Proof of concept: what is it?

Proof of concept: meaning

Proof of concept – Article by Amélie Viardot

You are considering developing a new product or service, and you have heard of Proof of Concept (POC). But you are not sure of what it is or how it could benefit your business. Look no further! In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to POC, including its definition, benefits, drawbacks, and the process involved in developing a successful POC. We’ll also explore the differences between POC, prototypes, and Minimum Viable Products (MVP). And finally we will provide you examples of successful POCs across various industries.

Let’s jump to it!

Proof of concept: Definition 

The development process of any product or service involves multiple stages, from ideation to market launch. Among these stages, Proof of Concept (POC) is a crucial step that is used to test the feasibility of an idea or concept before investing significant resources in the development of a product or service. 

Proof of Concept involves creating a small-scale project to validate or invalidate a hypothesis, verify the viability of the idea, identify potential issues, and gather feedback from stakeholders or users. This helps to reduce the risks and costs associated with creating a product or service that may not meet the expected success. 

There are two different types of POC:

technical proof of concept and business proof of concept

  • Technical Proof of Concept: This type of POC focuses on testing the technical feasibility of an idea or concept. It involves building a small-scale prototype or model to demonstrate the technical capabilities of a product or service. Technical POCs are typically used in the early stages of product development to verify that a particular technology or methodology can be used to achieve the desired results.

Test interconnection between your web application and an external application is a good example of a technical POC. For this POC, you will try to exchange one or a few of the many values you want to exchange with the external services you want to connect with. If it works, you validate that the two software programs can be interconnected. You are ready to jump on the next step.

  • Business Proof of Concept: This type of POC focuses on testing the commercial feasibility of an idea or concept. Compared to the technical POC, it involves creating a small-scale project to test whether there is a market for the product or service and to validate the business model. Business POCs are typically used to gather feedback from potential customers and to test the viability of a product or service in the marketplace. Often, it is also used to generate leads. 

It is important to note that the Proof of Concept will take a different form depending on your purpose or idea: 

  • a landing page, i.e., a one-page website)
  • a simple form, using Typeform or Google Forms
  • a flyer presenting your idea
  • selling a service you haven’t launched yet by phone or via street talk or at a trade show
  • a visual created on PowerPoint or a mock-up creation solution like MarvelApp
  • an ad published on social media

A POC is frequently an “empty shell”, you just want to make sure you’re solving customers’ pains. Once your concept is validated, you will have to create a Minimal Viable Product aka MVP. It allows you to make your idea a reality. 

The purpose of POC

Its main purpose is to get as much feedback as possible from your market or technical area before you start developing your project. It is the perfect solution for people who want to quit their job to start a new business. It is risk-free and will allow you to know if your idea has a real potential.

The primary goal of a POC is to get a “GO” or “NO GO” on your idea based on market feedback or technical findings… before you even start investing your time and money in developing the idea. Building a Proof Of Concept will save you a ton of money!

Imagine, you want to create a web platform that references senior citizen roommates. Nothing easier, you create a simple web page on which you present your idea, and you promote it via paid advertising. As a result, two possibilities: 

  • You generate qualified leads: move on to the next step, which is the creation of an MVP as a first version of your solution.
  • You get no or only a few leads: either the idea does not have a market yet, or the perceived value of your idea is not yet clear enough. In this case, you should now test a new POC or a new way to present your idea.

Examples of successful proof of concept

There are many examples of successful POCs in various industries, including B2B and B2C services, and software development. Some examples of successful ones include:

  • Dropbox: It is one of the most known POC. Dropbox’s proof of concept was a video that demonstrated how the product worked. The video allowed the company to gauge interest in the product before building the actual software. And the positive feedback from the community was huge. Check out the video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy9nSnalvPc

  • SwipeWell: SwipeWell is a mobile app designed to manage credit card debt. By creating a simple, functional version of the app and testing it with a small group of users, SwipeWell was able to identify areas for improvement and collect user feedback before to even launch a real app, what request months of hard work. Smart strategy!
  • Allbirds: The co-founders marketed the idea of eco-friendly shoes and tested them on the market to gather feedback. There was a lot of positive feedback. It helped them secure funding to produce the shoes on a larger scale, and the success of the POC allowed Allbirds to move forward with production. Today, Allbirds is a successful company that prioritizes sustainability in all aspects of its business. If you want additional information: Our story

Allbirds our story

  • Buffer: Buffer, a social media management platform. It is a great example of a company that successfully used POC. Buffer used a Proof Of Concept by creating a landing page that explained their product, even though the product did not exist at the time. The landing page included a sign-up form where potential customers could express their interest in the product. A perfect strategy of lead generation. Leads what has been easy to activate when the company launched the first version of the product.
  • Etsy: By creating a small-scale website and gathering feedback from their target audience, Etsy was able to demonstrate the viability of the concept and generate interest from both buyers and sellers. This success allowed them to secure funding for further development. It also allow them to expand their offerings, resulting in the well-established online marketplace we know today.

POC vs Prototype vs MVP

Before diving into the details of POC, let’s clarify the difference between a prototype, MVP, and POC. 

A prototype is a physical model or a working model of the proposed product or service. Its purpose is to provide a visual representation of what the product might look like and how it might function. You already have to invest in the development of this product to create a prototype. Generally, the development cost is not negligible, and you need to spend some time to develop this prototype.

Keep in mind that if you didn’t create a POC before, a simple ad with a 3D model of your product for example, you are not sure yet your market is interested in your product. 

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the first version of your product. It includes basic and essential features. It is designed to test the viability of your business idea. Often, the MVP will help you gain your first money from your target.

The MVP is not a complete product, but rather a version of your product that is built with the minimum number of features needed to provide value to your target audience. The MVP is designed to continue providing user feedback and help you make informed decisions about the development process: which new features you need to develop. To learn more about MVP check out this article: MVP meaning: a comprehensive explanation of Minimum Viable Product.

A Proof Of Concept, on the other hand, like we said before, is used to verify if an idea or concept is feasible and has the potential to work as intended. A POC should demonstrate that a product idea or concept is viable even before starting developing it.

Benefits of POC

  • Verify feasibility: by conducting a POC, you can demonstrate if your idea has the potential to work as intended.
  • Reduce Risk: POCs can help identify potential problems and issues early in the development process, which can help minimize risk.
  • Cost-Effective: By testing a concept on a small scale, you can determine whether it has the potential to be developed further.
  • Time-Saving: By testing a concept with a POC, you can quickly identify flaws and improve the product or service.

Drawbacks of POC

  • Misleading Results: POCs are typically conducted in a controlled environment, which may not accurately represent real-world scenarios.
  • Limited Scope: POCs are generally small-scale projects that do not represent the full scope of the final product or service.
  • Lost opportunities: Do not validate an interesting idea because the value proposition of the POC was not clear. Or another possibility is because you did not address your target properly (wrong channel or message). It is why you can spend some time testing several approach / POCs before deciding to stop your project.

The proof of concept Process

Now that we have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of POC, let’s dive into the POC process itself. The POC process involves the following steps:

  1. Define the Concept/Idea: The first step in developing a POC is to clearly define the concept or idea that you want to test. This involves identifying the target audience, market demand, and business plan.
  2. Identify Feasibility: Once you have identified the concept or idea, the next step is to verify its feasibility. This involves conducting research, analyzing user feedback, and gathering insights from your team members to determine whether the idea is feasible.
  3. Choose with support use for your POC: Your Proof Of Concept can be a working prototype, but not necessary. As explained above, it can also be an empty shell that presents your idea. Find the best way to test your idea as quickly as possible. Your choice will also depend on how much time and money you are willing to invest in the validation of your POC.
  4. Implement the POC: The POC should include a description of the product or service, its target audience, and the benefits it offers. The POC should also include details about how the product or service will work and how it will be developed further.
  5. Test the POC & gather feedback: Once you have created the POC, the next step is to test it. This involves conducting a limited trial to test the concept’s feasibility and determine whether it can be further developed into a fully functional product or service. By testing the POC, it’s essential to gather feedback from stakeholders, users, and team members. This feedback can help you make informed decisions about the development process.
  6. Refine the Concept: Based on the feedback you receive, you may need to refine the concept or idea. This involves making improvements to the product or service based on the feedback received during testing.

Conclusion

Proofs Of Concept are a crucial step in the product and service development process. They can help verify whether an idea or concept is realizable and has the potential on the market. 

By using POCs, companies can reduce risk, save time and money, and improve communication with stakeholders. While POCs have some drawbacks, such as their limited scope and potentially misleading results, they can provide valuable insights into the feasibility of a new product or service. 

By following the POC process and gathering feedback from their targets, companies can refine their product development process and create successful products that meet the needs of their target audience, at low price and with low energy.

We hope this article will have helped you to better understand what a Proof Of Concept is. If so, we recommend you to also read our previous article on the meaning of Minimal Viable Product (MVP). It will be your next step in your product or service development.

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