you’re planning to carry out PoC on your own, it will take more time, especially if you have limited experience in UI/UX design or software engineering. Additionally, you’ll have to gather a target group that will assess your prototype.

Still, it’s a rough time estimate that takes mid-range projects as a basis. It’s impossible to count the required time for your specific project without knowing business requirements. To get the detailed estimate you should contact your software development partner directly or learn it on your own through trial and error.

Confirm the Relevance of Your Idea

Given all the above, there’s no doubt that innovative software development ideas should be thoroughly researched and verified by users. Now, as you know more about PoC meaning in software development, the critical steps of this process, and when to apply it, you can test your idea on your own.

However, if you need a guarantee that your concept will work out and your architecture will not malfunction when you least expect it, partnering with a reliable partner is essential. Trusted software development companies, like OpenGeeksLab, use tried and true PoC patterns for customers’ ideas. Contact us to verify your idea and safeguard software development resources.

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