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Proof of concept: What it is and why it’s important

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  • Organization and evaluation

Everything you touch, look at, and use daily begins with an idea. 

But having an idea isn’t always enough. Making an idea a reality requires a lot of planning and hard work. And before you jump in and develop a product or launch a business, you need to know if the idea addresses a need in the market, if its development is feasible, and if customers are interested.

Creating a proof of concept (POC) helps you to answer those questions so you don’t spend a lot of time and money developing the wrong product.

What is proof of concept?

The primary purpose of a POC is to demonstrate that your idea is feasible and that it has a practical application in the real world. The goal is to show that your concept will work so you can gain approval and funding to move forward with development.

Creating a POC is crucial to project management for the following reasons:

  • It tests the feasibility of a concept
  • It identifies and invites you to address potential technical challenges, risks, and roadblocks early in the process for viability
  • It demonstrates the feasibility of your idea to align stakeholders, team members, management, and potential investors
  • It helps you optimize resource allocation

How does a proof of concept differ from a prototype or a minimum viable product?

A POC can be described or illustrated in a document, a slide presentation, or a tangible demonstration of core functionality. It may sound similar to a prototype or minimum viable product, but the three have distinct differences:

  • A POC demonstrates that the concept can work. 
  • A prototype more closely resembles what the final product might look like. It should show realistic functions, features, designs, and user experience. Instead of answering the question, “Will this product work?” it answers the question, “What will the product look like, and how will it work?”
  • An MVP is a functioning version of the product that can be distributed to customers. It should have enough features and functionality to let customers perform real-world tasks, so they know how the final product might work. This allows them to evaluate the product so they can give feedback about the design and its functionality.

How to design a proof of concept

No matter your industry, you can use the following steps to design a thorough proof of concept.

Step 1: What problem does this POC solve?

You must begin by proving that your idea will address a market need. As cool as an idea may be, you wouldn’t want to develop a product if no one would use it.

Start by identifying potential customers and learn what their pain points are. Then, determine how your idea will solve their problems and meet their needs. Engage directly with customers through interviews and surveys to get their feedback.

Step 2: Define the scope

To reduce complexity and make the POC more manageable, identify the key features and functions that need validation and demonstration. Determine the questions you want this POC to answer, and focus on the parts that will best verify your concept’s feasibility and potential value. 

Step 3: Estimate the resources you’ll need

Create a list of the resources you think you’ll need to complete the POC project. Consider employees, equipment, materials, and more.

Step 4: Define success criteria

How will you measure success or failure? 

The feedback you get from customers in step one is a good place to start. If your POC demonstration satisfies their expectations and addresses their pain points, you can conclude that it is a success, and you can move forward with development.

Step 5: Establish timelines

A POC is its own project. Its success or failure helps you determine if and how you should proceed with developing your idea. As with any project, you must establish timelines and milestones and estimate the effort required to complete your POC. Consider the resources assigned to each task in the POC and the amount of time they’ll need to complete the research, documentation, presentations, demonstrations, and so on. 

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Step 6: Create a demo and test it

Put together a demonstration of the core features and functions to prove that your concept can work. It doesn’t need to be a polished or functioning model or prototype. A simple wireframe is often enough to showcase a user interface and key functionality.

Step 7: Gather feedback 

Once you demonstrate your POC, ask potential customers and stakeholders for feedback. This will help you determine if you are creating the right product to meet their needs. It also allows you to identify and address limitations, potential problems, and areas that need improvement.

Step 8: Evaluate and iterate

Develop a prototype based on the feedback you gathered. A prototype is typically a functional simulation. It gives the user a better idea of how the product works and lets them test the usability and flow of its design.

If your customers like the MVP, you’re on the right track and can invest time and resources to develop the final product. If customers aren’t interested, you might not want to go forward with development.

Step 9: Create a product roadmap     

A product roadmap is a shared source of truth that communicates your long-term vision for the product to teams and stakeholders. Roadmaps describe how a product will be developed and changed over time.

What are the benefits of creating a proof of concept?

The main benefit of a proof of concept is that it helps you to prove whether your idea is feasible and viable. Other benefits include:

  • Validating ideas quickly: Validating your ideas early in the process helps you know if you are on the right track before investing too much time and money in development.
  • Building confidence: Once you’ve validated your idea and have shown that it’s feasible, investors and stakeholders will have the confidence to support the development of your product.
  • Discovering pain points: Identify customer pain points so you can develop a product that solves their problems. 
  • Attracting team talent: Developing a solid product that generates a lot of interest from potential customers can help you attract top talent. And if your development teams are successful, it’s more likely that they’ll stay with your company.
  • Creating alignment: A POC helps everyone align on the project’s long-term goals. This ensures that the project stays on track and increases its chance of success.

Create a proof of concept with Lucidspark

Lucidspark is an online whiteboard, build for collaboration, that can help you create a successful proof of concept. With dozens of features to promote collaboration and tools to help your hybrid team stay organized, Lucidspark makes it easier than ever to start a POC.

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Get started with our free proof of concept project template.

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