Proof of Concept
Innovators generate multiple ideas for prevalent consumer problems. Not every proposed idea is implementable. Every product developer must offer evidence that an idea solves a specific user need. Bringing brilliant ideas to life takes time.
Innovators must convince customers and stakeholders that a proposed solution is practical, affordable and adds value. At some point, the innovator requires funding from external investors. They can only invest if the innovator has a comprehensive idea implementation plan and a product roadmapping strategy.
How can organizations and individual innovators present sufficient evidence on the viability of a solution to the target audiences? They use a proof of concept (POC). It is a powerful tool that communicates the problem-solving approach. POC acts as a motivation for product development teams. It inspires team members to move a step closer to actualizing product ideas. Ideally, a proof of concept serves to answer questions around:
- The technical feasibility of a product to solve a user problem
- The practicality and ease of implementing a product idea
- Resource requirements for the life cycle of a product
- The desire of potential customers to use the proposed product or service
Here is a short guide about proof of concept. It explains how to approach user needs, brainstorm solutions and steps for demonstrating the viability of ideas. It also highlights the benefits of a POC for hardware and software development and risk management when developing new products.
What is proof of concept?
When working on a new product, innovators leverage the design-thinking approach. One of the stages of this innovative strategy is ideation and concept development. During this stage, the innovator needs to prove that a proposed product idea is financially, technically and physically viable for use within a specific target market. A proof-of-concept is critical for creating valuable products. It offers tools for analyzing the pain points of customers. A POC document outlines how to turn user needs into revenue-generating streams.
The innovator must identify possible technical challenges that can impede the development of new products and estimate the intensity of activities and resources required to actualize futuristic product ideas. Project managers using POC do not spend much time analyzing the target markets. Instead, they channel the effort towards validating the feasibility of a new project and a plan for delivering practical solutions.
A proof of concept is critical for the product development process. Startups, innovators and established organizations use proof of concept to identify project implementation risks. They leverage it to communicate the value of proposed products. Remember, most investors will pump their money into feasible projects. They need a surety that a product idea is profitable.
An idea that successfully goes through a POC gains approval or funding. That way, the company can begin plans to develop and commercialize new products. A POC could be a detailed document, demo or visual presentation.
Benefits of a proof of concept
We know that a POC is a vital link between ideation and commercialization. How important is it for different businesses?
Cost and time saving
The decision to initiate a concept development plan means that the company is committed to developing new solutions. Sometimes, these ideas are not well thought out. Rushing to implement new product ideas is accompanied by a myriad of challenges. The product may lack the technical capabilities or fail to impress the customers. The company wastes a substantial amount of money and time rectifying its mistakes.
However, when using a POC, the company identifies any logistical and technical issues arising from a proposed product idea. They brainstorm and refine viable ideas and demonstrate they solve a problem as expected. The company spends more time perfecting a product proposal, meaning they address quality issues early enough. It guarantees a better return on investments.
Ensures a proposed solution is feasible
One mistake that new product developers make is rushing to develop a market strategy before validating the feasibility of an idea. New solutions can have several functionalities and product features that work in unison to address user problems. The POC it’s critical for determining if a concept is implementable partly or wholly. Resolving search issues ensures that the product development team eliminates ideas that cannot yield desirable results.
Evaluate the scalability and pinpoint potential risks
An idea in its raw state does not uncover any implementation threats or risks. Proof of concept is a rigorous process that identifies all potential risks project development teams may experience when commercializing ideas. Identifying these obstacles early enough informs project managers whether or not to scale up the development of new products.
POC enables the company to decide if the idea is scalable. They choose to implement ideas immediately or gradually over time. The company must avail sufficient resources to support mass-production, subsequent system upgrades, workforce and workflow management to match idea commercialization.
Enhancing Investor Relations
Everything around POC revolves around data. Companies predict the viability of solutions and describe how to achieve preferable market figures. The different datasets expedite decision-making processes at the company level and among investors. Investors want to know how the projected values affect the return on their investments. Investors are open to business discussions if the company can prove beyond doubt that the proposed business figures are achievable. That is, the idea is foolproof and fit for commercialization. In the end, the innovator or company can attract several prospective investors and scale up concept development.
When should one use a proof of concept?
A proof of concept is colossal for developers working on new products or exploring mind-boggling consumer problems. It also applies to formulating product management strategies and devising theories for streamlining business management. Innovators utilize POC to evaluate the viability of hardware and software products when:
- Creating new products from scratch. These are projects whose practicality is untested. The innovator works from the unknown. Usually, there is little or no known data regarding the functionality of the proposed idea. The developer undertakes research, making comparisons against previous projects to test ideas before refining and implementing them.
- Modifying existing projects. At some point in the product’s life cycle, a solution becomes obsolete or inefficient. The company devises innovative ways to enhance user experiences by incorporating new features or extending the product capabilities. The development team must guarantee that the ideas for additional features add real value to the customer and have no negative impacts on the functionality and reliability of products.
In both cases, data collection takes precedence. The innovator must conduct extensive research. They must deduce sufficient evidence from consumer markets and incorporate the feedback from clients to develop delightful products that are acceptable across target markets.
Differentiating proof of concept, prototype and minimum viable product
Proof of concept, prototyping and minimum viable products are used interchangeably within product development cycles. They are all vital for the success of new products, whether you are launching a new UI design, fashion product, manufactured parts or fast-moving consumer goods. Although they all seem common, they have different functions and their methodologies vary. While they all test and validate real-life user experiences, their contributions to full-scale production vary. They apply at different stages of design thinking. Let us explore the differences further.
A proof of concept is the immediate course of action whenever someone identifies a need that requires a solution. It is a well-written document or presentation that confirms the possibility of a proposed solution or product to address a customer challenge. It gives a head start to the product developer and sets the base for the future success of an innovative solution. At this point, the innovator describes possible problem-solving approaches and relevant technologies to use. They also validate why a budget is appropriate for refining and commercializing an idea. Since a POC showcases the feasibility of an idea, its formulation time can take a few days or weeks. Simple user problems require a short time to think through and suggest ideas. Complex issues require more time to resolve. Technically, a POC tests ideas for newer solutions never developed before.
Innovators can create prototypes after an exhaustive proof of concept. Everyone on the product development team agrees with the technical idea feasibility. The company begins actualizing the product and commercializing the desired solution. A prototype showcases the appearance and actual functionality of a new product. The prototype can be in the form of a scaled-down model that mimics the actual product. Alternatively, it can be a wireframe for web and app development processes, 3D drawings and simulations or architectural layouts and plans. The prototype brings ideas to life. At the prototyping stage, the company shifts from speculation to implementation. The mockup or prototype has specific features or functionalities that developers and selected consumers evaluate. It combines all suggested ideas and combines them into one functional unit.
During the prototyping phase, the innovator focuses on demonstrating key features of the proposed solution. They begin testing actual user experiences and collecting feedback on the usability or reliability of new products. It is at this stage that the company identifies design and functionality issues. It uses test results to fix them before mass-producing or launching products.
The minimum viable product (MVP) is the most realistic representation of the end product. MVPs incorporate every feedback from the prototype testing stages and helps in validating the viability of products in specific target markets. Most companies use MVPs for quick and early penetration into consumer markets. MVPs showcase the core functionality of new products. They may feature fewer features than the final product but will solve particular user problems. MVPs take from a few weeks to months to develop and refine before market launch.
Companies use MVPs to evaluate the competitive advantage of the proposed product in new and established consumer markets.
Steps for formulating a proof of concept
A proof of concept document should be precise. It has to ignite the curiosity of external stakeholders or senior management, who will be a part of the product development process. Unlike other business documents, POC documents do not have a standard format. What matters is that it effectively communicates the idea and outlines actionable problem-solving steps. The document consolidates relevant data and highlights how the company leverages it to execute business ideas.
The POC document is not rigid. It is a flexible piece that can accommodate fresh product ideas or incorporate feedback from experts who review it in the early stages. When writing a POC for your business, consider adopting the following steps.
Define specific user needs
None can begin product development without an existing user problem. As an innovator, you must conduct extensive research. Empathize with the target audiences and evaluate their workflows. Identify issues that negatively impact their productivity. Research if they are willing to invest in a solution that improves their daily work experiences.
At this stage, avoid generalized assumptions. Do not assume that customers and stakeholders will blindly buy your idea because it addresses pertinent needs. Identifying specific needs sets the foundation for brainstorming product ideas. Formulate simple research that:
- Identifies the pain points of the target audience
- Defines appropriate methodologies for executing probable ideas
- Ties product ideas to the long-term goals of the company
Establish performance goals and metrics
The next step is a rigorous brainstorming session that tries to generate as many ideas as possible. The ideas have to be specific and resolve exact customer pain points. As we mentioned earlier, idea generation is an optimistic process. Every product idea is a candidate for success. However, the ideas are subject to technical scrutiny. As a developer, you must establish metrics or criteria for evaluating the feasibility of product ideas. Finally, the company has to settle on an idea that is competitive based on:
- The actual cost of development
- Quality of the final solution
- Duration and effort required to actualize solution
- The potential return on investment and anticipated development risks
Define scope and run pilot POC project
The ideation and concept phase is awash with multiple activities and consultations. It is easy for the team to miss out on their targets as they begin creating a proof of concept for new or advanced products. They can identify new challenges or opportunities that can create value for the organization. Some changes occur when conducting the feasibility of particular product ideas. These changes challenge available facts or discredit proposed problem-solving techniques.
Project managers should define the scope of ideas and develop clear guidelines that dictate the limits of ideation. Scope for a POC guarantees that the team achieves its goals within a short time and the results from the process are accurate and verifiable. Once everything is in order, the team begins running the POC project. They test proposed ideas against established performance indicators.
Track metrics and present results
After the pilot ideation stage, the team begins sharing their findings with a representative group. It could be internal teams or product development experts. Collect feedback on the practicality of ideas and the reactions of the sample group. Use the data to refine ideas and polish the POC document. Confirm if the feedback resonates with the initial POC goals and performance metrics.
Upon validating that an idea is implementable, it is time to present the results to stakeholders or investors. Create an appealing presentation or comprehensive report and distribute it within your circles. Ensure that the presentation of the POC results revolves around consumer challenges and comprehensively describes how t
What next after a proof of concept
Validating product ideas does not guarantee business success. The innovator has to test the practicality of developing and maturing the proposed solution. The company redirects its efforts towards creating a demonstrational product that validates technical principles and product features. Some innovators resolve to design prototypes. The prototypes are altered to accommodate different product features. The team tests the product and iterates solutions from time to time, depending on the feedback they gather from sample end-user clusters. The end game is to develop a minimum viable product that dictates subsequent commercialization strategies.
Product roadmapping follows after finalizing the ideation and concept development stage. The company has sufficient evidence that a product idea is feasible, the prototype is working, and there is an actual demand for a product in the market. The company can initiate the development of a market strategy and work on issues like market penetration, financial planning and distribution.
A proof of concept is a quick and efficient methodology for validating product ideas and eliminating impractical solutions. A POC is a quick way for companies and individual innovators to convert ideas into tangible solutions. It is a powerful communication tool for convincing stakeholders and customers that a product idea is practical and is worth pursuing. There is no specific template for companies to write POC documents. Use a proof of concept to expedite product development and eliminate obvious pitfalls before full-scale execution.